A Polish woman and an Israeli man were reunited seven decades after her family saved him as a child during the Holocaust, coming together in New York on Wednesday.
As Nazis rounded up hundreds of thousands of Jewish people to send to extermination camp, Krystyna Jakubowska’s Catholic family gave shelter to then-four-year-old Michael Hochberg, who had been thrown over a wall in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw by a friend.
Rozalia and Jozef Jakubowski, friends of his family, took the little boy in to their home, where they lived with their son and three daughters.
Hochberg lived with the family for two years and they saw to it that no one discovered that he was circumcised, a procedure that at the time would have given away his Jewish background.
Had they been found out to be harboring a Jewish person from the Nazis, the punishment was death.
The Associated Press reported that Hochberg escaped just before the 1943 uprising, an act of Jewish resistance that led to the burning of the ghetto, which killed 13,000 Jews.
He never saw his parents or grandparents again, the AP wrote.
After Jozef Jakubowski, who reportedly fought against the Nazis as a member of the Polish underground, was killed in combat, the rest of the family and Hochberg were forced into the countryside.
There, Jakubowksa’s mother died.
After the war ended, Hochberg was sent to a Jewish orphanage and eventually moved to Israel, where he now lives with his wife.
“I just hugged everybody, and I had to leave,” said Hochberg, now 77, the AP wrote.
He went on to have three sons and eight grandchildren.
Jakubowksa, 86, and Hochberg met briefly in Poland in 2006, but when they were most recently reunited by The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, the pair sat holding hands and locking eyes as their families looked on, the AP reported.
“Very few people helped the Jews,” Hochberg said. “In the Jewish tradition, you say, whoever saves one soul saves the whole world.”