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Coincidence reunites friends from pre-war Poland after 52 years


They were two old friends chatting on the sidewalk on a misty morning.

It was an ordinary, everyday kind of conversation about relatives and acquaintances from long ago.

But this morning's conversation between Morris Rosen and Harry Nordon was extraordinary because, until today, the two men hadn't seen each other since they were Hebrew school friends 52 years ago in pre-World War II Poland.

Rosen, of Baltimore, and Nordon, of Queens, N.Y., were reunited by the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center, at the Central Maryland Red Cross Chapter office in northwest Baltimore.

The two men were brought together in front of the Red Cross office at 10:40 a.m. today.

They embraced for a emotional but dry-eyed minute.

Then, with reporters and cameras circling, the two smallish men in their late 60s exchanged small talk for a while.

"Remember my mother?" Nordon asked.

"Sure, I do," Rosen said.

"And your father and your sister."

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the two boyhood friends lost touch.

Nordon was put to work in Nazi labor camps during the war. He said he believes that his father, two brothers and three sisters were killed in concentration camps.

Rosen survived five of the camps, although both his parents died in the Holocaust.

The tracing center, opened a year ago, processes requests from Americans who are searching for information about loved ones lost during the Second World War, when 6 million European Jews were killed by Nazi Germany.

The requests are sent to the Red Cross' International Tracing Service in Arolson, Germany, which has more than 46 million documents pertaining to more than 14 million people affected by the Holocaust and the war's aftermath.

Nordon recently applied to the Baltimore tracing center for information about family members from whom he hadn't heard since the war.

Rosen happened to be doing volunteer processing work at the center one day when another volunteer asked his help on the pronunciation of a Polish town.

It turned out to be Rosen's little home town of Dombrowa.

"First I was stunned that someone wanted information on Dombrowa, but I was more stunned when I looked at the application and recognized Harry's name," Rosen said.

"We went to Hebrew school together as boys. I knew his sister, too. Tall, on the skinny side, beautiful girl."

The reunion of the two men was arranged in short order.

Diane Paul, the director of the tracing center, said the agency has confirmed 17 deaths and reunited 12 Holocaust survivor families in the United States with relatives who had made inquiries to the center.

"I don't want to give the impression that these reunions are common; they're really rare," Paul said.

"The trail is pretty cold after more than 40 years. Twelve may not sound like a lot, but for the 12 families involved, it constitutes a miracle."

Later, the two men sat on a couch and talked to reporters. Rosen was dapper in a blue-striped suit, a blue-striped shirt and a purplish paisely tie.

Nordon, who spoke with a noticeable Queens accent, dressed more casually, in blue slacks, a white shirt open at the throat and a gray jacket.

"Oh, it feels great to see him after all these years, and especially to see someone that you never thought you'd see again," Rosen said. "But it hurts to think of all the others who were left behind."

Asked how he felt, Nordon said, "Makes me think there must be a God in heaven."

And will the two men stay in touch?

Nordon nodded. Rosen answered, "Stay in touch? Sure! And how!"

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