A pair of friends who were separated during the Holocaust—who each traveled across the globe from their Berlin homes in 1939—have been happily reunited and have been able to reconnect.
Betty Grebenschikoff and Ana María Wahrenberg now have a weekly phone call scheduled every Sunday. That’s amazing, given what they assumed before they were reunited.
“For 82 years, I thought my best friend from Germany was dead,” Grebenschikoff said in a Washington Post story covering their journey. “I’d been looking for her for all those years, and I never found her.”
The two friends, now both 91, last saw each other when they were 9. As the Times of Israel reported, “One family fled to Chile, while the other made its way to the United States via Shanghai.”
That story noted that “the unexpected reunion was facilitated by Holocaust testimony indexer Ita Gordon, whose sharp memory linked the women.”
The Washington Post story added details about their childhood friendship. “The women first met when they were six,” the article relayed. “They attended school and synagogue together, took ballet lessons and played dress-up. More or less, their friendship was like any other wholesome bond between young kids.”
The article also pointed out that because they were Jewish, certain activities were placed off limits to them by the Nazis in power. They couldn’t able to play in public parks, ride bikes, or do other public things, but were able to build their friendship playing at each other’s houses.
Grebenschikoff, whose family first settled in China, recalled her childhood friend Ana María in an interview she did with the USC Shoah Foundation.
The USC Shoah Foundation’s archive, launched by noted director Steven Spielberg, has more than 55,000 video testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other incidents of genocide.
The Times of Israel article noted that “after hearing Wahrenberg speak at a virtual Kristallnacht event, Gordon made the connection between Grebenschikoff’s testimony — given to the foundation 24 years ago — and Wahrenberg.”
That led to communication between the USC Shoah Foundation and the Museo Interactivo Judio de Chile, where Wahrenberg had been active. They then looped in the Florida Holocaust Museum, where Grebenschikoff has been a regular speaker.
The women were finally able to connect via Zoom last November, where both women and their families were able to toast with champagne.
“This has been a great gift, which, at this point in my life, I am boundlessly grateful for,” Wahrenberg said of their reunion. “We talk every Sunday for about an hour … we will never catch up! Our conversations are great, we still have common interests and of course many, many memories that we still share. As soon as we get out of this horrible pandemic, we will try to get together in some corner of the world.”