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More than 70 years ago, the world witnessed various episodes of the massacre of millions of people across Europe, perpetrated chiefly by Hitler and the German Army in World War 2. During the war, the Axis power carried out systematic genocide against Jews, Poles, Soviets, and Austrians among other nationalities in a concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen. The inmates suffered under horrific conditions, where the most natural outcome was death. Of the over 50,000 that died in that camp, a majority of the fatalities were Jews.
On October 27th, 2018, Jews were again targeted for extermination. On that day, Robert Bowers gained entry into a church, the Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh USA and fired upon the congregants and law enforcement officials, resulting in 11 fatalities and other casualties. Authorities state that Robert Bowers had made recordings, telling of his desire of wanting all ‘Jews to die’. In both instances, one man survived both incidents, years apart. His name is Judah Samet, 80.
As a child, he watched as his parents toil 12 to 14 hours a day at a huge lumberyard inn, operated by a major Austrian Nazi. After spending ten months in the yard, Samet and his family were ordered transferred to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. On their way, their train was liberated by American troops before it reached Bergen-Belsen, in 1945.
At Pittsburgh, he cheated death again, thanks to a four minutes lapse in time. Samet has been a member of the Conservative congregation for many years. His membership, spanning over four decades, saw him serve as part-time cantor, chanting prayers and helping to lead worship. And service for him began at 9.45 am. But on that fateful day, Samet talked with his housekeeper; a conversation that caused him four added minutes to get to the church, a short distance from his home.
Those four Minutes that may have saved his life!
Samet recalls pulling into the parking lot reserved for the disabled when someone knocked on his window and advised him to get out of the facility, as there was an active shooting going on at the time.
Judah scanned the area and saw a police officer, exchanging fire with the yet-to-be-identified armed intruder. Samet was close enough to the action, that he could see the residual smoke that escaped from the muzzle of the law officer’s gun. Within that time, the Octogenarian saw the armed man emerge from the building, open fire on officers and then retreat into the church. As Judah pulled out from the premises, he heard multiple gunshots from inside the church, the point at which Roberts finished the job.
Back in the safety of his home, Japhet called the numbers of the investigators he saw on TV. He furnished them with valuable information regarding the visage of the killer- a tall man with short hair and dressed in blue jeans; information that proved critical in helping prosecutors of the case.
Samet informs that love found him in Pittsburgh when he got married to a teacher in the city, so many years ago. Now the city that worked as a refuge from the painful years of the Holocaust, will serve as painful reminders for people of his stock and faith, that history does not end. That rising anti-semitism and white supremacist groups, still pose a threat to Jews today, as they did over 70 years ago!