So gentle, so understated, so quietly outreaching, so unruffled, so kind. Who could ever guess that the late Sam Fireman lived through every imaginable hell during the Holocaust? Slave labor camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau. His entire family killed (save one sister). Escape from Auschwitz by sneaking on a train to Landsberg the day before the inmate uprising. Death march to Dachau. “One night he fell asleep in a ditch, expecting to be shot,” his family told the IJN. “The next day he was liberated.”
Yet, no rage, no revenge, crossed Fireman’s face. Indeed so, for it was his very character, his sterling qualities, that helped him survive in the first place. We may add to the skeletal account above a story that Fireman related to the State Legislature less than two years ago, in May, 2011. As reported in the IJN at the time:
“In 1940, a gentile client of his, Mr. Kramer, was unable to make the necessary payments for his purchase [of a guitar] due to the bad economy. In an act of grace that would later be crucial to his survival, Fireman excused Kramer from his payments until it was possible for him to pay.
“Shortly thereafter, Fireman was loaded onto a train headed to Cracow. As they approached, Fireman made a fleeting decision to jump the train and head back home. He found his life literally turned upside down, as he discovered his parents’ home in ruins.
“He was ordered to report to German headquarters and was mercilessly beaten until he heard a voice yelling at the SS officer. The voice was none other than Mr. Kramer’s, who had not forgotten the kindness showed to him by Fireman.
“Kramer made sure Fireman had a good job and plenty of food, but could not protect him when the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated in 1944.”
Did you ever look into Sam Fireman’s eyes? Those eyes looked into those of Dr. Josef Mengele’s “patients,” whom Fireman transported, dead and tortured, to the crematorium.
Sam Fireman was born in 1914. He was 98. He was one of the last of the Holocaust survivors. His passing comes close to closing an era. Beware! It is now up to the rest of us to keep the memories of the Holocaust alive.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News