Sam Harris ’58

Jacqueline Hartling Stolze

For Sam Harris ’58, watching the Russians attack Ukraine took him back to September 1939 when Nazi planes ripped apart his Polish village, changing his life forever. He was just 4 years old.

“It’s happening all over again,” Harris says. He survived the Nazi camps because his sisters hid him and stole food for him. Their love kept him alive.

As a Grinnellian, Harris was well-equipped for a lifetime of contributing to the greater good. Vocal Holocaust deniers inspired him to write a children’s book, Sammy: Child Survivor of the Holocaust, and he now speaks to groups of all ages about what he endured

He also worked tirelessly to build a world-class Holocaust museum in Skokie, Illinois. Today, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center draws tens of thousands of visitors every year — many of them schoolchildren — with the mission of preventing future genocides.

In March, Harris received the museum’s Survivor Legacy Award. More than 1,000 attended the awards banquet, including former President George W. Bush and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.

“It’s a magnificent honor,” Harris says. COVID-19 concerns prevented him from attending but granddaughter Jessica Kreamer accepted the award for him.

“She wants to carry the torch,” Harris says. “This is what makes me happy.”

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