The Aktion

A Lasting Legacy

And then came the bloody day of October 28, 1942, which I will never forget for as long as I will live. It was a beginning in my life and the day that I changed from a child to a serious man who survived four years in many concentration camps, and who survived only with the thought of revenge on the bloody German murderers.

Now I will describe that one day:

We got up that morning to go to work, when all of sudden we heard our mother screaming as she looked through the window (our window was facing outside of the ghetto). We all ran to look and we saw what we had been afraid of for quite a while. The ghetto was surrounded by SS troops specially trained for “liquidations” (killings) of Jews. What the word Aktion means we now know very well. It means hundreds of dead people and thousands taken for transport to an unknown destination (later on we found out that the unknown destination was the crematoria in Bełżec, Treblinka, Majdanek and many others, where we lost millions of our brothers).

You have to forgive me, dear uncle, for the chaos in my writing, but when I start to remember the horrible times, then I can write only the way that I remember. Well, let us continue.

We are sitting and huddling together in one room, because we’re not allowed to go out, and listening to any noises coming from outside where, in the meantime, it was very quiet (quiet before the storm). Mother is crying very quietly; she knows that something very terrible is coming. We are trying to assure her that everything will be okay. I felt like a grown-up person, although I was only sixteen years old.

Our thoughts were with you in far-away Palestine, where most likely you had no idea what was going on here.

All of sudden, we start to hear a few shots and then a whole volley. It had started! We hear crying, yelling, moaning, and we know for sure that there must be many dead. Mother is crying together with our small cousin, who was living with us with his mother, Aunt Sally.

Then we hear heavy steps of the SS coming to our door. They are here! We are sitting together hugging each other, waiting for something terrible to happen. Then, the steps stopped right in front of our door ... a big bang and they are in. Sadistic faces with sadistic smiles slowly coming toward us.

One of them gives a yell: “Now I’ll deal with these damn Jews!”

One of the beasts started to beat my dearest mother. Then something snapped in me. Blindly, and with the most hate I could muster to the animal who could raise a hand to my mother, I threw myself on him with the fist. Me, a sixteen-year-old boy, trying to fight the big German.

I can still hear his sadistic laugh together with my mother’s scream. Then I felt a blow to my head and I lost consciousness. I was left for dead. They left me bleeding on the floor. In the evening, a few of the boys, who were working in the Gestapo headquarters (cleaning the toilets), found me on the floor. They said that I was very lucky (lucky, who in few minutes had lost everybody). I did not cry. I swore to myself that if I survive, I will seek revenge.

Carry the Torch/A Lasting Legacy, Sam Weisberg, Johnny Jablon

The turmoil of war and persecution pulls both Sam and Johnny to the Plaszow forced labour camp in Poland. In 1943, Johnny and Sam, only teenagers, quickly learn of the brutality of the new camp commandant, Amon Göth. By sheer luck, Sam becomes the commandant’s houseboy, a privileged, yet risky, position, and Johnny gets a job in the carpentry workshop, “useful” yet still living in constant fear. The young men both feel like they are walking a tightrope, where one wrong move can make them the target of Göth’s unpredictable volatility. Ultimately deported and on different trajectories, their experiences in Plaszow become an ever-present reminder that their fates can change in an instant. Carry the Torch and A Lasting Legacy are the different yet parallel stories of two men who, as the sole survivors of their immediate families, must find their own way after the war and decide whether to keep their histories in the past.

Introduction by Joanna Sliwa

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At a Glance
Sam Weisberg:
Plaszow forced labour camp; concentration camps
Death march
Postwar Germany, displaced persons camp
Arrived in Canada in 1959
Johnny Jablon:
Plaszow forced labour camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
Death march
Postwar Austria, displaced persons camp
War Orphans Project
Arrived in Canada in 1948
Educational materials available: Johnny Jablon Activity
Recommended Ages

256 pages, including index

About the author

Photo of Sam Weisberg

Sam Weisberg (né Avraham Gajer) was born in Chorzów, Poland, in 1927. After liberation, Sam lived in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons (DP) camp, where he met his wife, Rosa. They immigrated to Toronto in 1959. Sam Weisberg passed away in 2019.

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About the author

Photo of Johnny Jablon

Johnny (Ephroim) Jablon (né Jan Rothbaum) was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1926. After the war, Johnny lived in the Bindermichl DP camp in Austria. In 1948, as a war orphan, he immigrated to Montreal. Johnny Jablon passed away in 2023.

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We help teachers bring the subject of the Holocaust into their classrooms, using first-person narratives as a way for students to connect with the history of the Holocaust through survivors’ experiences. Our Holocaust survivor memoirs, educational resources and programming are free of charge and available in both French and English.