Samuel Toper was born on August 13, 1912 in Irkutz Siberia where his family had lived for three generations. His father, Pinchas (Paul) Toper ran an import-export business. During World War I, Toper's father-in-law became trapped in China, where he had gone on business before the start of the war. He remained there, separated from the family, for four years. After the war, the rest of his family joined him. They settled in Harbin and then moved to Tientzin. Samuel, however, later went to Shanghai where he sang opera and studied medicine. Samuel did not complete his degree, but instead immigrated to the United States in 1937, and studied economics at New York University. He was drafted into the American army in 1940 and served in India, Burma and China. His parents remained under the Japanese occupation. Together with their cousin, Anatole Ponevejsky , they assisted Jewish refugees, including the students of the Mir Yeshiva, who fled to Japan and were later deported to Shanghai. After the war and his discharge from the army, Samuel returned to China to bring his parents out. The family reestablished their business in America, importing and exporting furs and bristles for brooms. On June 15, 1947, Samuel married Vera Shapiro, a survivor of the Vilna ghetto and Kaiserwald and Stutthof concentration camps.