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Holocaust Remembrance Day: Survivor traded soap for bread to stay alive

Survicors share their experiences on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Survivors share their experiences on Holocaust Remembrance Day 03:02

MIAMI - Manny Gurowski is 91 years old now, but he recalls his days as a clever young boy who traded soap for bread just to stay alive.

"It really happened," Gurowski said on International Holocaust Remembrance Day Friday. 

"There was mass murder all around. I saw thousands of people dying next to me. And I'm one of the lucky ones that made it."

Gurowski made it despite years in a labor camp.

Born in Germany in 1931, he was just a child when life as he knew it changed forever, so he doesn't even remember everything he endured.

"I've been watching a lot of Holocaust movies and things are surfacing that I completely forgot about it. 

On purpose, apparently. Completely blocked out," he said.

But Gurowski wants to make sure those who didn't experience it know what happened for generations to come.

That's why he shares his story at events like this one held for residents of John Knox Village in Pompano Beach.

Some of the residents were alive during World War II but didn't know the true scale of the atrocities until after the war was over.

"I lived through a lot of that, not that I was overseas but we read the papers and saw the old newsreels. We had an inkling but we didn't know until the end of the war the dramatic and bloodthirsty things that happened," Leo Bentz said. 

"We cannot forget those things. They can happen again. They're happening in other parts of the world even today."

Survivor Saul Blau agrees, especially in the wake of recent antisemitic incidents across the country.

Blau, who was first imprisoned in Auschwitz when he was 13 years old, spoke at a virtual event for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

"If you see it, who would believe that this could happen?  A Pittsburgh synagogue, or a mosque or a church. Who would believe this could happen? Unfortunately, if it's not checked, if people don't come to their senses, then it's going to engulf everybody," Blau said.

"Many people say, especially around this country, these things didn't happen. I can testify that it did happen. I can't testify for Auschwitz or Buchenwald, but many other places were just as bad. People should not let their guard down that anything like that could happen anywhere," Gurowski said.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is held each year on January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

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