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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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Two Holocaust Survivers Reunited 70 Years Later

Leon Schagrin, author of "The Horse Adjutant" speaking with students from the University of Miami.

Leon Schagrin, author of "The Horse Adjutant" speaking with students from the University of Miami.
Photo Credit: Amazon.com

“They had all but given up the search for relatives who had survived the Nazi extermination effort, to find each other was almost overwhelming,” reports the Florida Sun Sentinel. And I have nothing funny or ironic or cynical to say about this one, I’m simply touched.

Lemel Leo Adler, left, and Leon Schagrin are cousins, the sons of two sisters. After the invasion of Poland, they were transported to the Tarnow ghetto, and then to several labor camps, and finally to Buna, “a chemical plant taht also known as Auschwitz III.” In there they met only briefly, between shifts.

In January 1945 they were separated and didn’t see each other again. “A far as they know, everyone else in their families were killed.”

They both immigrated to the US, where Adler was restaurant manager and Schagrin was in the plastics trade. They continued the search for relatives, but found no one.

Last week Adler received a copy of “The Horse Adjutant,” Schagrin’s 2001 book about being forced to care for horses owned by Nazi officers. A friend told him there were names in the book of places Adler had been to during the war.

“I don’t usually read such books, because I lived through the Holocaust,” Adler told the Sentinel’s James D. Davis. “But then I started scanning it and found family names – like my mother’s maiden name.”

He researched the records of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida and learned about Schagrin – who represents the center about the Holocaust to South Florida students.

He called Schagrin on the phone to say, “I know you!” Then he cited family members the two had known.

Schagrin’s reaction was: “You know how it is when nerves are tickling all over your body? I couldn’t believe it after 70 years.”

According to Miriam Fridman, president of the survivors’ club (Schagrin is vice president), these reunions are becoming more and more rare,. For one thing, many survivors have passed away. The club had 1,400 members in the 1990s, but only around 300 today.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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