Guest speaker Sam Devinki lights candles with his cousin, Mania Waterhouse, visiting from London, at the conclusion of the Days of Remembrance observance April 27 at Frontier Chapel. Devinki and Waterhouse’s fathers were the only brothers in the family to survive the Holocaust. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Charlotte Richter/ Staff Writer

Guest speaker Sam Devinki shared his family’s Holocaust experiences during his remarks at the Days of Remembrance observance, hosted by the Munson Army Health Center, April 27 at Frontier Chapel. 

Devinki, born in 1946 in a displaced persons camp in Ragensburg, Germany, moved to the United States with his parents in 1950. His parents, Holocaust survivors from Poland, started Devinki Real Estate in 1954, which operated for more than 68 years. Devinki has been involved with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for 30 years and a series of board positions for organizations associated with the Holocaust.

Devinki recounted the German invasion of his mother’s town, Wodzislaw, Poland. Devinki explained how German soldiers sent prior military, religious notables and educators from the town to Treblinka or other camps due to the threat of resistance. Other family members were moved to live in a ghetto. 

Devinki said his parents married and then moved into hiding with other family members in what was described as a hole in the ground on a farm. He said his mother, her brothers and other family members received leftover food and scavenged, moving at night to prevent being discovered. They hid for 27 months, and even after the town was liberated by Soviet powers, the family had lost property, multiple family members and continued to face threats. Devinki’s parents moved from Poland to Germany and then to the United States.

Devinki emphasized the value of American privileges and the opportunities available in the nation. 

After his remarks, Devinki’s cousin, Mania Waterhouse, who was visiting him from London, joined him for a candle lighting to honor survivors and those lost during the Holocaust.

Days of Remembrance observance guest speaker Sam Devinki talks about his family’s Holocaust experiences April 27 at Frontier Chapel. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

“I want (the audience) to understand how important remembering the Holocaust is because for survivors, or even for Jews, it’s the only graves those people will ever have is our memories. That’s why I think the museum in Washington is so important; that’s where you can go to see this history of the Holocaust.” 

Devinki said he frequently speaks to high school students about the Holocaust. He said he tries to explain the impact of standing up against the beginnings of hatred, bigotry and antisemitism.

“When you start to separate people into groups, that develops into hatred later on in life.”

Devinki said he believes those who have the courage to speak up will find others standing behind them.

He said he appreciates the military service of the audience because their dedication and willingness to give their lives to protect people around the world. 

According to the 2022 national proclamation for the Days of Remembrance, April 24 through May 1 is a weeklong observance dedicated to remembering the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the museum leads and encourages annual observances in the nation. The 2022 observance, themed “Determination, Hope and Honor,” also recognizes Tibor Rubin, a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to the United States in 1948 and served in the U.S. Army. Rubin received the Medal of Honor in 2005 for his self-sacrifice and bravery as a Korean War prisoner of war.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1669782366695659 to view the full observance.

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