A Project of the Miles Lerman Center
Samuel Gruber (ne Munyo Gruber) was born in 1913, in Podhajce, Poland (Pidhaitsi, Ukraine). As a youth, Samuel belonged to the Zionist organizations Ha-Shomer ha-Tza'ir and He-halutz. When he was 14, Samuel went to Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine) to attend high school. After graduation, Samuel remained in Lvov for about two years. He then returned to Podhajce where he worked as a bookkeeper for a company that manufactured farm equipment and bicycles.
Though very few Jews served in the Polish military, Samuel was drafted when he was 18 or 19. He served for a year and a half in Tarnopol, Ukraine. Two or three weeks before World War II broke out in 1939, Samuel was called into the reserves. While training in Nowy Sacz, Poland, Samuel's unit was unaware that the Germans had penetrated deep into Poland. The Germans surrounded Samuel's unit and fighting broke out. Samuel was shot in the arm and taken as a prisoner of war.
After a month in the hospital, Samuel and the other prisoners were transported to Stalag 13, a camp in Langwasser, Germany, near Nuremberg, Germany. On the second day, Jews were ordered to present themselves. Samuel hesitated, but two of his Polish “friends” shoved him forwards saying, “Here is a Jew.” The prisoners were transported from Nuremberg to Ludwigsburg and then to Munzinger, Germany. Because of his injured arm, Samuel was assigned to work in the kitchen. Samuel spoke fluent German, so he also helped out in the German offices.
In 1941, Samuel and the other prisoners were transported to Gleiwitz (Gliwice), Poland and then to Lipowa Seven, a camp in Lublin, Poland. There, Samuel was forced to help build the Majdanek camp. Later that year, Soviet prisoners of war became the first inmates. Samuel recalls that the Russians were treated horribly. A typhus epidemic broke out and Samuel, along with 400 others, was quarantined in a synagogue. A doctor with whom Samuel was acquainted gave Samuel a shot that saved his life. Three hundred people died during the typhus outbreak.
Samuel was assigned to work in an office of a hospital that distributed uniforms, rifles and pistols to German soldiers coming from the front. He was able to steal weapons, which were eventually sold to partisans. A Polish man advised Samuel to escape because eventually everyone in the camps would be killed. On October 28, 1942, Samuel walked through Lublin to the forest on the outskirts of town. Two partisans met Samuel and 22 other people, whom he had convinced to leave with him. Samuel was the leader of his partisan group. He changed his first name to Mietek, a typical Polish name, so that the Polish farmers would not know that he was Jewish.
The partisans burnt villages and fought the Germans. Samuel was liberated when the Russians liberated Lublin, Poland, in 1944. He married in 1945. In 1946, Samuel left Poland. He was made head of a displaced persons camp for children at Prien am Chiemsee, Germany in 1947. Samuel immigrated to the United States in 1949.