Cecilia DowdJun 21, 2018, 10:16 pmJun 22, 2018, 2:05 pm

Holocaust survivor meets relative of man who saved his life

Bernie Igielski was next in line at a gas chamber in Auschwitz when a doctor got him off the deadly queue


CEDARHURST — Holocaust survivor Bernie Igielski wouldn't be alive if it weren't for the relative of a man named Dr. Joseph Kohn. That relative, Dr. Berthold Epstein, died in the 1960s.

“I would've kissed the ground, I would've kissed his feet, if I had met him alive,” Igielski said,

Igielski, originally from Poland, said he couldn't talk about his experience for decades. By the time he could face it, his savior, Jewish physician Dr. Epstein, was no longer alive.

“I thought, 'God gives life, yet I feel like this doctor saved my life.' Gave me life four times. Three times at the hospital, where he pushed me out the back door in order not to be taken to the gas chamber,” Bernie Igielski said. And then at Auschwitz.

“I was being selected again to go to the gas chamber, and, maybe seconds or minutes or whatever time I was next in line to the gas chamber, this doctor which I later learned his name, saw me, pointed his finger at me, and I stepped forward and was given a paper that I was able-bodied to work and put on a transport and went to Germany.

Dr. Joseph Kohn didn't know until recently that Dr. Epstein had saved lives during the Holocaust.

“Unfortunately, so many of my relatives, Dr. Epstein is the only one that survived,” he said.

This was the first time Kohn met Igielski.

The meeting happened at the Jewish Community Center in Cedarhurst.

Igielski says after the war, he decided to live and make friends.

“I remember walking down the street and a German embraced me, and it made me feel so wanted and so human again that I decided to stay,” he said.

Igielski lived in Germany for more than three years.

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