Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Reflections on Survival

Let me um, I, I don't want to tire you out...

That's okay.

Let me ask, ask you just a few questions about um, sort of general things. First, maybe it's a silly question to ask, but um, why, why do you think you survived the camps?

I have asked myself that question many times. And I still can't find an answer. My logical answer would be sheer luck. As I prescribed to you--as I told you bef...uh, several times and I just told you a few of the incidences that happened that it had to be sheer luck. I'm hoping that God played a card--a part in it too. You know, I have seen so many God-fearing people die in His name. And I don't want to knock and I don't want to, to, to sound like I'm godless, because I'm not, I do believe in God. But to a degree I'm hoping that part of it was God and part of it was luck.

When you came um, to United States or even after liberation, did you talk to people about your experiences? I mean I know you talked with the Polish Jewish major and uh, to his colleagues. But in England or in the United States, did you tell people about what you experienced?

At first I may have, because people were interested. Because people were asking me questions. And there were those years right after liberation. Soon after liberation. Later on, I guess people saw more films, read more books uh, saw it on television. So many people became a little bit less interested in asking that many questions. And also, I, I tried to put that life behind me. I very seldom discuss my uh, past--in particular my uh, Nazi experience past with people. I come together with people of my uh, uh, my, my experiences we seldom ever talk about it. We may mention occasional things, you know, the thing. But we, we, we still don't have conversations about it. Although I do see other people who have constant conversation about it quite often. But I do not, not, I try to put it in the past. It happened, I didn't forget about it, I never will and I don't expect to. But I do not intend to make a, to make a martyr out of myself and I won't do it. I just don't intend, this is a moment of my life and I never did.

Did you ever have any trouble talking about it, I mean, emotionally--experience trouble.

Oh yes uh, I, I don't really think about it. Once I start, like I talk with you, now this is the first time that I've talked at length--for this length, for this length of time with anybody discussing the thing, first time maybe ever that I talked for this length of time about it in such detail.

Have you told your children at all?

I have told my children about it. I've told them about the experiences I mentioned to you. But I, I never sat down with them and talked with them at a length about that time simply because I just, I just didn't think that they would you know, want to know very much about at one time. I was telling it little, by little, by little they knew about those experiences, but not in a one-time conversation. We were just talking about it at, at, at different times. Now I still find, find it difficult to start this, this kind of conversation, but once I do, I do talk about it. Um, I try not to overdo it.

I just have just a few more things--do you suffer from any physical illness, or disability because of the camps?


How about psychological? Mm, I don't think so.

Nightmares or anything like that?

Oh yes, I think that now there's a degree of suffering. Now some people maybe would call it that I have been suffering a lot. And I do still get nightmares. There's no question about it. That's why I try--like I read a magazine or paper at night--if I can of course something I, I am a big reader, a voracious reader, I like to read a lot. One way of, for me to go to sleep is to read myself to sleep. Uh, I usually try, in fact, I do it as, as a matter of policy not to read anything about--pertaining my past, in any form or shape. Reading something for instance about Germany or something presently Germany. Nothing doing with Nazi Holocaust, anything just that will remind me of my past before going to sleep, because I know if I do it, most of the time I do get a nightmare. So I try to avoid. Now if you call this psychological suffering. It's possible it is. But it doesn't dominate my life. I don't, I don't let it bother me.

Does it, does it ever interfere with your life? Do you, do you uh, uh see something or hear something and have an image flash through your mind during the day that comes from those years ever?

Oh yes. I'm not too able to do it, I try not to do it. I could never--I have very seldom talked about my experiences with my relatives or friends, if ever. I may have told a little bit when I first came here to this country--hey you got to get it--they want to know everything and you told them a little bit about it, period. I have not talked to them about these things. Oh, I mentioned something occasionally, but we were, but we do not talk about it. Same with my friends. I have a lot of friends uh, in fact, I have more, most of my friends are--well, my wife who are, who are American born, who are not uh, Nazi concentration camp you know, victims or exiles or survivors. And I, I don't ever remember discussing this with them. Just--this is a thing from my past.

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