Sam Schalkowsky (born Shmuel Shalkovsky) is the son of Yitzhak and Chaya Kupershmidt Shalkovsky. He was born on May 23, 1925 in Kaunas, Lithuania where his parents owned a shoe store. Shmuel was the youngest of six siblings. His oldest brother died from an ear infection the same year that Shmuel was born. David, his next oldest brother, was approximately eighteen years older than Shmuel. David was a leader in Hashomer Hatzair and moved to Palestine in the early 1930s. Shmuel's two sisters, Sara and Haya, respectively sixteen and fourteen years older than him, also immigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. Baruch, the second youngest in the family, was born in 1923 but died of diphtheria in 1935. Prior to the Soviet takeover of Kaunas in 1940, Shmuel attended the Hebrew Real gymnasium and belonged to Hashomer Hatzair Zionist youth movement. Following the Soviet takeover, the school was forced to abandon its Zionist curriculum. It officially changed its name and switched the language of instruction to Yiddish. At about the same time, Yitzhak died of natural causes, and Chaya was left to run the store and care for Shmuel, her only surviving child, in Kaunas. In June 1941, the Germans launched a surprise invasion of the Soviet Union and Lithuania, and in August, Chaya and Shmuel were forced to move into the Kovno ghetto. At first, Shmuel had to work building a new military airfield. This work was very physically demanding and one of the least desirable jobs in the ghetto. However, after his cousin, a trained chemical engineer was given the job of disinfecting German quarters and facilities in the city, Shmuel became his assistant. In February 1942 the Germans transferred approximately 300 Jews from the Kovno to the Riga ghetto including Shmuel and his mother. There, Chaya did the laundry of better off Jews in the ghetto to earn extra food, and Shmuel worked in the air force warehouse. In the summer of 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and its residents sent to the new Kaiserwalde concentration camp outside of Riga. Shmuel was put in charge of work in one the clothing warehouses, which gave him an opportunity to trade clothing for food. Though women lived in separate barracks, men were allowed to visit on Sundays. Shmuel brought his mother extra food, and he also managed to send her food via other women who worked in the warehouse. In September 1944, as the Soviet army was advancing towards Riga, the Germans liquidated the Kaiserwalde camp and sent its surviving inmates to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. Chaya perished there. About a month or two later, Shmuel was transferred to the slave labor camp in Magdeburg to work making artillery shells. In April 1945, as American and Soviet troops advanced on the camp, the Germans marched the prisoners out. Shmuel and two friends made their way to the rear of the column and managed to escape. They met up with a group of forced laborers who gave them civilian clothing and went with them in the direction of the advancing American army. However, by this time, Shmuel was quite weakened, and he collapsed on the road on the outskirts of Niederdodenleben. An American Jewish captain, passing by with the advancing army unit, discovered him, and after learning that he was a Jewish concentration camp survivor, arranged to have him transported by military ambulance to a civilian German hospital. Shmuel remained in the hospital from April 13 to April 24, 1945. After his release, Shmuel walked to a nearby American military unit where he was given work in the army's kitchen and dining room. There he met officers of the Army War Crimes Investigation team. Owing in part to the fact that he knew English from high school as well as several other European languages, the war crimes team brought in Shmuel to be an interpreter. Shmuel served with them for the next eight months, wearing an American army uniform. The Jewish officer of this team, Isidor Reece, looked after Shmuel and helped him adjust to life after the camps. In January 1946, the team completed its work, and Shmuel secured a position at the Labor Office of the UNRRA headquarters in Arolsen, Germany. Reece kept in touch with Shmuel and secured an American visa for him as his sponsor. Shmuel had planned to immigrate to Palestine to join his older siblings, but since the British were sending new would-be immigrants to Cyprus, Shmuel decided to take advantage of his American visa. He arrived in the United States in July 1946 having first changed his birthday to October 23, 1925 so that he would be under the age of 21 and therefore eligible. A few months after his arrival, he enlisted in the United States Army and received basic training in field artillery. He was sent to Korea and assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps. He was discharged after ten months and received full benefits under the GI Bill of Rights. He decided to use them to study at the Technion in Haifa Israel, and arrived in Palestine in 1947. However, the Technion closed down after a short time because of the impending war following the UN partition plan. Shmuel joined the Haganah and participated in the fighting around Haifa, Tzfat and Mishmar HaEmek. Later, since he already had some military training, he was made an officer in the newly formed field artillery of the Israeli Defense Forces. Shmuel fought in Israel's War of Independence and then returned to the United States in 1949 where he completed his engineering studies at Columbia University.