Friday, August 17, 2018
Obituaries of Note

Salomon Pila, who stepped away from the protection of Schindler’s List, dies at 92

Amid the horrors of the Holocaust, Salomon "Sam" Pila found humanity.

He was among the Jews provided safety at the Polish factory owned by Oskar Schindler, whose story was memorialized in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award-winning Schindler’s List.

Mr. Pila would give up security for family.

When he learned his brother, a fellow Schindler factory worker, was to be sent to the Mauthausen–Gusen concentration camp complex, Mr. Pila asked to be sent there, too.

"Family came first," said Mr. Pila’s grandson Ben Pila, 33. "That was always who he was."

A Tampa man who once owned the 440-acre Milk A Way Farm in Brooksville, Mr. Pila died May 24. He was 92.

"He was a cattle buyer," said son Moritz Pila, 61. "But people probably remember his Holocaust story."

Late in life, it’s a tale he openly shared so the atrocities he witnessed would not be forgotten. "If we don’t start talking now, then nobody will believe," he once told the Tampa Bay Times.

But for decades after World War II, Mr. Pila would only nod when asked whether he was a Holocaust survivor.

It wasn’t until publication of the book Schindler’s Ark in 1982 that he even told his Schindler story to his wife and fellow Holocaust survivor, Herta Pila.

"He was very closed," Moritz Pila said. "And then one day he was travelling and in the Toronto Airport he saw the book in the bookstore. He just stopped, pointed at it and told my mother, ‘That was a good man.’?"

Born in 1925, Mr. Pila was living on a cattle farm in the small Polish village of Charcznitza along with his parents and four older brothers when the Nazis invaded in 1939. Three years later, the village was targeted for roundups.

Mr. Pila and his brother, Isak Pila, were sent to Poland’s Kraków-Plaszów concentration camp. They would never see the rest of their family again.

With his experience as a cattleman, Mr. Pila’s brother was asked to help Nazis retrieve horses from a captured farm.

Mr. Pila told the Times he believed this work helped land them at the metal item factory owned by Schindler.

To keep his Jewish workers safe from death camps, Schindler was known to bribe Nazi leaders. He also provided them with food and medicine.

"He was a Nazi, but he was a good one," Mr. Pila told the Times.

Still, 16 months later, Nazi leaders on a surprise inspection caught Mr. Pila’s brother sleeping during the night shift and even Schindler couldn’t stop them from sending him to Mauthausen.

"There is a stairwell in the factory that is shown in the movie," grandson Ben Pila said. "My grandfather recognized it when he watched the movie as where he asked Schindler to send him with his brother."

He had to ask twice before Schindler believed he meant it. Mr. Pila told the Times he figured, "If it’s going to happen with him, it’s going to happen with me."

They were together only a month at the camp in Austria before they were sent to different sub-camps.

The brother would witness mass executions and bury the bodies.

But both men survived, to be reunited just weeks after their 1945 liberation.

In the 1950s, they moved to Minnesota and established Pila Livestock Co. They purchased the Brooksville land in the 1960s and Mr. Pila moved to Tampa in 1975 to manage the Milk A Way farm until he sold it in 2006, his son said.

When Schindler’s List was released in 1993, Mr. Pila told the Times that the Holocaust was "100 percent worse in real life. They didn’t show all the bodies; the smell, the steam rising from them."

Still, said grandson Matthew Pila, he never let those dark memories consume him, often using a saying that was the title of a 1997 Italian film about the Holocaust.

"He had a great spirit. He always said, ‘Life is beautiful.’?"

That attitude, said grandson Ben Pila, was Pila’s greatest accomplishment.

"It meant Hitler didn’t win. My grandfather went on to live a happy life, had a family and was successful despite what he endured."

Added son Moritz Pila, "He experienced the worst of mankind, but it did not break his spirit. That’s how he should be remembered."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
WWE star, Pasco resident Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart dies at 63

WWE star, Pasco resident Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart dies at 63

WESLEY CHAPEL — Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, a former star with World Wrestling Entertainment who was known for his maniacal laugh, long goatee beard and powerhouse moves, died on Monday. He was 63.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Mr. Neidhart fel...
Published: 08/13/18
Epilogue: Former Clearwater police chief left a mark here and across the state

Epilogue: Former Clearwater police chief left a mark here and across the state

CLEARWATER — Once you met Willis Booth, you had a friend and a mentor for life. Tim Moore remembers meeting Mr. Booth briefly at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He was a "nobody" and yet after their brief encounter, Mr. Booth sat him down ...
Published: 08/08/18
Neighborhood liaison Carla Lewis, one of City Hall’s ‘all-time favorites,’ dies at 56

Neighborhood liaison Carla Lewis, one of City Hall’s ‘all-time favorites,’ dies at 56

TAMPA — On her LinkedIn page, Carla Lewis calls herself "two faced."Her "professional face," she wrote, is dynamic and motivated, and her "fun face" loves to dance.But those who knew Lewis, the longtime neighborhood liaison for the city of Tampa, say...
Updated one month ago
Navy’s first female admiral has died

Navy’s first female admiral has died

ORLANDO, Fla. — Rear Admiral Alene Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, who became a trailblazer as the Navy opened up more opportunities for women, has died. She was 98 years old.Duerk died on July 21, according to a news release last week from t...
Updated one month ago
Sergio Marchionne, auto executive who brought Chrysler back from the brink, dies at 66

Sergio Marchionne, auto executive who brought Chrysler back from the brink, dies at 66

Sergio Marchionne, the master negotiator who engineered one of the most brazen automotive deals in history when he convinced the U.S. government to sell bankrupt automaker Chrysler to Itay’s Fiat, and turned the combined Fiat Chrysler into one of the...
Updated one month ago
Epilogue: Al Schiff engineered career to put family first

Epilogue: Al Schiff engineered career to put family first

TAMPA — In a lifetime of remarkable accomplishments, executive engineer Alfred "Al" Schiff considered his family life to be the greatest accomplishment of all.A pioneer of the industrial controls industry, Mr. Schiff integrated the expertise of an en...
Updated one month ago