CEDARHURST, Long Island — At age 91, Holocaust survivor Bernie Igielski couldn’t believe the moment was almost here.
“How grateful can a person be. He saved my life four times,” Igielski told PIX11 through his sobs.
For almost seven decades Bernie wanted to thank the Jewish Doctor, Dr. Berthold Epstein., who saved his life four times at Auschwitz, but Epstein recently discovered that Dr. Epstein had died in Prague in 1962.
At the Gural Jewish Community Center, Dr. Epstein’s nephew, Joseph Kohn, also a Doctor, fulfilled a lifelong dream of Bernie’s.
“No words can express how I feel,” Igielski told PIX11. “To understand it is very hard if you didn’t walk in my shoes.”
“Dr. Epstein is the only one of my relatives who survived,” Dr. Cohn told PIX11. “It is gratifying to see how wonderful he was,” the nephew added.
It wasn’t until a 2004 documentary about the Holocaust called Paper Clips that Holocause historians were able to help Bernie find the doctor who saved his life at Auschwitz.
Due to a shortage of German doctors, the Nazis forced Jewish physicians who were prisoners at Auschwitz to assist Dr. Joseph Mengele, The infamous angel of death.
Four times Dr. Epstein quarantined Bernie instead of sending him to the gas chamber.
“My father didn’t talk about his story for a long time,” Helene Igielski, his daughter, told PIX11. “It’s nice how it all was put together,” she added.
Katharine Gorsuch, co founder of the Foundation for Holocaust Education Project was one of many people who helped in the search for Dr. Epstein’s relatives to meet Bernie.
“It was in his retirement that he wished he could say thank you,” Gorsuch told PIX11. “And this was such a gift.”