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Kupchella interview: Sam Rafowitz, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor

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At just 15 years old, Sam Rafowitz was forced out of his home in Warsaw, Poland to the ghetto along with most of the surrounding Jewish community.

There, he was picked up each day and taken to work, cleaning homes for invading Nazi soldiers and their families in exchange for food.

But one day, Rafowitz wasn't brought back to the ghetto. Instead, he and his family were loaded onto trucks and taken to a concentration camp.

At a Smile Network-sponsored monthly event, Rafowitz tells BringMeTheNews CEO Rick Kupchella how he managed to survive as a prisoner in five different concentration camps over the next four years.

"When I came into those camps as a young boy, I made up my mind. As long as they're not going to put a bullet in me, I'm going to try to survive."

Rafowitz endured years of harsh physical labor and watched many, including family members, enter crematoriums and never return.

"Brothers, uncles and grandchildren, they all disappeared from the world," Rafowitz said. "From my family, me and my sister were the only ones, we survived."

For two weeks leading up to the day he was freed, there was no food left. Rafowitz survived by eating grass.

On April 15, 1945, British soldiers liberated the tortured inmates of Bergen-Belsen. Rafowitz weighed just 78 pounds.

"I was weak, but I was able to be happy even at that time," he said. "They came in with a loud speaker and in every language in the world, they said, 'from now on, you're free people.'"

After recovering in a hospital, Rafowitz set out to find his sister, Helen, who could have landed in any of the 42,000 concentration camps across Europe.

"I just went according to what the rumors told me and I took my chances," Rafowitz said.

After searching for about a month, Rafowitz found Helen in a displaced persons camp in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Rafowitz, who learned to sew hats in the camps, founded Northern Cap Manufacturing Company in Minneapolis after immigrating to the U.S. He's now retired and lives in Minnetonka.

Rafowitz' story is also featured in a 30-minute documentary, "Sam Rafowitz: Remaking a Life."

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