The Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. When Makow was occupied, Sam fled to Soviet territory. He returned to Makow for provisions, but was forced to remain in the ghetto. In 1942, he was deported to Auschwitz. As the Soviet army advanced in 1944, Sam and other prisoners were sent to camps in Germany. The inmates were put on a death march early in 1945. American forces liberated Sam after he escaped during a bombing raid.
The tail end of the tanks slowed down and they saw me coming out of the woods and they thought that I was a German so they stopped and tried to pick me up as a war prisoner. Well, when they saw my uniform, and then, and they saw the condition I was in...I don't want to repeat what he said. He started cussing like a...(laughter). He said, "God damn...." You know, just like a soldier. He reached in his pocket and he pulled out a bar of chocolate. And he gave it to me. Well, the chocolate was really hard, semi-sweet. It was nourishing. I tried to bite into the doggone thing. I would swallow the whole thing if I could. I couldn't, so I sucked on it, and he just stood there and looked at me and looked at me. He reached in there and gave me a pack of cigarettes. I didn't smoke, I stuck those in my pocket. Then he pulled out some K rations--crackers...uh...Spam [canned meat], whatever he had--and he just loaded me up and I was just like a little kid in a toy shop. I mean, I just...he pat me on the shoulder and he says, "Doctor." He was trying to tell me that he's gonna get a doctor to me. Sure enough, about ten minutes later he's coming with a...I don't know if it was a doctor or it was a medic or whatever. And he took a look at me and he gave a signal. They come with a stretcher, and they picked me up and took me into a field...uh...dispensary. And I think it was a Jewish...uh...doctor there. He looked at me and he worked on me. First of all, he wouldn't give me any food. Gave me tea, gave me farina with a little skim milk, and...heck, I could eat a horse--that's...that's how hungry I was. He kept on hollering, "Take it easy. Take it easy." So I thought to myself, "You stay and take it easy, he wants to kill me. Hitler didn't finish me off but he's trying to do it." But gradually, you know, every two hours or so, he increased my food intake. And then I finally realized that he means well. I was still hungry, but on the second and third day, I couldn't stop eating. He was sitting there just watching me how I was devouring whatever he put down on the table--hash potatoes, bacon, sausage-- whatever he put down. I ate like this for four days until I finally filled myself up.
Why are survivor testimonies important in studying the Holocaust?
What was the context of the Holocaust and World War II at the time of the events Sam describes?
What other source materials might be helpful to provide more historical context for this eyewitness testimony? What aspects of the history might these other source materials help reveal?
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