A Virtual Discussion with Sam Wachs, Holocaust Survivor

Sam Wachs was five years old and in hiding with his mother on a neighbor's farm. When his mother was murdered by Nazis, the farmer's wife carried him to his aunt, who was interned in a forced labor camp. Sam was the only child in the camp. Sam will share his post-WWII journey across three continents, from Poland to Argentina and finally to Israel.

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 12:00-1:30 PM

Tuesday, April 13, 2021, 7:00-8:30 PM

There were two sessions. Each session featured a pre-recorded presentation by Sam followed by a live Q&A. The April 8th presentation will feature Sam for the Q&A and the April 13th presentation will feature his son Juan for the Q&A. The recording on YouTube contains both Q&A sessions.

Watch Presentation on YouTube
Watch Presentation with American Sign Language (ASL) on YouTube



Sam Wachs

Sam Wachs

2021 Rabbi Gedalyah Engel Lecturer
Survivor, Engineer

Sam Wachs was born in October 1938 in Zalesczyki, Poland, in a region of the country that is now part of Ukraine. When Sam was five years old, he and his mother were in hiding on a neighbor's farm. He witnessed his mother's capture by the Nazis but was saved himself when the farmer's wife carried him in a sack to his aunt, his mother's sister, who was interned in a forced labor camp nearby. He became the only child in the camp. His aunt raised Sam. She had already lost her own son, who was 21 years old at the time, and her husband took his own life one year later. From then on it was just the two of them, alone. Sam and his aunt survived the war and immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her three sisters-in law-lived.

In Buenos Aires, Sam learned Spanish, attended school, and ultimately achieved his Six-Year Diploma, the equivalent of a Master's Degree. After graduation, he signed on with General Electric first as an electrical field engineer and later as a gas turbine field engineer. He married and had three sons, one of whom died shortly after birth. His youngest son, Juan, is an industrial engineering professor at Purdue University.

Widowed in 1988 and with his sons nearly grown, Sam decided to change his life. He had wanted to immigrate to Israel since his youth, so as soon as Juan graduated from high school, Sam and his boys did just that, arriving in 1991. In 1996, Sam remarried. His wife Noga had three children of her own, so his family grew as did his opportunities. Sam continued as a gas turbine field engineer and travelled extensively internationally, working in power plants. His focus is on the present, which, he says, is a "present," a gift.

Once in Israel, Sam connected with survivors of the same village in Poland where he had lived as a young child. A woman who had known his mother told him the details of his mother's capture and death, and he learned the story of his own rescue from a book that had been written by these same survivors about the camp where he lived until he was nine years old

Sam's talk is entitled "A Survivor's Journey: Present to Past to Future." In his presentation Sam will relate the details of his literal journey from continent to continent and his journey to recover his past as well as his hopes for the future. "What can be learned from people like myself?" Sam asks us. "What can be done to avoid what happened in the past? What is the responsibility of each of us?"

Mission Statement

The goals of the Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee, initiated by Rabbi Gedalyah Engel and the Mayors of Lafayette and West Lafayette in 1981, are to continue awareness of the Nazis' War against the Jews from 1933-1945, to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and to promote individual, community, and media responsibility for combating the forces of prejudice, hatred, and discrimination today.

Contact us: info@glhrc.org

© 20201Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Conference Committee.
Archive: Past Conferences