TAMARAC, Fl — They hadn’t seen each other for seven decades — not since a brief meeting at Auschwitz — but at first, the cousins could muster only a dignified handshake and a hug. They had all but given up the search for relatives who had survived the Nazi extermination effort. To find each other was almost overwhelming.

“This is the biggest, most important day of my life,” Leon Schagrin, 85, said Sunday after meeting up with Lemel Leo Adler, 89, at a banquet for the Holocaust Survivors of South Florida. In an irony worth of a Bible story, both were living in Broward County — Schagrin in Sunrise, Adler in Hallandale. Only last week, when Adler read Schagrin’s book on his Holocaust experiences, did they know of each other.
Adler and Schagrin grew up in Poland, the sons of two sisters. During the Holocaust, they were taken first to the Tarnow ghetto, then to various labor camps, then to Buna, a chemical plant also known as Auschwitz III. They saw each other there only once for a few minutes, before being led off to various jobs.