Judah Samet Survived Bergen-Belsen, Mass Shooting

After 'Schindler's List,' he decided to tell his story
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2022 6:40 PM CDT
Holocaust Survivor Lived Through Attack on Synagogue
Judah Samet sits in his living room in Pittsburgh in 2018.   (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who narrowly escaped a shooting rampage at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, died Tuesday. He was 84. Samet, who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in World War II, was running a few minutes late for services at the Tree of Life of Life synagogue and was just pulling into a parking spot when a man told him there was shooting inside. Samet saw an officer exchange gunfire with the assailant, the AP reports. Eleven people were killed in the deadliest attack on Jewish people in US history. Afterward, he said he was surprised something like this hadn't happened sooner.

"I didn't lose the faith in humanity," he told the AP two days after the shooting. "I know not to depend on humanity." Born in Hungary on Feb. 5, 1938, Samet was 6 when the Nazis came to his house and told the family to pack. The Samets spent 10 months at Bergen-Belsen in Germany before being liberated in 1945. His father died of typhus a few days later. After the war, Samet went to Israel, where he served as a paratrooper. He relocated to Pittsburgh in the 1960s, and worked there at his father-in-law's jewelry shop, which he later owned. Samet didn't talk publicly about his Holocaust experiences for decades. But by the 1990s, with the release of the epic film Schindler's List, and with older survivors dying of old age, he told himself, "My God, who's going to tell this story?"

Samet estimated that he spoke about his Holocaust experience to tens of thousands of people at schools and other settings, mostly in the Pittsburgh area but also as far away as Montana. "Unfortunately, only people like me can bear witness," he said in 2020. But he said historians and others will need to tell the story in compelling ways once the last generation of Holocaust survivors is gone. "Judah leaves an unparalleled legacy to the world, of a man who survived not one, but two horrors committed by humanity against the Jews," Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life said in a written statement. "He taught us how to respond with controlled fervor, grace and strength." In announcing Samet's death on Facebook, his nephew, Larry Barasch, wrote, "What a life he had!"

(Read more obituary stories.)

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