It was 1944 when Lemel Leo Adler last saw his cousin Leon Schagrin. They had been teenagers then, meeting by chance at a Nazi death camp in Auschwitz. They had a few minutes together before they were carted off to separate parts of the facility, never to see each other again.
Or so they thought.
Over the weekend, Schagrin and Adler, now 85 and 89 respectively, met -- after almost 70 years -- at a banquet for the Holocaust Survivors of South Florida in Tamarac, Fla., reports the Orlando Sentinel.
"This is the biggest, most important day of my life," Schagrin said.
According to the Miami Herald, Adler has been searching for his cousin Schagrin -- the son of his mother's sister -- for several decades. If found alive, Schagrin would be Adler's only living close relative. Everyone else had died in the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, unable to remember his cousin's last name, Adler kept coming up short.
In late February, a friend gave Adler a copy of another holocaust survivor's memoir, entitled "The Horse Adjutant." She thought he would be interested because not only was the author -- one Leon Schagrin -- a fellow South Floridian, but he also hailed from an area in Poland close to Adler's hometown.
Initially reluctant to read it -- "Why do I need to read that? I lived it," Adler had thought -- he eventually flipped through the book and to his amazement, found family names that he recognized.
Stunned, Adler checked Schagrin's facts and soon realized who he really was -- his long-lost cousin who, it turned out, had been living close by in South Florida for years.
Adler called the author and opened with a simple announcement: "I know you!"
"You know how it is when nerves are tickling all over your body? I couldn't believe it after 70 years," Schagrin told the Orlando Sentinel.
After the war, both men moved from their native Poland to the United States, where they began successful careers.
During the banquet, the pair stood together in a corner as they swapped seven decades worth of family stories and personal history, reports the Daily Mail.
"There's a lot to talk about," Schagrin said.
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