It was a powerful moment for everyone involved.
When people share experiences, they end up feeling closer. This specifically applies to shared trauma or pain known as ‘social glue’.
Walter Spier and Werner Reich didn’t really know each other.
However, when they were brought together by Beth Tefillah and the Congregation Ahavat Achim of Fair Lawn, they felt an instant connection. It was their history that brought them closer together.
It wasn’t the first time Walter and Werner were together in the same place.
In 1944, they were both held captive.
The proof? The tattoos on their forearms- A 1838 and A 1828.
During the Holocaust, tattooing was part of the registration process for prisoners.
Each one was given a camp serial number. Since Walter and Werner’s numbers were just 10 numbers apart, it only meant one thing- they were in the same line and the same concentration camp.
When Walter’s son learned about Werner’s story, the Holocaust survivor asked if a meeting between them could be arranged.
His wish was granted and the two of them were able to see each other through Sandi Bachom, an independent documentary journalist.
In a talk with Sandi, the two were able to detail the horrible things they went through in the different concentration camps they were sent to. They were teary-eyed as they recalled everything.
Walter and his family spent 22 months in Terezin.
He was with his brother, parents, and grandparents. His mom and dad were murdered after arriving in Terezin.
His brother, on the other hand, was taken. The only survivor in his family, Walter was sent to the Sosnowiec concentration camp.
There, he was sent on a death march heading to Mauthausen before ultimately being freed on May 5, 1945, by the United States forces.
Werner was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo.
He was taken and put to jail in Terezin. After that, he was taken to Auschwitz II. He underwent a couple of selections before getting transferred to Auschwitz I. Like Walter, he was sent on a seven-day death march before being liberated on the same day.
With everything they went through, it’s not surprising how the two were able to feel a connection in an instant.
Their stories are heartbreaking and terrifying. At the same time, they inspire hope and positivity. They felt like they were long-lost friends who had been reunited after several years.
After meeting Werner, Walter shared:
“We were together- just 10 people apart. We took the same steps and suffered the same. We felt more close than friends.”
Werner couldn’t agree more.
Instantly, he felt at ease with Walter around. In his heart, he knew that the other person next to him knew exactly what he went through.
In that time and place, they were the only people who knew what the Holocaust was and the terrifying stories that come with it.
Even the people on the internet are in awe of their courage.
One YouTube user said:
“These men are so brave and strong to be able to open up about this experience. They are true warriors.”
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