Smith-Cotton High School students heard stories from the Holocaust shared by a man whose mother survived the Nazis’ genocidal sweep across Europe.

Sam Devinki, a Kansas City attorney, visited S-C on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and told stories of how his mother, Maria, and some relatives survived by staying in a Polish ghetto or hiding in a barn root cellar for 27 months.

He also shared how other members of his family were killed by Nazi soldiers and sympathizers. His presentation included a video that detailed the atrocities of the Holocaust, as well as the effort to create the United States.

Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Devinki is a member of the Second Generation Speakers Bureau of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, based in Overland Park, Kansas.

Devinki was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany in 1946, but as he told the students, “The story begins in Poland in 1939.” When World War II started, he had three grandparents, nine aunts and uncles and a couple dozen cousins. When the war ended in 1945, he had one grandparent, one aunt, one uncle and two cousins.

“All the rest had been murdered, either by Poles or by the Nazis or in concentration camps,” he said. Devinki finds purpose in sharing the story of his family and reminding students of what happened to millions of other Jews. “It is very valuable. … Our memories are the only graves these people are ever going to have,” he said. “It is important to teach these kids how to recognize hatred, bigotry, anti-Semitism, because how do you defend yourself against something when you don’t know what it is? That is why I do this.”


In the photo:  Sam Devinki details how members of his family were killed during World War II as part of his presentation on the Holocaust on Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the Heckart Performing Arts Center at Smith-Cotton High School.

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