Holocaust survivors Jack Waksal and Sam Ron did not know they both lived in the same state until they were reunited during a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s South Florida dinner.
Trigger Warning: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust
Jack Waksal and Sam Ron first met during the Holocaust, almost 80 years ago. They became fast friends as they endured slave labor shoulder to shoulder in the Pionki Labor Camp in Poland, one of the Nazi Army's many labor camps. The two were separated when Waksal escaped into a nearby forest and Ron was moved to another camp that was ultimately liberated. The duo thought they would never see each other again. However, they were recently reunited in South Florida, where they met one another 79 years after they were first separated, Good News Network reports.
Jack Waksal and Sam Ron spent over a year together at a forced labor camp during the Holocaust. After the war, they had no idea if the other had survived. https://t.co/S3WxOrHH51— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) March 25, 2022
The best friends had not planned to meet each other. In fact, they did not know the other had survived until Waksal attended a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s South Florida Dinner last Sunday. To his surprise, he discovered that his old camp comrade was one of the guest speakers for the evening. Waksal felt as if he was seeing a fraternal brother when he was introduced by his former name Shmuel Rakowski. "He jumped off the seat and came running over to my seat and says, 'You’re my brother,'" Ron shared in an interview with NBC Miami. "I was very emotional, I’m normally not a very emotional guy."
Both Waksal and Ron were only teenagers when they were imprisoned. Nonetheless, both the survivors managed to immigrate to the United States after enduring incredible trauma. They both lived in the state of Ohio, unaware of each other’s existence for four whole decades before they eventually moved to South Florida. Ron said of their time at the labor camp in an interview with CBS, "We were pushing coal to the oven to make heat to make power, and Jack said he worked at the same place! Hard work, bad conditions, cold, hunger, hundreds of people died. It wasn’t uncommon to wake up in the morning and find the person next to you cold." He also described the fear of the random selection of people who would be sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. In addition to this, Ron recalled a time when he had to go without food for more than two weeks; people thus resorted to eating bark off trees.
Now that the fast friends have reunited, they plan to keep the friendship going although they live approximately 40 miles apart from each other. They hope to fill in the massive gap of years they have spent without each other, with life stories. They are, of course, forever connected to each other by a deep knowing and understanding of each other’s hardships. Ron explained, "We worked together. We suffered together. It was very much an emotional day, and I hope to keep in touch with him." In the meantime, he will continue to make appearances at schools and other spaces to teach young people about his experiences. "I try to teach them not to hate, and to have a lot of hope and believe in yourself," he stated. "This is what I did, this is how I survived because I believe in myself."