Victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Mass Shooting

'He went back in and finished the job in my synagogue:’ Holocaust survivor speaks of rampage

Instead of arriving at Tree of Life Synagogue by the time service started at 9:45 a.m. this weekend, Judah Samet says was four minutes late. 

“I was four minutes late. Instead of 9:45, I got there about 9:49, maybe 9:50,” Samet told The Washington Post.

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As he pulled into his parking spot, a person knocked on his car window, telling him that there was a shooting inside his place of worship and to back out carefully.

That’s when Samet said he noticed a police officer several feet in front of him, behind a barrier, firing his weapon. Samet saw the smoke from the gun’s muzzle, the Post reported.

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“I wanted to see who he was shooting,” Samet said. The gunman “had a shootout with police, then he went back and finished the job in my synagogue.”

A Jewish emergency crew and police officers at the site of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Suspected gunman Richard Bowers, 46, has been charged with 29 federal counts in the mass shooting that police say was fueled by antisemitism. Suspected gunman Richard Bowers, 46, has been charged with 29 federal counts in the mass shooting that police say was fueled by antisemitism. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Samet left the parking lot after hearing three or four rounds of shooting. He said he was in the line of fire but was not hurt.

According to the criminal complaint, the alleged gunman robert bowers, told police, “They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews.” 

Bowers is accused of killing 11 people at the temple. According to the Post, it is the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

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Samet, after seeing a request for information by police on television, called them and told them what he witnessed. 

This isn’t the first time that Samet survived such hatred.

Samet, 80, is a survivor of the Holocaust. He was only a child when he was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with his family. They were imprisoned there for 10 months until they were liberated in 1945. 

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His family were on a train to Theresienstadt concentration camp when American troops liberated it before reaching the Nazi camp, the Post reported.

Bergen-Belsen was the same concentration camp that held Anne Frank. About 50,000 people held there died, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

His father died of typhoid after the war. He and his family traveled to Israel. Then he eventually immigrated to North America, first going to Toronto, then New York. He settled in Pittsburgh because he fell in love with the woman he would marry, the Post reported. Samet was a teacher and a jeweler, according to a biography published before he appeared at a local university as part of a speaker’s series. 

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Samet has been a member of Tree of Life Congregation for 55 years, Forward, a Jewish paper, reported.

“I used to say, ‘I can’t look back,’” Samet told the Post. “But then, about seven or eight years ago, I looked around and noticed that most survivors were in their 90s and that pretty soon, there wouldn’t be anyone else in Pittsburgh to talk.”

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