Decades after the Holocaust, cousins reunite
Saul Dreier and Lucy Weinberg lost their families in the Holocaust, and for more than half a century they’d lost each other too.
The cousins emigrated to separate countries, where they learned English, fell in love, married, had children and led happy lives.
Each thought the other had died at the Nazis’ hands. But on Thursday, they hugged for the first time since the 1940s.
“Is this Lucy? Is this Lucy?” Dreier asked as Weinberg walked toward him at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
She smiled, and he swept her into a long embrace that brought him to tears.
“It’s been 65 years,” Dreier said. “There are no words.”
“We saw each other when we were children,” Weinberg said. “Now we see each other when we are old.”
Dreier of Coconut Creek, Fla., is 85. Weinberg of Montreal, is 82.
The two grew up together in Krakow, Poland, but they weren’t close.
The last time Dreier saw Weinberg was during World War II. Their families had been forced into a ghetto, then deported to concentration camps.
Dreier remembers watching his mother board a train that took her “to a crematorium.” Weinberg’s two brothers and sister perished, one by one.
Eventually, Dreier was sent to a concentration camp in Plaszow, Poland. Weinberg and her mother were at the same camp, where they made pots and pans at Oskar Schindler’s factory. Dreier repaired airplane radiators at a different camp factory.
The cousins lost touch in 1944, when Dreier was sent to a concentration camp in Austria.
After the war he became a refugee in Italy. In 1949 he came to America and settled in Coney Island, later moving to Florida.
Sometime in the 1960s, he said, a mutual friend told him his cousin had survived, but he didn’t know where she was. Dreier contacted Holocaust assistance groups, Israel’s leading Holocaust museum, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Their searches came up empty.
Dreier didn’t know what else to do. But he couldn’t forget his cousin, and as he grew older he became determined to find her.
Finally, in January, he saw an Internet ad about the American Red Cross’ efforts to reunite war victims. He applied.
The agency’s Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center scoured records from more than 180 Red Cross societies for clues. The center uses Nazis’ “meticulous” records of names and birthdates, which are now stored in depositories in Poland and the United States, said Chrystian Tejedor, a Red Cross spokesman. The center also uses museum and other archive records.
But Weinberg had married and changed her name, making the search more difficult. She had moved from Germany to Israel, then to Canada.
Last month the Red Cross made the connection — and a stunned Weinberg scrambled to renew her passport.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I couldn’t talk; my throat got stuck. I never thought he was alive, so I never looked for him.”
At times over the years, the cousins were closer than Dreier could have imagined: Weinberg has visited her son’s condo in Hollywood, Fla., which is 17 miles from Coconut Creek.
After their joyful reunion at the airport Thursday, the cousins were asked what they’d do next. Dreier had a ready answer:
“Talk, talk, talk,” he said.