It's a story that brings together an unlikely group: a 12-year-old escaping Nazi-occupied Germany in 1938, and eighth graders in suburban Naperville, Illinois, more than seven decades later.

In the series premiere of "Lost and Found," OWN visits a classroom of 13- and 14-year-old students at Madison Junior High School in Naperville, who took a school project about World War II one step further after being touched by the story of a Holocaust survivor.

When their history teacher asks them to read Is It Night or Day? -- a novel based on the true story of 12-year-old Jewish refugee Edith Westerfeld -- the students meet Edith's real daughter and author of the book, Fern Schumer Chapman. "Because we knew it was a true story, it really made it seem emotional and really intense," says 14-year-old Taylor Smairat.

In March 1938, Edith escaped Germany after an American organization called One Thousand Children sponsored a ticket for her aboard the Deutschland, a ship bound for the United States. Her parents would later die in the Holocaust.

On the boat, Edith met another young refugee named Gerda Katz. "We immediately became friends," she says. It would become a bond that sustained a now-orphaned Edith.

"The kids on the ship became extremely dependent on each other," says Fern. "They had left everything behind, and as a result, they bonded very quickly because they could support each other through this passage and this profoundly defining immigrant experience."

The two girls lost touch after they arrived in America -- and that's the part of the story that made the determined junior-high-school students take action. Their goal: to reunite the long-lost friends after more than 70 years.

Watch this 5-minute sneak peek of the premiere episode of "Lost and Found," then tune in to the series premiere on OWN Thursday, Jan. 3. at 10 p.m. ET to find out the rest of the story.