Scrapbookpages Blog

August 5, 2015

Famous Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar has died

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 12:34 pm

You can read the news about the death of Samuel Pisar in this news article.

This quote is from the news article:

Samuel Pisar, who survived Auschwitz as a boy to become a successful lawyer, an adviser to presidents and the creator of the text for Leonard Bernstein’s symphony “Kaddish,” died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 86.

His daughter Leah Pisar-Haas said the cause was pneumonia after a stroke.

Mr. Pisar had an extraordinary life that arced from Bialystok, Poland, where he was born on March 18, 1929, through the Nazi death camps, and on to education in Australia, at Harvard and at the Sorbonne.

Prisoners were marched out of Dachau before the camp was liberated

Prisoners were marched out of Dachau before the camp was liberated

The photo above shows a march out of the Dachau camp, before the camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945.  These prisoners, including Samuel Pisar, were being marched out of the Dachau camp, towards the mountains, for their own safety.

When American planes strafed the column of Jews marching out of Dachau, Pisar managed to escape and was eventually rescued by American soldiers. He had just turned 16 and had survived three long years of Nazi persecution, including a stay in Majdanek and in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Samuel Pisar was one of the prisoners who survived the march, shown in the photo above. After the war, he emigrated to America; he became an international lawyer and wrote a book entitled Of Blood and Hope.

Pisar had been living in the Bialystock ghetto in northeastern Poland when World War II started; he was 13 years old when the ghetto was liquidated. From the ghetto, he was first sent to the extermination camp at Majdanek; his mother and younger sister were sent to Auschwitz. His father had already been shot by the Gestapo, indicating that he might have been a resistance fighter.

A few months later, Pisar was transferred from Majdanek to Auschwitz, where he was given a job working near a crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He claimed that he could hear the cries of the prisoners as they were herded into the gas chambers while an orchestra played classical music nearby. This indicates that he was talking about Krema III at Birkenau.

When Auschwitz-Birkenau was evacuated in January 1945, Pisar was one of the prisoners on the death march out of the camp. That is how he eventually ended up in Dachau.

Crematorium IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Crematorium IV at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The old photograph above shows Crematorium IV, aka Krema IV, taken in the Summer of 1943, soon after it became operational. This building was blown up by Jewish inmates in a camp rebellion on October 7, 1944.

The gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, was located above ground in the wing of the building which is to the left in the picture. Note that the roof line of the gas chamber is lower than the roof of the main part of the building. Zyklon-B poison gas pellets were allegedly thrown into the fake shower room through windows on the outside wall of the gas chamber.

Samuel Pisar was a prisoner in the Birkenau camp when Crematorium IV was destroyed by the inmates. In an article in the Washington Post, published on January 23, 2005, Pisar wrote that Crematorium IV was set on fire. The following quote is from his article:

I also witnessed an extraordinary act of heroism. The Sonderkommando — inmates coerced to dispose of bodies — attacked their SS guards, threw them into the furnaces, set fire to buildings and escaped. They were rapidly captured and executed, but their courage boosted our morale.

Crematorium IV was across the road from the beautiful red brick building, called “die zentrale Sauna,” which was used for disinfecting the clothing and for processing the incoming prisoners. Crematorium IV was also near “the little white house,” where gassing operations allegedly took place, starting in June 1942, before Crematorium IV and the Sauna were completed.

In the movie Schindler’s List, women prisoners are shown exiting from the shower room in the Sauna building; they see the high brick chimney of Crematorium IV, which is across the road from the Sauna. The gas chambers in Crematorium IV and Crematorium V were above ground, although in the movie, the prisoners are shown going down steps into an underground undressing room.

Rest in Peace, Samuel Pisar.