Sammy's Story

Sammy's Story

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I was born Szlamek Rzeznik in Poland in the mid 1930s. My big Jewish family affectionately called me Sammy. I was the youngest in the family and dearly loved by Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I felt very special. My father was a good and honest man with an important job. He was a scribe and spent hours sitting with writing instrument in hand, painstakingly writing the Torah (the five books of Moses). I loved to play, chase chickens, and have tickle fights-the same things children all around the world love to do. My siblings told me scary stories, and my older sister would hold me so I felt safe. We were Jewish and the Nazis would soon change our lives forever. We didn't realize it then, but our lives would soon become a true horror story. In September 1939, I was playing at a neighbor's house when we heard a loud noise outside. The noise grew louder and louder, and the house began to shake. Tanks, motorcycles, machine guns and soldiers in steel helmets carrying guns with bayonets were going past my home, stirring up dust. As Nazis took over my hometown of Deblin, they hurt the Jewish people by kicking them with their hard boots and hitting them with the butts of their guns. They imposed curfews, and the Jews were expected to remain inside with their doors and windows closed. The houses were to be kept dark and quiet, and nobody was to leave. Our Jewish neighborhood became known as the town ghetto, and the Jews were forced to build a wall of barbed wire around the ghetto and pay for it, too. That is where we lived, and the conditions were appalling. It was overcrowded, with minimum rations and almost no contact with the outside world. When I was seven years old, the Nazis rounded up the Jews into cattle cars to be moved to Treblinka, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps. There they would be gassed and burned. As a young child, I was very frightened. I didn't understand completely what was going on, but I had a pretty good idea. My parents encouraged me and my two sisters to "run and hide," so we did, and miracle after miracle kept us alive. All of our relatives were taken away and killed. We never saw them again and didn't have a chance to say good-bye. Miraculously, we children lived through two concentration camps (where children were normally killed immediately). When we arrived at Czestochowa concentration camp, I was lifted up, kissed and hugged and passed overhead from hand to hand. These Jewish men and women, who had not seen a Jewish child in years, reverently passed me from one person to another, in the same manner that the Torah is handed from person to person at a Jewish festival. Today, I tell groups when I speak, "The Torah must feel the same as I did when passed from hand to hand. I can still see their faces and feel their love. Every year at the celebration of Simchas Torah, as the Torah is passed from hand to hand, I think of the gift of life given to me in the Czestochowa concentration camp." Sammy was liberated when he was nine years old and came to the United States in 1948. He remembers how he felt seeing the Statue of Liberty. "I stared at it with great interest," he wrote in a 1951 essay. "When I realized what it symbolized . . . my eyes brightened with freedom and my heart beat like the drums of peace." He was adopted by a family in Northbrook [a suburb of Chicago] and Sam joined the Boy Scouts, played sports, and was elected senior class president at New Trier High School. His peers did not know Szlamek, who lived through beatings, murder, and starvation. They only knew Sam. "All I wanted was to be an American boy," he explains. "I wanted to move on with my life."show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 24 pages
  • 215.9 x 279.4 x 1.52mm | 113.4g
  • Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
  • United States
  • English
  • colour illustrations
  • 1514295601
  • 9781514295601

About A Book by Me

Cassie Bowen is a Junior at Aledo High School. Her interests are the arts, show choir and live theater. She lives in Aledo, Illinois with her parents, her two brothers and their dog Lily. She has three older sisters in Michigan, whom she loves to see when she can. She is friends with Esther Avruch, Esther Katz and Esther Schiff, the Quad Cities Three Esthers and with Ida Kramer, QC Holocaust more