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Two best friends who fled Nazi Germany reunited after 82 years

Holocaust friends
Posted at 9:47 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 13:04:31-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Pete woman is reunited with her best friend after fleeing Nazi Germany more than 80 years ago.

Betty Grebenschikoff, 91, recalled the moment she had to say goodbye to her best friend, Ana Maria Wahrenberg.

She was 9-years-old.

"My father took me and her father took Ana Maria to the school playground to say goodbye to each other and that was very traumatic for both of us. We wanted to be together," said Betty Grebenschikoff.

Grebenschikoff's family fled Nazi Germany. She said her father bribed a shipping company for tickets to Shanghai, China.

"We didn’t have any papers. We didn’t have any passports and it was very difficult for us. We had no friends anywhere in America or England. My father found out Shanghai was one of the few open ports, Shanghai, China, where if you could get yourself out of Germany somehow you could go there without a visa. You could just walk in," said Grebenschikoff.

She never saw or spoke to Wahrenberg again. The women always believed the other had died in the Holocaust.

"We said goodbye to each other and my family and I and my sister and one uncle and one aunt went to China by ship and I never heard another word from her at all."

Grebenschikoff spent her childhood in China. She later moved to Australia and then New Jersey. She got married and has five children and currently, she lives in St. Pete.


"That was I would say one of the best days of my life coming to America, always wanted to do that, delighted to do that," she said.

Grebenschikoff always thought about her childhood friend she left behind. She often spoke about her childhood friend during the testimony she gave as a Holocaust survivor.

An indexer from the USC Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit organization that produces and preserves testimony of Holocaust survivors, connected the dots.

The organization got in touch with the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete.


Grebenschikoff and Wahrenberg reunited virtually on a Zoom call in November.

"And of course, the reunion as you could imagine was incredible, totally incredible," said Grebenschikoff.

Elizabeth Gelman, Executive Director at The Florida Holocaust Museum, said this is a story about friendships and partnerships.

"I think we all can relate to the story of friends, separate, especially our friends from when we were a child that many of us haven’t seen and to be able to watch this reunion is just so fantastic on so many different levels. It really feeds your heart and soul," said Elizabeth Gelman, Executive Director at The Florida Holocaust Museum

"Every time that I hear a story from a Holocaust survivor, it’s a miracle. This type of miracle that happens 82 years after the Holocaust is really extraordinary, It is such a happy note and really meaningful for all of us," she added.

The two ladies plan to reunite in person in September. Grebenschikoff hopes her story inspires others to never lose hope.

"When I saw her again and I found out she was alive, I thought my life had come full circle. I hope that people who hear this will think that maybe somewhere there’s hope for them if they’re looking for someone or looking for some better way of life. It could happen," said Grebenschikoff.