Survivor recalls the Holocaust during APG ceremony
April 26, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Team APG hosted the annual observance of the Holocaust during the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the post theater April 16.
Sam Ponczak, a holocaust survivor, shared the story of his Family's journey during World War II. When World War II broke out in 1939, Ponczak was living in the area that became the Warsaw Ghetto. Ponczak and his mother escaped the ghetto and joined Ponczak's father who at the time lived in the eastern part of Poland which was then occupied by the Soviets. Ponczak and his mother tried to escape but were caught by Soviet guards. Eventually they were reunited with his father and were placed in a labor camp in Siberia, where Ponczak's mother and father worked in clothing factories sewing military coats for the Soviet army which was engaged in war against Germany. After refusing to accept the Soviet offer of citizenship to Polish refugees, his Family was able to return to Poland at the end of the war. No living relatives were found in Poland after the Family's return from Russia.
Ponczak said that even after the war his Family had to be on the move. Due to a communist government supported wave of anti-Semitism, in 1957 Ponczak and his Family left Poland, and lived in Paris until 1959, when the French police forced the Family to leave. Ponczak's Family then went to live in Argentina until 1964.
In 1964, his Family came to the United States and settled in Baltimore. In 1965 Ponczak met his wife, a former immigrant from Poland, and later had three children and six grandchildren. In the United States he prospered, receiving an education at the University of Maryland for engineering studies, and later a Master of Science and a Master of Business Administration degree from Rutgers University. Ponczak enjoyed a long career in engineering and retired in 2009. Now he volunteers as a translator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Ponczak said that he feels that it his duty to share his story with the world, to educate and help prevent other acts of violence and prejudice.
Ponczak added that he strongly believes that no one should let themselves be bullied, be a bully or be an innocent bystander to bullying.
"If you see something, say something," he said.
The program also included a prayer and candle lighting by Rabbi Gila Ruskin, from the Temple Adas Shalom, with assistance from cadets from the Military Youth Corps Freestate ChalleNGe Academy. The ceremony was in remembrance and in honor of those whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. Ruskin asked the audience to also remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings that took place the previous day.
"Help us to banish hatred and its destructive power," Ruskin prayed. "Yesterday once again we saw what hatred can sew -- blood, destruction, fear, sorrow, anger. Give us the patience and hard work to find a way to make peace among people. Give us the hope and the ability to find forgiveness. Help us reach out toward each other and find nonviolent solutions to the conflicts that are inevitable between human beings."