Sam Rafowitz

disappearance from Warsaw

In October 1940 the Nazis established the Warsaw Ghetto, forcing 400,000 Jews into a small area of the city. At 15, Sam was assigned to a work detail. One day he never came home.

Sam was picked up by the SS and began an ordeal that spanned five years through five different camps. The first was Madjenek. “Every day was another day of survival. Every day they made you strip naked; if you had any meat left on your bones you were still useful and sent to the right. If not, you were sent straight to the crematorium.”

One day a transport of women arrived. Desperate to find his sister Helen, Sam begged a guard to find her. Miraculously, they reunited for a short time and vowed to meet in Warsaw after the war.

At liberation, Sam, weighing 78 pounds, was hospitalized for six weeks. During this time, Helen returned to Warsaw. Finding no one, she moved to a DP camp. When Sam was released from the hospital he began to search for Helen — an ordeal that took him across a continent from Bergen Belsen to Italy where he finally found Helen.

With hope and optimism Sam started a new life in St. Paul. At his son Ivan’s Bar Mitzvah he said, “The United States presents to me and all our sons and daughter(s) an equal opportunity. Have patience, make an effort and be tolerant.”