Sam Genirberg —

The Table of Contents


Among the Enemy

Hiding in Plain Sight in Nazi Germany

by Sam Genirberg

THIS REMARKABLE WORLD WAR II MEMOIR documents the true story of a Jewish youth from Ukraine who evades death during the Holocaust by joining a transport of non-Jews conscripted for compulsory labor in Germany. Incredibly, he lives in plain sight among his enemies for almost three years.

Eighteen-year-old Sasha flees from the Nazi-occupied Dubno ghetto days before the mobile killing squads of the SS massacre the remaining Jewish inhabitants. He attempts to save himself by posing as a gentile in the very heart of Hitler’s Germany. Close calls, unexpected challenges, and hair-raising encounters punctuate each day on the run. As he moves from town to town and job to job, Sasha’s quick wit and some twists of fate allow him to survive—at least until the next time. Meeting no other Jews, he fears he may be the only Jew still alive in Europe.

Sasha, a Jewish youth from Ukraine, runs from the Dubno ghetto in October of 1942, at the urging of his mother, who knows that any day the Germans will come for them and kill them. To survive, he uses falsified identity documents to join a transport of non-Jews conscripted for compulsory labor in Germany. In the homeland of his enemy, he hides in plain sight for almost three years.

He is repeatedly forced to flee when suspicions and rumors that he might be Jewish threaten his life. Each day he faces new challenges: whether he is being questioned by the Gestapo after running away from a job or being examined by a German physician who may well discover that he is circumcised.

He lives with the loneliness and isolation of not being able to share with anyone the secret of who he really is, as well as his daily fear of being discovered. He must constantly remain on guard with everyone: his co-workers, his German bosses, and even the woman who professes to love him.

This incredible memoir documents one young man’s determination to remain alive during the Holocaust. It is a narrative of anguish, identity confusion, triumph over adversity, and ultimately a final escape to the West to reclaim the identity and ideals of his youth.

Among The Enemy - Hiding in Plain Sight in Nazi Germany

324 pages, 6" x 9" Hardback

ISBN: 978-1-61170-076-3

Published by: Robertson Publishing (RP)

Purchase your copy of "Among the Enemy" from Ingram Books or any of the links below:
Table of Contents from the book  ~ Copyright Material ~
Table of Contents

The Author:

Sam Genirberg



Sam Genirberg immigrated to the United States with his wife and child in 1948. Settling in California, his career path progressed from chicken farmer, to owner and manager of a popular ice cream store, to highly successful land developer. Over the years, he has been active in the Jewish community and has remained a steadfast supporter of Israel. He and his wife, Rose, have raised three children. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, continues to be involved in property management, and frequently talks about his Holocaust experiences to Jewish groups and high school students in his community.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


After 77 years, boyhood friends from Poland reunite in Berkeley

by lyn davidson, j. correspondent


A bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley last month was the site of an emotional reunion for two childhood friends who grew up together 77 years ago — and hadn’t seen each other since.

Sam Genirberg (left) and Michael Kesler meet on the front terrace of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley on March 15.
 photo/courtesy may kesler breslow


In the late 1930s in Dubno, Poland (now part of Ukraine), Sasha Genirberg and Mehal Kesler lived near each other, attended the same school and sang together in the choir of the city’s Great Synagogue. Mehal even dipped the braids of Sasha’s girlfriend into an inkwell.


In their mid-teens, each boy got out of the city at their parents’ insistence, barely ahead of the Nazis. Sasha went west on a trail that ultimately led him into the heart of the Third Reich. Mehal and his 19-year-old sister went east into the Soviet Union and Uzbekistan.


Both boys survived by their wits, the resilience of youth and enough lucky escapes to fill several adventure movies. Eventually, both made it the United States. Sasha became Sam, Mehal became Michael. Each achieved undreamt-of success in their chosen fields, Sam Genirberg in the Bay Area as a businessman and real estate property manager, and Michael Kesler in New Jersey as a chemical engineer and consultant to the petroleum industry.


Sam Genirberg
photo/courtesy carolyn (kejla) genirberg

Michael Kesler

photo/courtesy may kesler breslow


Several years ago, they each wrote a book about their Holocaust experiences: While nearly blind from glaucoma, Kesler finished Shards of War: Fleeing To & From Uzbekistan in 2010; two years later, Genirberg’s “Among the Enemy: Hiding in Plain Sight in Nazi Germany was published.


Through it all, each had assumed that the other — like their parents, families and most of the friends of their youth — was buried in the mass graves near Dubno.

Cue social media.


Early last month, Santa Cruz County resident Shirley Ginzburg (the wife of Genirberg’s nephew Allen) met Kesler’s daughter, May, through Facebook and Yahoo groups dedicated to connecting the survivors of Dubno. When the word “choir” came up, the women’s hearts skipped a beat: They knew they’d found a connection.

Genirberg and Kesler, both 90, exchanged a phone call, and their relatives arranged for them to meet in Berkeley at Kesler’s grandson’s bar mitzvah on March 15.


Genirberg doesn’t recall the exact words he and Kesler said when they first met again. “The excitement was finding out that another young person my age had survived,” he said. Most of his childhood friends had been murdered over the summer and fall of 1942.“I’m so glad to see you,” is what Genirberg thinks he first told Kesler. “We talked about what had happened to the Jewish people in Dubno, about where we lived in Dubno; we both lived on the same street.”


As partygoers celebrated the bar mitzvah of Joseph, the two men sat outside and brought Dubno back to life. Suddenly Kesler said, “It’s almost 80 years: Let’s go!” and they began to sing together again, both voices strong on the Yiddish verses of “Oyfn Pripetshik” and “Tumbalalaika,” then soft and melancholy for the haunting lyrics of “Zog Nit Keyn Mol,” now the hymn of Holocaust survivors all over the world. (A video of the men singing is at www. tinyurl.com/kesler-genirberg.)


When Genirberg’s relatives Allen and Shirley Ginzburg traveled to Dubno a few years ago, they saw the tattered remains of the Great Syn-agogue, “with birds nesting in the rafters, broken windows, peeling frescoes on the walls,” Shirley says. For a time, the Germans used the building as a stable for horses, Kesler writes in his book.


“I remember a different Dubno,” Genirberg says.In those days, the majority of the population was Jewish. “Saturday was a holiday,” Genirberg recalls. “All the streets were closed.” He remembers long days of playing pretend games with friends outdoors and his early penchant for assuming different identities (a preview of the social skills and versatility with languages that later contributed to his survival). He remembers kayaking on the River Ikva. He remembers following his elder brother Leyzer into the local Zionist youth group, where 12-year-old Sasha became a passionate participant in discussions on politics.


Michael Kesler’s Dubno is similar. “The Jews were doing pretty well, a middle-class community. We provided lawyers, dentists, doctors, and we also provided the bulk of the commerce.” He remembers his friendly rivalry with Genirberg in the choir, and how, as a short child, he had to stand on a chair provided by the cantor when he soloed. “We went along OK until the late ’30s, when all of a sudden Poland turned very much pro-Hitler.”


Kesler and his sister Luba spent several years on the run, looking after each other as they had promised their parents. Young men were so charmed by Luba that they were happy to help; one Jewish Red Army lieutenant sheltered the brother and sister with his parents. Kesler nursed Luba through a near-fatal illness, and she spurred him to jump onto passing trains as they traveled through the Soviet empire. “She had the demeanor of a small dictator; when she said something, she meant it.” They nearly froze to death about 40 miles south of Stalingrad, where Kesler was arrested for stealing firewood.

A young Michael Kesler and his sister, Luba. photo/courtesy may kesler breslow


By the time World War II ended, Kesler had served in the Red Army, worked as a veterinary assistant and started a weaving business in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. When he and Luba returned to their house in Dubno after the war, they were confronted by an outraged Ukrainian brandishing a pitchfork and shouting “dirty Jews” at them. Today, Kesler and his second wife have six children and 11 grandchildren between them. He notes proudly that Luba, who died two years ago, has 44 descendants.


Dubno changed hands several times during the war. The Russians had been in charge since September 1939, but German troops entered in June 1941 and promptly began killing. In July, Ukrainian police dragged Sam Genirberg’s father away and he was never seen again. By May 1942, Genirberg, his mother, and his older sister, Brandel, were crowded into Dubno’s ghetto along with his brother Leyzer and Leyzer’s wife and baby. Genirberg’s other brother, Herschel, was serving with the Red Army, no one knew where.


In his book, Genirberg records his mother’s words ordering him to get out: “You must do this for me, darling, even if this is the last thing you can do for me in my life.” Young Sasha Genirberg spoke fluent German, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish, and his Aryan appearance offered a rare opportunity.


Sam Genirberg and his young bride, Shoshana
photo/courtesy carolyn (kejla) genirberg


With a doctored identity document, he turned himself into the non-Jew Andrey Trag, hoping to join a group of labor conscripts on their way into Germany. Brandel and a friend also slipped out of the ghetto, and by then Leyzer had joined the partisans. Their mother and Leyzer’s wife and son stayed behind. When the two brothers met in the woods outside the town, they learned of the massacre of all Dubno’s remaining Jews on October 5, 1942.


Genirberg worked his way through a series of foreign labor camps in Germany, often serving in the privileged position of interpreter. He carried on an affair with a beautiful Russian woman, but lived in constant fear of being exposed as a Jew.Escaping from a labor camp landed him in a prison camp. He dug clay and worked in a coal mine. He saw other inmates beaten to death and mauled by dogs. On the run, he changed his identity to that of Ukrainian Ivan Kravtchuk. At war’s end, he was working as an interpreter in a camp near Osnabrück, where he watched the Allied bombing raids overhead.


Today, Sam Genirberg lives in El Cerrito in the home he shared with his wife, Shoshana, who died a year ago. They married while on a “kibbutz” near a displaced persons camp outside Zeilsheim, Germany, just after the war. With the first of their three children, Kejla (named for Genirberg’s mother), they immigrated to the United States in 1948.


Genirberg frequently addresses student groups as a speaker on the Holocaust, and last year was guest speaker at the city of Berkeley’s Yom HaShoah commemoration. He has never discovered the fates of his sister and his brother Herschel. Leyzer, although in poor health, is still alive. Sitting with a reporter in his kitchen, Sam Genirberg’s eyes fill with tears as he speaks of his mother’s sacrifices so that he could live.


A few years ago, a rabbi gave a sermon on the necessity of admitting mistakes, and Genirberg was moved to speak up about his own still-painful guilt at following his mother’s last request. He says the rabbi silenced him by saying, “If your mother could know what you have done with your life …”



5 StarsUnique Story — A. Ginsburg
Nazi Germany was no place for a Jewish boy from 1942 to 1945. However 18 year old Sasha Genirberg beat the odds through quick wit, determination, and luck. The narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to life in Sasha's home town of Dubno, Poland (now Ukraine) and graphically illustrates how suddenly a thriving community was destroyed and a young man's life thrown into turmoil. All that he knew and loved was gone in an instant and replaced with a quest for survival within a hostile, alien culture in which he could trust no one, not even those who wanted to befriend him.

Sasha's journey, driven by an intense will to survive, is fraught with constant fear of discovery, danger, and the stress of believing that he might be the only Jew still alive in Europe. He was saved only by his fast thinking when confronted by the likes of Gestapo agents, slave labor employers, and Nazi doctors. In contrast to the evil which Sasha faced on a daily basis there were also moments of sympathy and love, rounding out the range of emotions the story evokes. Anyone reading through these pages, living in comfortable, safe conditions has to wonder if he or she would have the will and ability to survive in the face of such extreme circumstances, and indeed, if this kind of evil could again rear it's head to dash the reader's complacency. The book is an exciting page turner that would have been a great read if it were a novel. The fact that it is a true story makes it even more compelling.

5 Stars Action Packed & Thought Provoking— Maria Gitin
Genirberg describes his courage in the face of devastating loss and harrowing work camps with the dispassion of an excellent narrator, while giving concise and accurate accounts of key historical events. A most valuable piece of creative nonfiction that will contribute to dispelling the notion that there were only two ways to face the prospect of certain extermination: resistance or acquiesence. A fascinating and thought-provoking read for Jew and Gentile alike.

5 StarsAn Innocent Young Man Among Fools and Barbarians (and some good people, too)—Randall Parker
Among the Enemy, Hiding in Plain Sight in Nazi Germany is an epic story, placed very personally and dramatically within relevant historic contexts. The author takes you on a wide range of adventures, punctuated by the horror of Nazi atrocities at one extreme, and the innocence of a teenager finding goodness in people, and even love, at the other extreme. I came away with a better understanding of several aspects of WWII and the birth of Israel. I could see this book being used in high school and college classes.

5 StarsThis book will shock your mind and move your soul!— Danny D-
This is the true story of how young Sasha Genirberg survived Hitler's Nazi regime by passing as a gentile and " voluntarily " moving from his besieged home town in the Ukraine to the forced labor camps in the midst of Germany. You will experience the tensness and danger as he daringly runs from camp to camp when his secret is in jeopardy. Along the way, Mr Genirberg movingly reveals the abject cruelties as well as the great kindnesses he observed and received from people oppressed like himself and from those on the enemy side of the Swastika. In spite of the desperate circumstances, you will also be moved by the author's tender descriptions of more than one romantic encounter. This clearly written autobiographical adventure is an exiting and informative page turner from which I can easily invision a " Schindler's List " type of movie. Don't miss this powerful book!

5 StarsIncredible story— Nadine
This is an amazing story of survival and perseverance. What courage it must have taken for this young man to assume so many different identities, knowing that at any moment he could be found out and killed. We are fortunate that he is also a good writer and storyteller, providing lots of details that richly convey what life was like during those horrible years. We can never forget what happened. This book is an important reminder of the sacrifices and sorrows of the Holocaust.

5 StarsOutstanding— Sue Farr
I found this extraordinary story of a young man's journey to avoid death in Nazi Germany very touching and eye opening. It amazes me to see over and over again how resilliant some people are in the face of great adversity. This book was well written and quickly drew me into the daily life of Sasha Genirberg. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. It has made me want to explore further the history of the Israeli-Palistinian conflict.

5 StarsUnique and fascinating book—jmgp613
This book reveals the day to day experiences of a Jew living as a gentile in the heart of Germany during WW2. His family is lost, but he survives by using his education, intelligence and unwaivering resolve. One of the most moving experiences of my life was a visit to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam. I had seen the films of the horrors of the concentration camps, but the story of one girl's life personalized the horror in a way no film could. And while the horrific family losses endured by the author are heart breaking, it was the intimate story of his day to day life in Germany during the war that brought the immense picture of the war and the Holocaust to a personal level. He not only tells the story of slave laborors from Russia, Poland and Ukraine, but also of every day Germans dealing with an extrordinary circumstance. He doesn't sugar coat his loathing of these Germans, despite the fact that some are, at times, kind to him. In fact, it is amazing his ability to simply recite the facts of his day to day life and his own feelings without distortion.

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1-17-13, by Randy P.:
Carolyn, Just a quick note to tell you that I can't put the book down.  It is spellbinding! 

1-3-13, by Milt K.:
Carolyn, I can't put it down!  Very clearly written and more intriguing and exciting with each pag turn...What courage, bravery, cunning and sheer determination your father exhibited!  Along with the abject cruelty, the book also discloses the wrmth and tenderness of people on both sides of the Swastika...this tale that should have been shouted years ago!  I CAN imagine a great movie.  To say that you must be extremely proud of your father is probably a gross understatement.  What a wonderful person!

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Sam and Rose Genirberg, 1946. At memorial.

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