Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Salomon "Sal" Wainberg

Holocaust survivor Sal Wainberg tried to reach children

TAMPA — Salomon Wainberg was born at the worst possible time, in the shadow of an invasion. A Polish Jew, he spent most of his childhood in hiding, afraid to whisper.

A sister was killed.

Of about 15,000 in his hometown, only 53 survived, including Mr. Wainberg and two siblings.

Mr. Wainberg emigrated to the United States. He married and started a family, eventually becoming a senior partner in a Miami accounting firm. For years, he said virtually nothing about his childhood.

That changed in retirement in Tampa. Mr. Wainberg spoke to dozens of schools at the behest of the Florida Holocaust Museum. Children seemed riveted by the gruff-voiced man who talked about fear and deprivation.

Mr. Wainberg, who was so grateful for his life he tried not to waste a second of it, died Feb. 22, of colon cancer. He was 75.

His earliest memory involved an imminent death and a warning. In 1939, at age 3, the year Germany invaded Poland, Mr. Wainberg listened as a dying grandfather spoke of rising anti-Semitism. "The words were, 'Be careful,' " said Dr. Robyn Jacobson, a Tampa pediatrician and Mr. Wainberg's daughter. "And kind of, 'Don't show yourself.' "

His family hid in a cellar for two and a half years, taken in by a Polish family that hoped to profit financially. They were discovered and a sister died, but the rest of the family escaped.

Mr. Wainberg lived in Costa Rica for a decade, then Miami. He put himself through the University of Miami, where he met Sandra Goldberg. They married in 1965.

All the while, he kept his past locked away — even from his wife — until an overseas flight in the early 1970s, when he told her everything.

That same trip, Mr. Wainberg found the family that had taken him in as a child. In an emotional reunion, he asked what they might need.A new roof, they replied.

Mr. Wainberg underwrote that request and many more. In 1999, he moved to the Tampa area, where he became active in Congregation Rodeph Sholom. He became a docent at the Florida Holocaust Museum.

He also volunteered for SCORE, a counseling service to encourage small business owners. He had few leisure activities, other than tennis, and little time for chit-chat, even with family members.

Those brusque qualities sometimes rubbed people the wrong way.

"He said, 'You don't need to please anybody, you just need to do the right thing,' " said Jacobson, 41, who described her father as "easy to love but hard to like."

Since being diagnosed with cancer a year ago, Mr. Wainberg spoke more to family members about his childhood, and what he had learned from it.

"When you were not allowed to talk for two and a half years of your life, you grow up learning how to appreciate what you have," his daughter said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Salomon "Sal" Wainberg

Born: April 15, 1936

Died: Feb. 22, 2012

Survivors: wife Sandra "Sandy" Wainberg; son Andrew Wainberg; daughter Dr. Robyn Jacobson; brothers Alan "Abraham" and Bernard Wainberg; sister Sara Benson; three grandchildren.

Holocaust survivor Sal Wainberg tried to reach children 03/02/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  2. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. Boy, 9, hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — A 9-year-old boy was injured Monday morning in a shooting in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S, police said.

    A juvenile was injured in a shooting Monday morning in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S in St. Petersburg. (Zachary Sampson, Tampa Bay Times)
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]