Three friends, three numbers, three survivors. Fritz Steiner, Robert Bichler, and Yehuda Reich were all born in Slovakia and survived one of the last selections conducted at the children’s shed in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In September 1944, a transport of 2,500 Jews arrived at Auschwitz, including Fritz, Robert, and Yehuda. After numerous selections, only 50 children remained, and they were sent to Birkenau. When Robert, who was the oldest, saw that they were tattooing the boys, he grabbed Fritz and Yehuda by the hand and pulled them behind him. He knew that whoever didn’t have a number on his arm was destined for the gas chambers. That’s how three friends ended up with three consecutive numbers tattooed on their arms. Before the war ended, the teens were separated, but Robert and Yehuda later reconnected in Israel. Fritz, however, assumed his friends were dead. It wasn’t until he came across a photo of Robert in a German newspaper 60 years later that he realized his friends had survived. Fritz, Robert, and Yehuda reunited in Israel one year later. They tearfully embraced and said to one another, “Who would believe we would survive the horror, stay alive, and meet here in Israel?”

Contributor: Jill Goltzer