They were best friends as children but they parted ways to flee the Nazis: the embrace of German women who reunited after 82 years

U.S.A.They were best friends as children but they parted...

Fleeing from the Nazis in Germany and 82 years later, the embrace of two friends

For 82 years, Betty Grebenshikoff believed that her best friend from Germany was dead. but A few weeks ago, she was there in person, Stands in a hotel room in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Grebenshchoff last saw Anna Maria Wehrenberg in the spring of 1939, when he was 9 years old. They shed tears in the courtyard of a Berlin school before their families were forced to flee the country and the Nazis, at the edge of World War II.

Both of them thought that this would be their last hug. But on November 5, after a gap of more than eight decades, The two women are now 91 years old and have embraced once again. “It felt like coming home,” Grebenshikoff said.

“It was very emotional,” Wehrenberg echoed. “It was as if we had never been apart.”

Women had the opportunity to share and walk together on several occasions
Women had the opportunity to share and walk together on several occasions

The story of their fateful friendship, and more recently the chain of accidental events that brought them together, have been recounted in the international media, including Washington Post, earlier this year.

Holocaust survivors They searched each other for years, searching databases and asking for information from anyone who knew anything. They were unlucky, mainly because both women changed their names later in life.

“She was always on my mind,” Grebenshikoff said.

It was not until an analysis of data from the USC Showa Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Steven Spielberg that produces and preserves audiovisual evidence of Holocaust survivors, He saw similarities in their testimony and eventually brought the women closer together.

Grebenshikoff, one of 20,000 European Jews who settled in Shanghai, was candid about what happened to her childhood best friend, Long Lost: In November 1939, Wehrenberg and his family fled to Santiago, Chile, where they still live today.

Grebenshikoff on a ship from Germany to Shanghai in 1939.  (Courtesy of Jennifer Grebenshikoff)
Grebenshikoff on a ship from Germany to Shanghai in 1939. (Courtesy of Jennifer Grebenshikoff)

In a meeting organized by the Showa Foundation, as well as the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Interactive Jewish Museum of Chile, The two women and their families were reunited on a Zoom call in November last year. Speaking in his native German, he promised to meet in person and a year later, he finally did.

When they hugged for the first time in 82 years, Grebenshikoff said: “We just felt like we were really together.”

The original plan was to meet in Florida, where Grebenshikoff lives, for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September, but the pandemic postponed their meeting in person. However, by November, Wehrenberg felt more comfortable traveling and booked the trip with his son and wife.

Grebenshikoff went to visit Wehrenberg in his hotel room and “It was as if we met yesterday,” he said. “It was very comfortable.”

For Wehrenberg the sentiment was mutual: “It was so special that two people still love each other after 82 years.”

Anna Maria Wehrenberg as a child in Berlin, 1936.  (Courtesy of the Jewish Interactive Museum of Chile)
Anna Maria Wehrenberg as a child in Berlin, 1936. (Courtesy of the Jewish Interactive Museum of Chile)

The women, both widows, were beaten for four days as in their childhood. They went shopping, shared meals and, above all, talked for hours, to make up for the time lost.

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“We’re not the girls we used to be when we were 9, that’s for sure, but we keep on laughing like we’re little girlsGrebenshikoff said. “It was a great pleasure for both of us.”

Besides, he said, “Together we take care of a few bottles of champagne”, Because, after all, “it was something to celebrate.”

They also exchanged sentimental gifts. Wehrenberg brought Grebenshikoff a Barbie doll in Chilean costume, along with a framed photograph of her and some jewelry, while Grebenschoff gave Wehrenberg a small heart-shaped figurine, of which he also bought a copy for himself.

“We both have the same thing now,” Grebenshikoff said, adding that he displayed the doll and the photo in his bedroom. “It’s something for me and for me to miss him.”

It felt especially natural to spend time together, the women said, because since last November, they have been regularly texting and corresponding over the phone.

They also exchanged sentimental gifts
They also exchanged sentimental gifts

Each For the past year on Sundays, he had a permanent phone appointment, during which they each sit in their respective patios and drink their morning coffee.

Even then, The phone call didn’t compare to their in-person meetingThey said.

He used to eat in the soup kitchen to survive. Now, as a volunteer, I look at it from the other side.

For Grebenshikoff, Their favorite part of time together was simply “being close to each other and holding hands” as they walked., said. “it felt good”.

The main attraction for Wehrenberg was to reminisce about the old times and introduce themselves to their families over lunch.

They waited 82 years to get a hug
They waited 82 years to get a hug

“His daughter and my son are now friends too,” Wehrenberg said. “I am very happy.”

meeting also Showa was deeply moving for the Foundation’s employees, as well as to other organizations that were instrumental in uniting the survivors.

“The reuniting of these two extraordinary women after they are lost is a testimony of hope”Corey Street, senior director of programs and operations and deputy executive director of the USC Showa Foundation, said.

Watching his story unfold, he continued, “It’s been a treasure,” especially.In a world where hope is hard to come by”.

Holocaust survivors agree. His journey shows that “good things can lead to bad experiences”.“It was a positive side in every way,” said Grebenshikoff, who plans to move to Wehrenberg in Santiago in the near future. It was a dream come true.

“I’m very grateful that something like this could happen,” Wehrenberg said.

Two women relying on sticks to walk, They have faced war, conflict and loss. Deep down, though, they’re still the same 9-year-old girls., who truly worship each other.

“It should have been so,” Grebenshikoff said.

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