04. February 2023

Sally Perel. 1925 - 2023.

Obituary of the man who survived the Shoah as "Hitler Youth Salomon”.

"You shall live!" were his desperate mother’s last words, who had to part with him in order for him to have a chance at a future. And he did live, for many, many more years: on Thursday, Shoah survivor Sally Perel, who became known as "Hitler Youth Solomon," died at the age of 97 surrounded by his family in Israel.

Born the son of devout Jews in Lower Saxony, he had to flee with his family from Nazi persecution to Poland and later, together with one of his brothers, further east. When he was finally captured by the Nazis, he posed as a Volksdeutscher in dire need. Successfully, the Jewish refugee Salomon "Shlomo" Perel became the interpreter Josef "Jupp" Perjell, who worked for the Wehrmacht.

Sally Perel did not make his fate public until 40 years later with his book "Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon" ("I was Hitler's Boy Salomon"), which was filmed by Agnieszka Holland in 1990 under the English title "Europa Europa" and won a Golden Globe. In it, he told of the inner turmoil caused by the secret of his Jewish identity and the fear of his exposure in the circle of perpetrators – and also of the unvarnished fact that as a teen he was unable to escape the constant indoctrination at the Hitler Youth, where he had ended up in the meantime. 

Even into his old age, he continued to go on lectures and reading tours as a contemporary witness in order to tell his unusual life story – mostly in Germany, but he also visited Austria, for example in 2015 for ten days as a guest of honor at the LET'S CEE Film Festival in Vienna. Although he was already 90 years old at the time, he answered questions from hundreds of children and young people over several days as a contemporary witness as part of the school cinema program. And he gave readings, e.g. at the main library, took part in audience discussions after screenings of "Europa Europa" at the Urania cinema, and gave several interviews, including for ORF's Culture Monday.

The horrors of the Holocaust and his always very reflective examination of his own fate occupied Sally Perel throughout his life, but did not break him. We experienced him at that time above all as a very positive, life-affirming person.

For this and for his commitment as a tireless ambassador for tolerance and against forgetting, he will always be remembered.

Photo: Elisabeth Mandl for LET'S CEE Film Festival

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