MEET THE AUTHOR
From Ghetto to Guerrilla was presented by author Samuel Lato on February 17, 2008.
In the early 1940s the Germans confined up to 13,000 Jews in a ghetto in Baranowicze, a town of 25,000 people in Poland, east of Warsaw and not far from the border of the Soviet Union. By 1944 after Poland had been liberated by the Russians, only 250 Baranowicze Jews had been able to elude the Germans’ unrelenting massacres. Sam Lato was one of them.
When he witnessed the Nazi's bombardment of his birthplace in 1941, Sam Lato was sixteen. When he escaped from the ghetto and joined the Jewish Resistance movement, he was seventeen. By the time he returned to Baranowicze in 1945, he was twenty, and he had fought in two wars against the Germans during World War II: first as a partisan resistance fighter in the forest and then as a soldier in the Russian army.
Sam's childhood was relatively carefree and happy, his family unusually close-knit. He showed high aptitude for craftsmanship, winning a scholarship to a Jewish trade school in Warsaw, where the family moved when he was three. The skills Sam honed there would later help in his survival as a guerrilla fighter living in the Polish swamps, wreaking havoc against the Germans.
After the blitzkrieg of Poland in 1939, Baranowicze came under Russian control and for almost two years life was peaceful. Then in 1941, the Germans crossed the border and suddenly peaceful, little Baranowicze was swallowed up, living under Nazi occupation. The Germans began instituting laws restrictive to Jews. Soon there were roundups. Friends and neighbors began disappearing. Then there was the ghetto. The slaughters followed. The murders moved Sam to join an underground cell inside the ghetto. Ultimately, he decided that the only hope for any of their survival was to escape - or die trying - and then fight for his freedom, and theirs. He would do both. And live.
From Ghetto to Guerrilla is the daring and dangerous road Sam Lato traveled: a teenager finding steeled-will and tireless determination inside himself during a dark, unimaginable nightmarish time - before he survived a bullet wound that should have killed him, before he was the only one left in his family and before, as Lato himself would say, he was "labeled a Holocaust survivor."
Now, almost sixty years later, whispers of Holocaust deniers have compelled Sam Lato to put what he saw on the record: how he managed to come out of all of it alive, how he was trained by Russian paratroopers and the missions he led to disrupt the German army, and how, most improbably, he found love during wartime and married a fellow partisan in a partisan camp.
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