Szlamach was one of six children born to Yiddish-speaking, religious Jewish parents. Szlamach's father was a peddler, and the Radoszynski family lived in a modest apartment in Warsaw's Praga section on the east bank of the Vistula River. After completing his schooling at the age of 16, Szlamach apprenticed to become a furrier.
1933-39: During the 1930s Szlamach owned a fur business. Despite the Depression, he was hoping the economy would turn around so that he could make enough money to move into his own apartment and start a family. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. One week later, his city was surrounded by the Germans. After a terrible siege, Warsaw surrendered.
1940-44: In November 1940 the Nazis established a ghetto. By April 1943 Szlamach's entire family had either died in the ghetto or had been deported to the Treblinka killing center. After the ghetto uprising, he was deported to Auschwitz. Day after day his job there was to shovel dirt over discarded, still-smoldering ashes of cremated victims. He kept wondering whether he, too, would end up the same. But Szlamach was sustained by the fact that the number tattooed on his arm--#128232--added up to 18, the Jewish mystical symbol for life.
In January 1945 Szlamach was deported to Dachau, where he was liberated during a forced march on May 1, 1945, by U.S. soldiers. In July 1949 he immigrated to the United States.