What Made Sam­my Run?

Sam Sil­ber­berg; adapt­ed by Car­olyn Buan
  • Review
By – September 16, 2013

Sam­my Sil­ber­berg, the author of this Holo­caust mem­oir, is now 83. In this book, he tells the sto­ry of his life from the time he was eight years old, liv­ing in his Pol­ish home town in the 1930s, to his immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States in n1952 after fight­ing Israel’s War of Independence.

He was always feisty,” a born nego­tia­tor, and a believ­er that one should take action to fight for one’s life. As the noose” of the Nazis tight­ens, his Uncle Moses plants the seeds in Sam’s mind for return­ing to Zion and help­ing to estab­lish a home­land there for the Jews. After the Ger­mans invade Poland and Sam and his fam­i­ly are trans­ferred from ghet­to to ghet­to, he learns how to smug­gle food. Lat­er, he and his father are in the selec­tion line at Auschwitz and he stands on a con­crete block to make the Nazis think he is taller and old­er. In this way, he and his father are able to be togeth­er in the camp until the death march” near the end of the war.

Phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al sur­vival are but­tressed by his father’s phi­los­o­phy that you must not look back but must make the best of the present. Learn­ing that Sam’s moth­er is pos­ing as an Aryan and work­ing in a com­mu­ni­ty near the camp gives them a psy­cho­log­i­cal boost, which helps them survive.

Dur­ing the death march, Sam tells his father that they must escape. His father does not respond. When Sam sees an oppor­tu­ni­ty, he takes it and nev­er sees his father agin. He is able to find his moth­er, but lat­er leaves her to fo to Pales­tine and be trained as a sol­dier and he takes part in defend­ing the Neg­ba kib­butz. Sub­se­quent­ly, he goes to the Unit­ed States to join his moth­er who is already liv­ing there.

The dri­ve and resilien­cy of the author is inspir­ing and a role mod­el for teenagers every­where. The sto­ry is accom­pa­nied by pho­tographs of his fam­i­ly, of the Nazis, and of the con­cen­tra­tion camps, as well as a glos­sary, a list of dis­cus­sion ques­tions, and a list of sug­gest­ed projects.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 and up.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions