November 14, 2012, - 6:30 pm

Sam Offen, Proud American Jewish Entrepreneur & Holocaust Survivor, of Blessed Memory

By Debbie Schlussel

Today, I went to the funeral of Sam Offen, a Holocaust survivor and friend of my late grandfather, Isaac Engel, also a Holocaust survivor. They were landsmen (Yiddish for Jews from the same part of the world, primarily Europe). Like my grandfather, Sam Offen was born in Poland and lost almost everyone in his family while he survived the Nazi concentration and death camps. He and my grandparents knew each other as they were all Holocaust survivors from Poland who settled in Detroit. I used to see Sam all the time at the cemetery when I went to visit my father’s grave and he was there to visit that of his wife.

samoffen2.jpg

Sam Offen, Great American, Proud Jew, Holocaust Survivor

I’m telling you about this because I was proud to know Sam Offen and his funeral today was very uplifting because it was not about a man who lost his life. It was about a man who triumphed over tragedy and lived the American dream. Sam Offen, after coming to America with his two brothers who survived, lost a leg when he was hit by a drunk driver in 1959. But he didn’t let that get in the way just as he didn’t let the Holocaust steal his life or his will. As his relatives pointed out at today’s funeral, it’s a big deal when a man dies at age 91, and his funeral is packed, and packed with people of all ages.

I’m one of the many people whose lives he touched with his story of survival and success as a great American entrepreneur. I heard him speak and also talked to him at length for my Detroit-based CBS Radio show. He’s the author of the very moving book, “When Hope Prevails: The Personal Triumph of a Holocaust Survivor,” and traveled across Michigan, America, and the world to tell his story. This happened at the encouragement of my cousin, the late Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig, also a survivor and the founder of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

When Nazi war criminal and Mathausen guard Johann Leprich (of the SS Waffen) was caught sneaking in and out of the Detroit-Windsor, Canada border, Sam Offen spoke out. He was also rightfully disappointed that neighbors, who I interviewed on my radio show, felt bad and expressed sympathy for the Nazi who murdered many Jewish prisoners, while Sam Offenwas a prisoner at Mathausen. Leprich helped murder more than 150,000 people at the death camp.


Sam was a well known furrier in the Detroit area, and his “Ceresnie & Offen” fur store remains the place where wealthy Detroiters go to get the most striking, beautiful fur coats. I always used to see him at pro-Israel events, and he always told me how proud he was of my work in getting out the truth. He was proud to be Jewish and unabashedly pro-Israel, in addition to being a proud American. He was proud to be a right-winger on Israel and a proud Jew.

At his funeral today, it was heartbreaking to hear Sam’s brother Natan (who is probably 90) sing to him the song, “We’ll Meet Again,” in his Yiddish accent. But it was inspiring to hear Sam’s daughter talk about how, after her family visited Poland to see where family members were murdered by the Nazis, they ate at a fancy restaurant. It was the same fancy restaurant that Sam used to walk by as a poor kid in pre-Nazi Poland and never dreamed he would eat there, as it was only for the rich. But, now, he was one of those rich people and had not only survived the Holocaust but eaten at this restaurant–a great triumph for him and a finger in the eye to the Nazis.

Another story Sam’s daughter told was of one of Sam’s many trips to the U.S. Holocaust Museum (which has, unfortunately, been hijacked by leftists and left-wing politics). He saw a 12-year-old girl crying after viewing some of the pictures and exhibits. “Why are you crying?” he asked. “I’m here! I’m alive. I survived!” he proudly proclaimed.

Indeed, he did. And he’ll be missed. The man was a mensch–the nicest man and he gave a lot of money to charity. He’s yet another of the many Holocaust survivors who are no longer with us, but who did triumph and live and have families–the ultimate revenge against the Nazis who tried to snuff them out.

Sam Offen, Zichrono LiVrachah [Blessed Be His Memory].

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23 Responses

Debbie, I do not mean to take away from your post. You say, “the Nazi (Leprich) who murdered many Jewish prisoners before Sam Offen’s eyes”, but Charlie Leduff said in the Detroit News, “Though Offen does not remember Leprich, he does remember men like him…”. What do you suppose is the reason for the discrepant statements? Offen’s own statements?

V: I trust NONE of Charlie LeDuff’s “reporting.” The guy has a record of fabricating and plagiarism, which is why he was bounced from so many newspapers. Most recently, he completely made up a whole story about a Detroit female cop working as a stripper, which she said she never did and filed suit. Leduff had no evidence to show the story was true and refute her denials, but luckily for him, her lawyer filed her suit too late (after the statute of limitations for defamation) and the case was dismissed. Sam Offen was very involved in following the Leprich case and in speaking out against him. I will change the part about him seeing Leprich’s murders b/c I want to be accurate. Thanks. DS

Visteo on November 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Touching. I love him. GREAT MAN. ????

    As goes... on November 15, 2012 at 12:09 pm

May he rest in peace. You did a good job in bringing this great mans story to light.

samurai on November 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Thank you for posting this.

Lady in Northern Virginia on November 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Deb:

I share your views on the U.S. Holocaust Museum. I question whether the museum was hijacked by leftists. From its inception, it was a leftist project with a leftist President performing the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Simultaneously, this leftist President was putting pressure on Israel to continue making un-reciprocated concessions to its Arab enemies; the same people who plot another Holocaust.

I didn’t know Sam Offen. I know him from what you have written here. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Regards,

TINSC (aka There is NO Santa Claus)

There is NO Santa Claus on November 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Sounded like a great guy Debbie, may he RIP for eternity!

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on November 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Thank you for sharing this with us, Debbie. May Sam Offen’s memory be for a blessing.

JeffE on November 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I take it that the members of the Radomer Society were originally from Radom? While searching for ‘Radomer’ I found this interesting site:
http://www.zchor.org/radom/radom.htm
Seems to give one honest account of what happened to Jews around Radom and in the towns of most of Poland during the Nazi occupation.

theShadow on November 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    That historical account of Radom pretty much sizes up what happened in all of Poland during that infamous time in history. Thank you for your research and enlightenment.

    Rochelle on November 15, 2012 at 4:48 am

stories of such bravery make me feel ashamed of myself. That being said, long live the IDF.

David on November 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Deepest sympathies…

DS_ROCKS! on November 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Great man. Great article. Thanks

Fred on November 15, 2012 at 12:38 am

FOUR Jews were murdered today by rockets from Gaza. Syria has started shooting at our Northern Border. The Holocaust never ended and Debbie is right about the Holocaust Museum(s) the one in Tampastan is “all inclusive” meaning all genocides, everywhere are given equal billing with the Holocaust of Jews. Z”L Sam Offen, everyone of your generation who is still here, including my in-laws, is a reminder that while bad things happen to us, the G-d of Israel is never defeated.

Italkit on November 15, 2012 at 6:50 am

R.I.P.

Road Warrior on November 15, 2012 at 7:02 am

Thank you for sharing you love for Sam Offen.
RIP

Panhandle on November 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

Samuel Offen – December 27, 1981

Introduction
The following is an interview with Mr. Samuel Offen on December 27, 1981 in the afternoon at his home in Southfield, Michigan. The interviewer is Sidney Bolkosky.

Now did you, you start already?

Yes. Can you tell me your name and where you’re from?

My name is Sam Offen. My Polish name was Salek–S-A-L-E-K. Offen and I’m from Krakow, Poland. I was born in August of 1921.

Could you tell me uh, what life was like, do you remember before the war, in Krakow?

[…] I was the first born son, somehow a son meant a lot to them and uh, I guess they were pampering me or whatever, as much as they could in those days. Although if I remember we were quite poor. Uh, I went to a Polish school. I had a Polish education. Some of my best friends were Polish people. I also went to cheder. I went to a Polish school in the morning to about two o’clock. And then from three o’clock to seven I went to, to cheder, it’s called the Talmud Torah. It was difficult to really learn in the Hebrew schools and the Talmud Torah because as I mentioned before, I had a lot of Gentile, Polish Gentile friends who after school were free to do almost anything they wanted. You know, go and play ball and do almost anything you wanted. And I was sort of like practically forced to go to cheder. And it was also difficult to find time to do my homework for my regular education. But I guess somehow I managed, I cope with it. I had fairly decent grades. I was interested in a lot of things and a lot of subjects. And I have to admit that the education in the Polish school was excellent. Teachers created a lot of interest in kids. [...]
—-

Hello Debbie!
It was long time ago we ‘have written’ to each other ?
Above quote I have found in Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive.

Would you please explain to me some inconsistencies?

You say Samuel Offen was active in the Radomer Society just like your grandfather (I think it supposed to be Radom – one of cities of central Poland).
Samuel Offen says he was born in Krakow.

Your grandfather according to his testimony was born in Zwolen, near Radom.

It is more than 120 miles north east from Krakow.

First Question: How is it possible they knew each other and worked together in the same organisation for Jewish community?

Second Question: What do you think about quote above remembering the whole cesspool you had poured on Polish folks?

A: Neither Sam nor my grandfather were from Radom. But the Radomer Society became the organization for many Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors. They knew each other because they both went to Detroit after the Holocaust and were friendly, as many Holocaust immigrant survivors were. However, while my family told me my grandpa knew Sam Offen from the Radomer Society, I will remove that, since I never asked Sam to confirm it. DS

Ala_ma_kota_01 on November 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thank you for your answer to my first question.
What about second question?

Forgive me for my insistence but is this your grandfather testimony? (Source:Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive).

Isaac Engel – June 16 & 25, 1992

Introduction
The following is an interview with Isaac Engel at his home in Southfield, Michigan on the morning of June 16, 1992. The interviewer is Sidney Bolkosky.

Uh, could you tell me your name please, and where you’re from?

Isaac Engel. I am from Zwolen, Poland.

And uh, where exactly is Zwolen?

Zwolen is about twenty miles from Radom and about fifteen miles from Lublin. It’s between Radom and Lublin.

So you were in the Radom district, is that true?

Yes.

Um, tell me a little bit about life–your life before the war in Zwolen.

Before the war, we had a bu…a hardware business. We had paint, we had, we had everything. We have in plywood and uh, anything you needed to build a house except brick, we had it. And metal, all kinda metals. And uh, my grandmother was in the same business in a different city, Lipsko. It was about sixteen miles away from there.

Ala_ma_kota_01 on November 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Debbie,
Thank you for this story. My father, an 84 year old Holocaust survivor, recently passed away. There were also a lot of people of all ages at his funeral and I have since heard wonderful stories about things that he did to help others, that I had never heard before. All of these stories have helped me know him and deal better with his loss.

Like your father and Sam Offen, he lost almost everyone and went on to raise a family in the US and become successful through hard work. He loved this country and was always thankful for the freedoms afforded to him by the US. His story was an inspiration to all who heard it, as are the stories of most survivors. Their resilience was amazing. Thanks again.

Betty on November 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

At least they named some brand of vodka after him.

There is NO Santa Claus on November 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Thank you for this beautiful article today : ) Lovely way to begin this day.

Aurora on November 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

It sounds like this man left a great impact on your life. May his soul rest in peace.

Mr. Lawrence on November 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

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bug repellent on May 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm

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