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Volume 13

Sam Smilovic (Smiley)

Buchenwald 56466

published by the
Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright Sam Smilovic, 2001

Key Words

Mukachevo/Munkacz (town in Carpathia, Czechoslovakia), Krakow, Poland, Dr. Mengele, Buchenwald concentration camp, General Himmler, Gleina (town in Germany), Zeitz (factory for refining gasoline, employed forced labourers and inmates) Rabbi Schacter (chaplain in the U.S. Army), General Eisenhower, Prague, Budapest, B’nai Akiva (religious Zionist youth movement), Stuttgart, Germany.


The writing of this memoir began in 1985 and was completed twelve years later. The dates of entries indicate the month and year of the reported events.

Born in February 1928, the memoir opens with the author’s recollections of his early childhood in an Orthodox family in the town of Mukachevo (Munkacz), Czechoslovakia. Describes early schooling and traditional family customs. Witnesses the invasion of the region by Hungarian troops and the effect that had on the Jewish community. By 1941, Nazi edicts against Jews were promulgated. The following year, his father was arrested and sent temporarily to a labour camp. In March 1944, the Jews of Mukachevo were moved into a ghetto, conditions of which are described. In May 1944, the ghetto was evacuated and Jews were transported to Auschwitz. Reports on the conditions on the train. The selection process and camp conditions are reported in detail. He and his father are sent to Buchenwald and then are transferred to work in a German factory as forced labourers. The Allies bomb the factory where inmates were employed. He is again transported to Buchenwald. The Germans begin to evacuate the camp in anticipation of the Russian advances. Witnesses the arrival of American troops and General Eisenhower’s tour of the camp and his command to have the Germans from surrounding towns come to the camp to see the devastation. First religious services take place, conducted by Rabbi Schacter, chaplain, U.S. Army. Reports on immediate post-war circumstances, particularly the search for survivors. Discovers family members who survived, including sisters and brothers. Travels to Prague and Budapest in search of family. Relates the wartime experiences of his sister and brother. Returns to his home and retrieves the silver objects that had been buried for safekeeping. Joins a Kibbutz sponsored by B’nai Akiva. Decides to apply for an American visa, but encounters difficulties and obtains a Canadian visa instead. Became a group leader for Jewish orphans who had gained admission to Canada. In January 1948, he embarked on the ship General Sturgis for Canada. Author was honoured by the Canadian federal government, along with 55 other Holocaust survivors, on September 27, 2000.

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