A friendship interrupted: Two women reunited 82 years after escaping Nazi Germany

It was once a reunion as not likely because it was once unforgettable — and it was once 82 years within the making.

When Betty Grebenschikoff and her circle of relatives escaped Nazi Germany within the spring of 1939, she left at the back of dozens of members of the family who couldn’t get out and had been sooner or later murdered in extermination camps.

She misplaced cousins, aunts and uncles, and all 4 grandparents.

“I’ve by no means counted what number of,” she says. “I might say two dozen.”

Grebenschikoff was once simply 9 years outdated and residing in Berlin when her circle of relatives fled. One of the crucial final issues she recollects earlier than leaving was once announcing good-bye to her highest buddy. She and Anne Marie Wahrenberg did the entirety in combination. They had been in the similar elegance, went to the similar synagogue and performed at each and every different’s houses.

Betty Grebenschikoff as a young girl growing up in Berlin in the 1930s. Courtesy: Jennifer Grebenschikoff

Betty Grebenschikoff as a tender lady rising up in Berlin within the 1930s. Courtesy: Jennifer Grebenschikoff.

To mention good-bye, the women’ fathers took them to the schoolyard.

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“We cried and stated we’d write letters and at all times be pals,” Grebenschikoff says. “However we misplaced contact. Completely.”

Grebenschikoff and her circle of relatives would settle in one of the most handiest puts on the earth accepting Jews with out visas, Shanghai, China.

The port town would grow to be house to 20,000 paperless Jews, nevertheless it was once a troublesome lifestyles.

Betty Grebenschikoff’s ‘resident certificate’ while living in Shanghai. Courtesy: Jennifer Grebenschikoff.

Betty Grebenschikoff’s ‘resident certificates’ whilst residing in Shanghai. Courtesy: Jennifer Grebenschikoff.

When the 2d Global Warfare broke out, town was once occupied by way of Eastern forces. After the warfare, Grebenschikoff was once stuck up in any other of historical past’s largest upheavals, the Chinese language communist revolution. Her circle of relatives was once pressured to discover a new house as soon as once more.

Grebenschikoff would marry, transfer to Australia for a 12 months, and sooner or later settle in Ventnor, N.J. She and her husband would carry 5 youngsters.

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Thru all of it, she would at all times marvel about her highest buddy. When, later in lifestyles, Grebenschikoff would get started writing and giving speeches in regards to the Holocaust and the Shanghai Jews, she would at all times attempt to slide in a tale about Wahrenberg.

Click to play video'The emotional reunion of two best friends after 82 years'

1:42The emotional reunion of 2 highest pals after 82 years

The emotional reunion of 2 highest pals after 82 years

In 1997, she was once interviewed by way of the USC Shoah Basis. The group was once based by way of Steven Spielberg and has accumulated 55,000 testimonies in regards to the Holocaust.

Talking about her lifestyles rising up in Berlin, she requested if she may just point out her buddy.

“Can I point out her right here?” she requested. “Her title was once Anne Marie Wahrenberg, and I’m at all times questioning what took place to her. Perhaps she’s someplace and will see this.”

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For years, Grebenschikoff would seek databases for any signal of Wahrenberg, however she was once by no means ready to search out anything else.

“She most likely died within the warfare,” she stated in her testimony. “However I’m no longer positive.”

Grebenschikoff’s daughter Jennifer has watched her mom talk to teams about her lifestyles over and over again, and says the tale about Wahrenberg has at all times made it in.

“Mother would at all times say, ‘When you ever pay attention of Anne Marie, please touch me, I’m nonetheless searching for her,” she says.

Click to play video'Living through Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass'

1:57Residing thru Kristallnacht: The Night time of Damaged Glass

Residing thru Kristallnacht: The Night time of Damaged Glass

It was once a thriller that may have long past unsolved if no longer for a sequence of fantastic fortunate breaks.

In November, Ita Gordon was once invited to wait a web based Zoom convention held by way of a gaggle of museums in South The usa. Gordon is an indexer with the Shoah Basis and speaks fluent Spanish. She took section within the convention from California.

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The subject was once Krystallnacht, the Night time of Damaged Glass. Nov. nine, 1939, offended mobs rioted throughout Germany concentrated on Jewish houses, companies and synagogues.

The speaker for the convention was once a last-minute alternative, a 90-year-old lady who had lived thru Krystallnacht.

Businesses and properties owned by Jews were the targets of vicious Nazi mobs during a night of vandalism that is known as Kristallnacht. (Photo by © Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive)

Companies and houses owned by way of Jews had been the objectives of vicious Nazi mobs all the way through an evening of vandalism this is referred to as Kristallnacht. (Photograph by way of © Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive).

When it was once over, Gordon logged onto the Shoah Basis’s database to look what the group had in regards to the speaker. Whilst there was once not anything particularly in regards to the lady, when Gordon plugged in information about her lifestyles, she ended up coming throughout Betty Grebenschikoff’s seek for Anne Marie Wahrenberg.

The speaker’s title was once Ana Maria Wahrenberg — Gordon had discovered two long-lost pals, either one of whom idea the opposite was once most probably useless.

“I used to be all by myself and I noticed I had one thing,” she says. “That’s once I iced over.”

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Ana Maria Wahrenberg, Berlin, 1936. Courtesy: Jewish Interactive Museum of Chile

Ana Maria Wahrenberg, Berlin, 1936. Courtesy: Jewish Interactive Museum of Chile.

Wahrenberg and her oldsters escaped Germany a number of months after the Grebenschikoffs, simply days earlier than the beginning of the 2d Global Warfare. They had been the one participants of her circle of relatives to get out safely — everybody on either side was once killed in demise camps.

After the circle of relatives settled in Chile, they realized Spanish and sooner or later, Anne Marie modified her title to Ana Maria.

When the Shoah Basis reached out to the households to inform them what have been discovered, the primary response was once disbelief. The second one was once apprehension.

The crowd may just put in combination a Zoom assembly connecting the ladies, however did they wish to do it?

“Mother by no means hesitated,” says Jennifer Grebenschikoff. “There was once by no means, ‘Must I do that or shouldn’t I?’”

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After 82 years, Betty Grebenschikoff jumped on the likelihood.

Jennifer and Betty Grebenschikoff. Screengrab from video shot by Barry Donnelly.

Jennifer and Betty Grebenschikoff. Screengrab from video shot by way of Barry Donnelly.

“I talked my entire lifestyles about her,” she says. “For goodness sakes!”

The Zoom assembly was once held in November and moderated from Germany by way of the Shoah Basis’s Karen Jungblut.

Grebenschikoff was once at house in Florida, whilst Wahrenberg was once in Chile.

“I simply clicked some buttons on my pc and either one of them seemed,” Jungblut says. “They began chatting in combination in German, and I stated ‘OK, I’m disappearing.’”

The moment Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana Maria Wahrenberg first saw each other after 82 years. Screengrab from Zoom call. Courtesy: USC Shoah Foundation.

The instant Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana Maria Wahrenberg first noticed each and every different after 82 years. Screengrab from Zoom name. Courtesy: USC Shoah Basis.

Jungblut and Gordon had spoken earlier than the assembly in regards to the risk the outdated pals would run out of items to speak about after 5 mins. As an alternative, they spoke for 50 mins.

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“Once she began speaking with me, there was once a connection in an instant,” Grebenschikoff says. “It wasn’t like, ‘Who’s this outdated girl over there?’ Not anything like that.”

The pair mentioned their escapes from Germany, their oldsters, their husbands and their youngsters.

Within the first couple of minutes, Wahrenberg held up a small ebook with of Grebenschikoff. Betty had written a notice in it 8 a long time previous. Now, Wahrenberg learn it again to her.

“When sooner or later in later years, you are taking this small ebook in hand, take into consideration how great it was once that we knew each and every different.“

They reminisced about ballet categories, lecturers they didn’t like, and the way they each ended up married inside of weeks of assembly their husbands.

Jennifer Grebenschikoff says it didn’t look like outdated pals catching up. It was once like shut pals choosing up the place they left off.

“It was once like that they had noticed each and every different the day earlier than,” she says. “It was once simply very herbal. It was once really easy.”

Click to play video'How two best friends were reunited 82 years after escaping Hitler’s Germany'

three:38How two highest pals had been reunited 82 years after escaping Hitler’s Germany

How two highest pals had been reunited 82 years after escaping Hitler’s Germany

For each girls, reuniting was once a present they didn’t see coming.

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“We went 82 years with 0 touch, not anything,” Wahrenberg says. “This can be a massive excitement, a pleasure, a wonder.”

When Jungblut broke again into the Zoom name, she introduced in Gordon, whose detective paintings had made all of it conceivable.

Being part of it, Gordon says, felt like magic.

“I used to be nearly numb,” she says. “I believed I might cry, nevertheless it was once the other. I used to be so glad, and so fortunate to witness it.”

Members of both families toast during Zoom call. Screengrab from Zoom call. Courtesy: USC Shoah Foundation

Participants of each households toast all the way through Zoom name. Screengrab from Zoom name. Courtesy: USC Shoah Basis.

That final part hour of the Zoom name was once spent on introductions. Each girls offered their little kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Glance what we’ve executed, Ana Marie,” Grebenschikoff stated, beaming with satisfaction. “Glance what we’ve executed.”

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Learn extra:
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The 2 girls have a pact to stick wholesome on this pandemic. When it’s secure to shuttle, they plan on assembly in particular person.

They now have a scheduled name each and every week, Sundays at midday. However additionally they electronic mail and WhatsApp on different days — principally every time they may really feel love it.

As a result of 82 years is numerous time to make up.

See this and different unique tales about our global on The New Truth airing Saturday nights on World TV, and on-line.

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