Survivor’s story published in German

10 Apr 2017

90 year old Sam Pivnik, a Holocaust Survivor and resident at Jewish Care’s Clore Manor Care Home was presented with letters from German school children at the book launch to mark the German publication of his book, Survivor, which was published on same day, 13 March.

Children from Gruenstadt School in the south of Germany who have been reading extracts of his book wrote personal letters to him that were shared with him at last weeks’  event. One student wrote;

I want to thank you for giving us all the opportunity to read about your experiences. No one has the right to destroy any life, to tear families apart, and decide who gets to live or not. But it is good to know there are people like you who try to make a difference for the future by documenting their experiences, even though I could understand if you could not been willing to recall all this in your head again. People like you who can find the courage to talk about their stories are the long forgotten heroes of history.”

Sam who has been a resident at Jewish Care’s Clore Manor for 2 years and a member of Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre for over 20 years commented; “I am pleased that German people can read this now. I cannot say that you should enjoy the book, it’s not an enjoyable book, it’s a terrible thing in history that took place but thank God we are all free people now and that’s the main thing.

“We are all human beings. We must live and learn from history to make sure that it never, never, never happens again.”

In the last week, since it was published in German, the book has become one of the top ranking German biographies and is ranked No.19 in the Amazon books bestseller list in Germany. 

The book, was first published in the UK in 2012 and has been translated in eight languages including Polish, Italian, Swedish and Danish. In the book Sam gives a personal account of his survival when the family were forced into a ghetto in German-occupied Poland in early 1943. He survived the ghetto set up in his home town of Bedzin and was in Auschwitz  II/ Birkenau for six months.  

His father and mother, younger sister Chana and younger brothers Meir, Wolf and Josef were all murdered on arrival and his older sister Handel survived for a short time before selection. Sam was assigned to the Rampkommando where he worked unloading newly arrived trains after the prisoners had arrived. This gave him access to food and valuables from prisoners luggage and he was able to use this to keep himself fed and to bribe, prisoner-overseers and trusties. Whilst on the ramp, Sam was often to see Josef Mengele playing god by choosing who was going to live and who to die.

After recovering from typhus he was sent to work in a mining camp where he was an overseer. He was sent on the Death March as the Third Reich collapsed and was one of only a handful of people who swam to safety when the Royal Air Force sank the prison ship Cap Arcona, in 1945, mistakenly believing it to be carrying fleeing members of the SS. Pivnik was liberated by the British Army in Neustadt on 4 May 1945.

Götz Fuchs, Editor for the German edition of the book at WBG publishers, commented “It’s so important that this book has been translated widely, especially in German. Sam shares what’s happened in the book and it’s very personal, he talks about what he went through and losing his family, the book begins in his childhood at the age of 13 on 1 September when Germany invaded Poland, he has lived through so much.  He writes about his childhood and now children in Germany can read this book, making a link to the next generation.”

The responses from the German students participating in the project highlight how valuable the translation is for those coming to terms with history’s lessons. Marius Horak, talked about the book, saying, “I knew it was horrible and bad but I never really understood that it was that bad and most people don’t understand that and don’t know about it. This is a first hand source which is unusual. (Reading) it, it felt like I was really there.

After the launch, Maria Dziedziurska, Registered Manager at Clore Manor, said, “We are very proud of Sam, the next generation all over the world can understand what the Holocaust was through his personal testimony being translated into so many languages.  He survived terrible experiences during the Holocaust and he is making a big impact on so many people in the world today at the age of 90.

Other members of the  Holocaust Survivors’ Centre joined Sam, including Miriam Freedman and Eve Kugler who added, “People must read the book and learn from it.”

For more information please contact Naomi Creeger, Press & PR Executive at Jewish Care on 020 8922 2812 or 07776 130 026.

Photo credit Paul Lang Photography