Sender "Sandy" Shapiro, a Holocaust survivor who owned and operated small grocery stores in Baltimore for many years, died Sunday at Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown of complications from pneumonia. He was 84.
The Pikesville resident moved to Baltimore from New Jersey in 1962 and operated a grocery store in West Baltimore, relocating after the 1968 riots to the city's Pigtown neighborhood.
Born in 1923 in Sosnowitz, Poland, Mr. Shapiro went to work in his early teens, helping support his family in a cap-making workshop run by his father. The Polish town, located on the border with Germany, fell into Nazi hands soon after the outbreak of World War II. His parents, two sisters and a brother perished in the Holocaust - only Mr. Shapiro and a younger sister survived.
Throughout most of the war years, Mr. Shapiro worked in Nazi labor camps and was later a prisoner in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, said his son Robert M. Shapiro of Baltimore.
Among other tasks, Mr. Shapiro delivered bread from a central bakery to inmates at Auschwitz and other camps, his son said. At one point, he was assigned with other prisoners to the dismantling of unexploded bombs dropped by American planes.
Robert Shapiro said his father was "not particularly talkative" about the war but would sometimes share painful memories of his days at Auschwitz.
"He talked about watching the public execution of a Dutch kid by the Germans," said Mr. Shapiro, a professor of Jewish history at Brooklyn College in New York. "He was a teenage kid, crying and saying 'Let me live. Let me live' in front of thousands of prisoners who were forced to watch. It was meant to intimidate."
Mr. Shapiro's freedom came in 1945 as the Nazis retreated from Allied forces, his son said. He was on a forced march, one in which many ill-clad and malnourished prisoners died, when the Germans stopped them to rest for the night in a barn, Robert Shapiro said.
Mr. Shapiro burrowed deep into the hay and didn't emerge when the Germans resumed the march the next morning. After hiding for three days, he got work with a German farmer and gradually made his way back to Sosnowitz. But he found that most of the town's Jewish community of 26,000 had been wiped out - including his family. "One younger sister survived, and they were eventually reunited in the U.S.," Robert Shapiro said. "She died in her 40s."
Mr. Shapiro left Poland in the spring of 1945 for Munich, in the American-controlled zone, his son said. He survived by trading goods in the gray and black markets of occupied Germany, his son said.
While there, Mr. Shapiro learned that a cousin, Phyllis Shapiro, who had been imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, also had survived. They married in 1949 and relocated to the United States in 1951, Robert Shapiro said.
He said his father was seriously injured in an automobile accident in 1983 and subsequently retired from the grocery business, For the past two years, he had been living at Milford Manor, a nursing home in Pikesville.
"He was a very nice, beautiful person," said Morris Rosen of Owings Mills, a friend of Mr. Shapiro and his wife and a Holocaust survivor who once lived in the same region of Europe as the Shapiros.
Services were held yesterday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Shapiro is survived by three other sons, John Shapiro of Long Island, N.Y., Willy Shapiro of Baltimore and Arthur Shapiro of Camden, N.J.; and a granddaughter.