Savely Kaplinsky's Story

Story posted on August 3, 2009 at 6:06 PM

Mr. Kaplinsky was born in 1929 in Minsk, Belarus. By 1939, he had only completed four classes in school. Just two years later, his parents, brother, and himself were forced into a Minsk ghetto, where Mr. Kaplinsky stayed between 1941 and 1943. During his time in the ghetto, Mr. Kaplinsky was starved and he worked in a Nazi war sector where he secretly sold bullets to the partisans and his Russian friends. Unfortunately, he was the only member of his family to survive the horrifying Holocaust because his remaining family members were shot in the ghetto. He lived through four pogroms, and as a youngster, he was a member of a young men’s anti-Nazi group(?). In 1943, at the end of the last pogrom, Mr. Kaplinsky joined a partisans group for one year, and afterwards, he returned home at the age of 15. He tried to continue his education so he decided to obtain his degree to become an engineer. After years of attending school at night in order to become an engineer, he obtained a job as the Head Engineer of “Trestva”(?). Mr. Kaplinsky admitted that as a young man, he was naïve in believing everything he read in newspapers, which were often filled with propaganda, but that he became wiser with age and with the increase in the status of his job positions in the community. He also noted that he felt more of a Jewish identity once he became older, and he still keeps Shabbat and a kosher lifestyle. In 1992, Mr. Kaplinsky immigrated to the United States, and he cited a rapid increase in anti-Semitism as the main reason for his leaving his home country. Mr. Kaplinsky traveled to the United States via plane from Minsk, to London, and finally NYC. He traveled on this journey with his son and wife. When asked if any of his family members stayed behind in the USSR, Mr. Kaplinsky replied that his daughter and her family had remained in Belarus because her husband’s relatives didn’t want to leave to the USA. Mr. Kaplinsky described his journey to the US as being uncomfortable at first, and to remedy this he attended Touro College to learn English, through the help of the NYANA (New York Association for New Americans). Mr. Kaplinsky added that one of his memories about his immigration experience is about how often many people wanted to help him with his English. During the interview, Mr. Kaplinsky noted that when he helps his son take care of his two daughters (13 and 19 years old), he realizes that his grandchildren live a very different life compared to the frightening and life-endangering events of childhood that he went through as a child. Mr. Kaplinsky soon found his niche as an advocate for informing the public about the tragic events of his life, and those of other former ghetto and concentration camp survivors. He joined the Association of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps in 1993, and soon became one of the members of this association’s board of directors, and later it’s president in 1995. In addition, Mr. Kaplinsky is a devoted member of numerous other such advocacy groups, which will hopefully be listed by the HIAS team in the near future. Mr. Kaplinsky’s legacy has even been cited in the Belarus Magazine, which reads: “Three red roses, notwithstanding the thorns, are fisted — Savely Kaplinsky brought one flower for each killed member of the family to Minsk “Yama”, the memorial complex located on the place of one of the biggest Jewish ghettos in Europe. His mother, father, and brother died here. He was the only one to escape by miracle from the Nazi bullets, he ran away to the forest to partisans and though he was a small boy he took revenge for his relatives together with the adults till the end of the war. Savely Kaplinsky has been recently living in New-York, and the reason for return to his native city was the 65th anniversary of destruction of the Minsk ghetto.” In addition, Mr. Kaplinsky continues to keep the memory of his family members alive through his work in other projects and by writing many books. One such example of this is his being co-author of Genia Zavolnier’s memoirs "Lines Written by the Fate." This book was published right around the time of the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk ghetto. -Written by Marianna Davydova [CUNY Hunter College]