Honoring The Memory Of
Samuel Lerer, 10/1/22 - 3/3/16
Samuel Lerer, Holocaust survivor, was one of the last, or perhaps the last living survivor, from uprising at the Nazi death camp Sobibor in Poland. He was one of the first prisoners to arrive in Sobibor and later became one of the Jewish heroes in a revolt at the death camp. In the camp he was ordered to look after the horses and this gave him access to much of the camp. In the uprising and escape organized by prisoners, 11 Nazi officers were killed. During the uprising both his brothers were killed. The historic event was later dramatized in 1987 in the film ‘Escape From Sobibor’ featuring actors Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer.
After escaping and fleeing into the forest surrounding Sobibor, Sam eventually hid, along with survivor Esther Raab, in a barn of a farm house of a gentile Polish family. They kept them hidden for over a year.
In May 1942 at nineteen years old, Samuel Lerer from the Polish town of Zolkiewa together with his parents, his three brothers and his sister, were rounded up and taken to Sobibor. He and his brothers were put to work as Arbeitsjuden, the other members of the family were gassed immediately upon arrival in the camp. Etched in his mind was ‘how my father went to the gas chamber naked’.
After the war while in the streets of Berlin, he along with Esther Raab recognized the former SS officer Erich Bauer, the operator of the gas chambers. He called upon two police officers nearby and had him arrested. Sam travelled to Germany seven times to testify against Bauer and other war criminals. Ultimately, Bauer was sentenced to life imprisonment for his war crimes.
In 2013, Sam was awarded The Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland — Awarded to those who have rendered great service to the Polish nation.
Samuel Lerer moved to Brooklyn, NY, where he met and married Gale Simanowicz, his loving wife of 63 years. He owned a supermarket and later worked as a New York City taxi driver. Father to Susan Christopher and the late Paula Raphan; father-in-law to Mark Raphan; grandfather to Kelly Worman, Linsday John, Matthew Raphan and Brooke Raphan; and great-grandfather to Joshua Worman, Jacob Worman, Avi John and Jonah John.
He passed away at home in his residence in Marlboro, New Jersey.