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Santiago High School's Student News Site

Shark Attack

Santiago High School's Student News Site

Shark Attack

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Holocaust Survivor Speaks At Santiago

Holocaust+Survivor+Speaks+At+Santiago

On Wednesday, January 31st, Holocaust survivor Sam Silberberg visited Santiago High School to share his story with students, specifically addressing all Sophomores in Language Arts Honors. This annual event aligns with the students’ current curriculum, focusing on the Holocaust. For the past 11 years, Santiago has arranged for students to hear testimonies like Silberberg’s firsthand. The students were ushered into the theater at the start of the day to listen to Sam’s account and engage in a brief Q&A session spanning approximately two and a half hours. This unique opportunity profoundly impacted attendees, including myself as a fellow student. It was an unforgettable and profoundly moving experience.

Sam Silberberg’s Story

When Sam was about nine years old, the Germans invaded his hometown in Poland in 1939. Sam lived with his parents, two brothers, and one sister until he was taken from most of his family. In 1942, at the age of 12, he was supposed to be sent to Auschwitz, though he was able to trick the Nazis by standing on a cinderblock to appear taller than he was; this allowed him to be sent to a labor camp instead. Fortunately, he could work alongside his father for some time as a prison laborer in Annaberg labor camps. They were forced to work endlessly while having deplorable working conditions, like having to survive on food rations: margarine, a cup of watery soup, and a few slices of bread. He told us how he would see many people die daily due to the exhaustion of labor and starvation. 

Pullquote Photo

“History is something we need to learn from and also not to repeat the mistakes from the past.”

— - Sam Silberberg

Although his faith and hope were draining, his father encouraged him to keep believing that God would protect and eventually free them. This led to Sam having a crisis in faith for a long time, but eventually, he made “peace with God.” Sam was later transferred to Blechammer, where he thought about escaping many times and believed it was his only hope. At one point, he said that he successfully escaped, though the thought of his peers being killed made him return. The Nazis previously told him that if they had discovered that one of them had escaped, they would kill 10 Jews. In fear of his father being one of these ten, Sam decided to return. 

 

One day, while Sam returned to camp, he and his father encountered his mother. He went up to her briefly, and though she did not recognize him at first, she was overjoyed to see her son. She then slipped a note into Sam’s father’s pocket that had written the address of where she was at the time (Neisse). They gave the note to a German boss who seemed “not as committed to the Nazi cause as others.” Sam later learned that his mother was working as a Christian in a monastery. 

 

Later on, in 1945, during winter, Nazis evacuated Sams’s camp, where he was then sent to be a part of the death march. Terrified, he boldly decided to escape while an officer turned his back for a second. He escaped by taking off his uniform with stripes and wearing clothes underneath that identified him as a French POW. After escaping, he approached a roadside camp where a French cook gave him soup, a slice of bread, and melted cheese. Sam then could hitch a ride to Neisse to reunite with his mother. Unfortunately, he was never able to reunite with his father ever again. 

 

After the Holocaust, Sam joined the army and fought for Palestine. He and his mother were the only surviving members of his immediate family. Then, after having fought in the army, he immigrated to the US in 1952, where he attended Rochester Institute of Technology, NY. Next, he became a production manager for several printing and publishing companies. A few years later, he married his wife, Anita Natzler, in 1958. He had two daughters and currently has two grandchildren.

After the Testimony 

Immediately after he gave his final statements of his story, the entire theater, which was utterly silent, erupted in collectively loud applause. We were also fortunate enough to see what Sam brought along with him, which was a younger picture of him, and we all got to hold and pass on a belt he collected from an officer during his time at the camps.

For the next hour, students were then able to ask numerous questions. Sam, here are some of those questions:

Myself: “What inspired you to share your story with the world?” 

Sam: “Well, you must have information about what transpired in history because we need to learn from history and not repeat past mistakes. So that’s why I feel like you should know what happened.” 

Student 2: “How do you feel about Germans today?”

Sam: “I do not have much contact with German People today, but I just want to emphasize the fact that I have great sorrow and regret that for so many years, I had forgotten to recognize that my boss, Frank, was so instrumental in saving my life and that I was so overtaken by hate that I overlooked that fact and I feel sorry about that and I am happy that I have changed to a point where I can heal from that.”

 

Student 3: “What lesson did you learn most from your dad?”

Sam: “Look..one time when we were in the bunks, and I had my rationed food, an older man came and tried to take it, so being 14, I yelled at him. That’s when my father said, “Look, is it that important that you have to embarrass this older man and you can’t last one day without your food.” that was just the type of man my father was.”

 

Student 4: “How did you cope and deal with the loss of your family?”

Sam: “It wasn’t easy number one because you cope with the… you survive,e and survival dictate how to treat humans in their rights, and I had to make adjustments, which wasn’t easy..”

 Afterward, students were then able to line up and get to meet Sam and purchase one of his books called “From hell to the promised land: A Boy’s Daring Escape from Nazi Concentration Camp” I was able to do both and get a picture. Overall, this experience was very moving, and we must never forget the Holocaust and, most importantly, the lives that were affected. It was an absolute honor to hear Sam Silberberg’s story and have the privilege to meet him. I hope Santiago High School continues this incredible tradition for as long as possible.

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About the Contributor
Abby Delgado, staff writer
Abby Delgado (10) is a current Sophmore at Santiago High School where her favorite subject is Language Arts. Her interest in writing developed when she was very young and was in a writing and speaking club at her elementary school. Her interests developed more when she moved schools, joined clubs, and found poetry. She is currently a dancer where she learns people and communication skills. She also started a debate club in middle school where she practiced her research skills. With her past experience and current interest, she feels she can add her research and people skills to this team. Abby aspires to pursue a career in which she can communicate with others. You may reach her at [email protected]
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