Friday, September 18, 2015

A tale of two Holocaust survivors, one in Ireland, one in Queens, planning an October 28 "reunion" in New York


In March 2015, an article in the San Diego Jewish World online newspaper headlined ''A tale of two Holocaust survivors" told a brief story about retired Irish business owner Tomi Reichental in Dublin and retired American businessman Peter Kubicek in New York who were planning a ''reunion'' of sorts this fall even though the two men had never met before so it's not really a ''reunion.''  It's a long story but read on. The big reunion is now set for October 28 and the news could make the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Both men were born in Europe in the same contry and same TOWN even and both men survived the Holocaust in Nazi labor camps as teenagers and the planned reunion is now set for October 28 in Manhattan.
UPDATE: A powerful documentary movie titled ''Close to Evil'' produced and directed by Irish producer Gerry Gregg will be shown with Tomi (who is one of the talking heads in the movie) in attendance with Gregg at 3 colleges in late October in Massachusetts and in New York. Reichental is now 81 years old, a retired jeweler in Dublin, and he often gives talk at schools in Ireland about his life in the Nazi labor camps long ago. Recently, a documentary was made about his life, titled ''Close to Evil,'' and that is mostly what the ew York Times article by Douglas Dalby last year was about.

One venue Is Mount Saint Vincent College in Upper Manhattan. A close friend of mine the Historian Joe Morrison Skelly teaches there. I suggested to Joe it would be great if he invited Peter to come along. Obviously he has or else Tomi has been in touch.

Kubicek is an email friend of mine who I have known for about ten years now. He lives in Queens and we meet often online to chat about current events and Jewish history, especially Holocaust issues.
Kubicek is 85 years old now and the author of a memoir he wrote about his experiences as a teenage boy in six slave labor camps in Germany.
In March he shot me an email about a recent New York Times article about a survivor in Ireland, Tomi Reichental. The article was written by a Times stringer in Ireland and told a story many readers in North America probably had never heard of before.
At the end of the Times article, Reichental said he was in very good health -- leading a happy and productive life in his sunset years -- and told the reporter: "People tell me I’m the fittest Holocaust survivor alive today."

Reichental is 80 years old, a retired jeweler in Dublin, and he often gives talk at schools in Ireland about his life in the camps long ago. Recently, a European documentary was made about his life, titled ''Close to Evil,'' and that is mostly what the Times article was about.
Kubicek told me that Reichental’s story "strangely parallels my own, though I am more than five years older than he. I just looked up his memoir on Amazon, ''I Was A Boy From Belsen,'' and  there are really some interesting  similarities between our stories. …  I, too, was born in Slovakia, in a town called Trenčin. I, too, was persecuted as a Jew, when in March, 1939, Slovakia became a quasi-independent Fascist state, firmly allied with Nazi Germany."
"I, too, escaped the deportations of Jews in 1942, most of them to their death in Auschwitz," Kubicek added. "I, too, was finally deported in November, 1944, to Bergen-Belsen -- in the first transport that was routed to Germany, rather than to camps in Poland."

Peter had a few more things to tell me, and good email friend that I am, I was listening.
"I also wrote a memoir about my experiences, titled 'Memories of Evil — Recalling a World War II Childhood.' I find what I know of Tomi Reichental's book very compelling. While he now lives in Ireland, I live in the U.S., and have given a few speeches about my experiences,” he wrote. “But while Tomi will soon be 80, I have already reached the venerable age of 85. I would only take exception to Tomi's statement to the Times reporter in Ireland that he is the fittest Holocaust survivor alive today. Tomi, you have not met me -- though I wish we could meet."

Well, as fate has ordained it, the two gentlemen will soon in New York, Kubicek told me in an email the other day, noting: "Tomi advises me in an email that he will be in Manhattan on Oct. 28, together with his wife and the documentary director Gerry Gregg and his small camera crew and they will be filming our 'reunion.'"
I am sure the New York Times will cover this update when it happens. Peter Kubicek's wish has come true. The two fittest Holocaust survivors in the world will soon meet face to face in New York.

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