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Born: Aug 05, 1921
Date of Passing: Mar 02, 2016Send Flowers to the Family Offer Condolences or Memory
SAM KNACKER August 5, 1921 - March 2, 2016 As a young Jew in Second World War Romania, Sam Knacker was forced on to the front lines as a conscript in an army allied with the Nazis. He thus evaded a trip to Auschwitz but wound up as a Soviet prisoner-of-war, becoming the ironic enemy of the enemy of the people who killed his father and youngest sister. A husband, father, musician, tailor, grocery-store-owner and war survivor, Knacker died March 2 at Winnipeg's Sharon Home from complications related to cancer treatment and old age. He was 94. Sam's life was divided into three very different periods: a relatively idyllic upbringing in Transylvania; a traumatic struggle to survive both the Second World War and a grim post-war existence in eastern Europe; and then more than 50 years of peace and relative prosperity, the vast majority of it in Winnipeg. Sam was born in 1921 in Sighet, Romania, the eldest son of a tinsmith and a homemaker who died in her 30s from tuberculosis. As a teenager, he wanted to sing professionally, but wound up a tailor. In 1942, he was conscripted into the army and then sent, with other Jews, to labour on the front lines. His father and four sisters were shipped to Auschwitz, where only three siblings survived. In 1944, when the Soviets captured his unit, he was considered a Nazi enemy and shipped off to a P.O.W. camp in Crimea, where he was put to work as an orderly, roofer and fishing-boat cook until his release in 1948. Upon returning to Sighet, he married Sara. They had a daughter, Stella. Conditions in post-war Romania, however, led the family to emigrate to Israel in 1958. Decades of persecution as Jew in Europe forged him into a proud Zionist. Life in Israel was not meant to be. Sam took his family to Canada to join family in 1961. He worked as a tailor in Winnipeg before buying an Inkster Boulevard grocery, which he ran until 1979. He then went to work for Eatons as a tailor, salesman and fitter. Sara died of breast cancer in 1984. Sam then met Nurit, who would become his second wife in 1996. They wound up together for three decades. She remembers him as a charmer who loved people and was known for his smile. "Everybody liked him. He liked to share his wisdom," Nurit said. Sam never gave up his dream of becoming a musician. He sang in the Rosh Pina, North End Jewish and Yiddish choirs. He played harmonica at McNally Robinson and seniors' centres as well as in the Seniors Philharmonica Band. Sam is survived by Nurit; his sister Ghita Weltman and nieces and nephews in Canada, the U.S., Israel, Sweden and Holland. Nurit would like to thank his physician and the caring staff at the Simkin Centre, where Sam lived the final years of his life. A service will be held Friday, March 4 at Chesed Shel Emes, 1023 Main St., with burial to follow at Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, 236 Armstrong Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Winnipeg Ostomy Association or Simkin Centre.
As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Mar 04, 2016
Condolences & Memories (4 entries)
Hard to believe one week has passed since Sam's funeral. And more importantly, for me personally, five weeks since I last visited him at the Simkin Centre. I wish I'd visited Sam much more often. In my eight-year friendship with Sam, one thing I'm very glad I did was to recruit him for Phil & Friends, the house band at the Grant-&-Wilton Coffee House. Not only did that give Sam a lot of joy; it also enabled him to delight an appreciative audience with his amazing expertise on the harmonica. Actually, the sweet and mellow tones of Sam's music carried him far beyond the coffee house. As the obituary mentions, Sam played at many venues. Those included McNally Robinson, the Ellice Café, Pantages Theatre (once before a crowd of 1,500!), & even in Hawaii. Sam may have been old enough to be my father, but he seemed like a brother to me. Indeed, we frequently referred to one another as "brother." Brother Sam was my friend, confidant, mentor, and fellow musician. And yes, my fellow traveler - when he still lived in Garden City, and every Tuesday we'd enjoy our drive together down to Phil Spevack's practice....and then back "north" two hours later. I will miss Sam's great camaraderie, and my very privileged status as his (and Nurit's) "adopted brother." Norman Asher - Posted by: Norman Asher (Friend & "adopted brother") on: Mar 12, 2016
My condolences to Nurit and her family. Sam was a beautiful man and his music and harmonica playing will live on in my treasure of memories - Posted by: Gillian Welsh (friend of his wife Nurit) on: Mar 07, 2016
I was a young 23 year old when I worked with Sam at Eatons mens wear. Sam was the tailor and I sold the men's clothes. He was an amazing story teller,sang beautifully, and a true gentleman. He shared his stories of hardships but was always so grateful and positive about life. My memories of my days at Eatons with Sam flooded and over came me. He touched my life and I am saddened by his loss but joyful that I had the opportunity to have had him as a friend in my life. I had not had contact with him for many years but feel the impact of the loss ot this amazing man - Posted by: Silvana Lao (Collegue/Old friend) on: Mar 04, 2016
The first time I saw Sam was when I was walking past an area in The Sharon Home where he was playing his harmonica to a group of fellow residents. I was stopped in my tracks by his beautiful music and stayed to listen for as long as I could before I had to continue on my way. I don't think it was very long after that when Nurit arranged for me to give him a massage every week. Sam and I always had something to talk about, both during the massage and after, since I often ended up staying for a while after the massage just to talk. He had such a beautiful heart. I am grateful for my time with him and will miss him. - Posted by: Beth Kettner (massage therapist) on: Mar 04, 2016
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