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Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the extraordinary story of how he survived the Holocaust
Sam Pivnik is the ultimate survivor from a world that no longer exists. On fourteen occasions he should have been killed, but luck, his physical strength, and his determination not to die all played a part in Sam Pivnik living to tell his extraordinary story.
In 1939, on his thirteenth birthday, Pivnik's life changed forever when the Nazis invaded Poland. He survived the two ghettoes set up in his home town of Bedzin and six months on Auschwitz's notorious Rampe Kommando where prisoners were either taken away for entry to the camp or gassing. After this harrowing experience he was sent to work at the brutal Fürstengrube mining camp. He could have died on the ‘Death March' that took him west as the Third Reich collapsed and he 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.
He eventually made his way to London where he found people too preoccupied with their own wartime experiences on the Home Front to be interested in what had happened to him.
Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the story of his life, a true tale of survival against the most extraordinary odds.
An 86-year-old Jewish survivor of ghettos, concentration camps, and the infamous January 1945 Death March, Pivnik graphically describes the casual and systematic brutality he witnessed as a forced guard at Auschwitz on the ramp where incoming prisoners were processed, he routinely watched as Josef Mengele ("the Angel of Death"), with "casual flicks of his doeskin gloves," decided whether prisoners were destined for slave labor or death. Pivnik's grim will to survive impelled him to make numerous moral concessions, but he makes no excuses for his actions: "I became... a human vulture." When a bracelet he's stolen is found by a guard, he refuses to fess up, despite the possibility that someone else might take the fall for it: "This was Auschwitz-Birkenau; the rules were different. And you never put your hand up for anything." Shuttled to and fro as "the Reich to death," Pivnik was aboard the doomed Cap Arcona, a ship full of prisoners, when it was sunk in the Bay of L beck by the British Royal Air Force just days before Germany's surrender. Amazingly, he swam to shore and lived. The horrors recounted here will be familiar to most readers of Holocaust memoirs, but they are no less shocking for that. 8-page b&w photo insert.