Sam Harris, Holocaust Survivor
THURSDAY APRIL 11, 2013
7 p.m. Fine Arts Center Main Theatre
Harris is a child survivor of the Holocaust. Sam was born Szlamek Rzeznik in
May 1935 in Deblin, Poland. Sam was only four years old when World War II
broke out in 1939. Upon Nazi occupation a portion of Deblin was turned into a
ghetto where Sammy and his family lived. Soon overcrowding, lack of food and
medication caused men, women and children to die on the streets of Deblin from
typhus, dysentery and starvation.
In 1942, Sammy
and his family were rounded up for deportation. During the chaos of the round up
Sammy’s father pushed him out line and told him to run and hide. Sammy watched
his parents and four sisters and brothers march towards the railcars. That was
the last time Sammy saw his family. Sammy was able to escape death, his
survival was nothing short of a miracle.
As the round ups
decreased the Deblin ghetto was converted into a concentration camp where Sammy
survived. Since he was too young to work he hid from the guards, hiding in the
darkness of the barracks.
In 1944, as the war
approached Deblin the Nazis moved the Jewish workers from the Deblin camp to
Czestochowa concentration camp. Upon arrival in the main camp Sammy was lifted
up, kissed and hugged, and passed overhead from hand to hand by each prisoner.
The prisoners, many of whom had lost their own children, were overjoyed at
seeing a child.
On January 16, 1945,
Sammy was liberated by the Russian army. As a young child, he survived four
years in the Deblin and Czestochowa concentration camps. After living in an
orphanage in Lublin, Poland and then Vienna, Austria, Sammy made his way to the
United States and lived in a foster home in Chicago. On April 10, 1948, through
the Jewish Children’s Bureau Sammy was adopted by Dr. Ellis and Harriett Harris
in Northbrook, Illinois.
Today, Sam serves as President of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of
Illinois and is leading the efforts to build the new Illinois Holocaust Museum
and Education Center. He continues to speak extensively on the local and state
level about the lessons of the Holocaust and his experiences, which can be found
in his memoir Sammy: A Child
Survivor of the Holocaust. [from the Illinois Holocaust Museum and
Education Center website]