Brave man released niece from prison during the Holocuast. After 65 years apart, they meet again

"When she came through the door, I still saw her as a 13-year-old girl. She looks exactly like I remember her."
July 17, 2018 4:34 pm Last Updated: July 19, 2018 10:21 pm

Though they went over 60 years without seeing each other, there is a decent amount of history between Frank Shatz and his niece, Erika Fabian.

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For starters, they were both survivors of the Holocaust; they found themselves in Nazi-occupied countries during the Second World War.

Thankfully, Fabian and her family were able to forge papers saying that they were Christian, and Shatz went into hiding until the war was over.

But surviving this was only the beginning of the two’s connection.

Shatz also happens to be the cousin of Fabian’s father, who died in the Holocaust. But it wasn’t until 1953 when Shatz actually met the girl.

Around this time, 13-year-old Fabian, her sister, and their mother Piroska were imprisoned inside of a Hungarian prison for attempting to escape the communist country.

Shatz, who was an adult at the time living in the then-state of Czechoslovakia, received a postcard from Piroska one day.

“We need your help. Would you help us?” read the card—there wasn’t much else to it.

Upon seeing that the address the card came from was that of a prison, Shatz knew that this was a cry for help.

He immediately took a train to the prison, where he found out more about Piroska’s situation. Shatz then took it upon himself to help the girls out.

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Using his business connections, Shatz was able to secure the release of Fabian and her sister; Piroska had to stay, but at least her daughters were able to escape.

From that point on, Fabian would never forget what Shatz did for her.

“This whole experience became a very significant turning point in my life,” Fabian told Washington Post.

Fabian would live near Shatz for the next few months, and she was able to enjoy life out of prison, thanks to her uncle.

Eventually, Piroska would be released as well, and the whole family, including Shatz, would immigrate over to the United States afterward.

One would assume that Fabian would be able to stay close with her heroic uncle. But unfortunately, Shatz and Fabian would lose touch with each other sometime in the late 1950s.

For the next few decades, each of them would constantly think about one another, with Shatz wondering if his niece was even alive.

But both went on with their lives—Fabian became a speaker at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and Shatz would lecture on the Holocaust at the College of William & Mary.

In fact, it was the latter’s job that brought the two back together; in 2018, Fabian came across the name “Frank Shatz” online, as it was attached to the aforementioned college.

She emailed the person, wondering if it was her lost-lost uncle.

“If you are the Frank Shatz who had a niece—me—and helped me in Prague when I was 13, then please answer me,” she said in the email according to the Daily Press.

This guess happened to be a correct one—this Frank was indeed her uncle.

Fabian wasted little time booking a flight from California to Williamsburg, Virginia, where Shatz was.

And in June 2018, 92-year-old Shatz and 78-year-old Fabian were finally able to meet again, after 65 years apart.

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And according to the uncle, nothing had changed between them in the last 60 years.

“When she came through the door, I still saw her as a 13-year-old girl,” Shatz said. “She looks exactly like I remember her.”

Imagine the impact she had on his life for him to remember her face decades after their last meeting.

The four-day reunion had them reminiscing about their lives, with Shatz telling Fabian information about her family she didn’t even know.

“I know so little about my father’s family that this was like a treasure house opening up for me to be able to ask questions about the war,” Fabian said.

The two are still catching up, with Shatz already trying to plan the next visit. And what Shatz did for Fabian proved that you don’t have to know someone well to have an impact on their life.