Age: 91 ½
Birthdate: October 20, 1923
Birthplace: Irsava-Ilosva, Czechoslovakia
Religious Identity: Jewish
“For some reason they needed 500 workers. My father was selected, but I was not. I went into the line with my father. They kept tossing me out of the line, but I knew I had to stay with my father, so I kept putting myself into the line and eventually they didn’t notice, and I was finally together with my dad again. I can’t explain how. This is how we stayed alive.”
Sam Gottesman was born in Czechoslovakia. During the Holocaust he was in a number of different concentration camps and ghettos, including Ilosva-Munkas ghetto, Auschwitz, Wustegiersdorf, Bergen-Belsen, Hildesheim, and Hanover concentration camp. Sam came from a family of seven. Of the seven, only he and two others survived the Holocaust. Sam describes the place they grew up as “more or less a family town,” counting about 50 or so of his cousins within the community. After liberation, Sam immigrated to the United States in 1947 with his father. During his journey on the boat, he recalls buying a grapefruit without a clue of how to eat it. Sam settled in McKeesport, PA with some relatives and worked as a picture framer and salesperson. He and his late wife, Lea, have one son. Their granddaughter is now 24 years old and studies at Berkeley. Sam enjoys reading, especially about World War II. He is always learning something new that he did not know before.
“How and why you could not explain. It just happened. We survived.”