Classmates Reunite After 80 Years

Classmates Reunite After 80 Years

Serendipity brings together two 89-year-old men in L.A. for the first time since elementary school in pre-Hitler Germany. (Jewish Journal)

Gary Matzdorff and Leo Gerechter – born in 1921 and Jewish – fled Nazi Germany in different directions after having studied at the same Berlin elementary school in their youth. Both now live in the U.S., and after Matzdorff recently found his old classmate’s name in a German magazine, the two began exchanging correspondence. The Jewish Journal caught up with the pair when a Bar Mitzvah brought Gerechter to Los Angeles where Matzdorff lives, and the men arranged to meet face-to-face at the airport for the first time in 80 years. It’s the kind of reunion that will never run out of material.

A class photo that the two compare after hugging at baggage claim shows the small, serious boy that was Gerechter, and a boy in a sailor suit who, at 89 years old, still wears a sailor’s cap. Although their lives diverged during the war – Leo to New York and Gary to Shanghai – the two men find common ground right away, laughing at stories about similar experiences with nefarious, gun-toting employers in their early days.

An emotional Matzdorff points out that at a “certain age,” one likes to look back and see what happened to people they knew. His reunion with his old classmate allows him to reconnect with his childhood and his birth country before the war changed everything. After all, he says with a sob, “It’s been 80 years and I don’t have many friends from that time.”

CHANNEL: Jewish Journal

Length: 4:57

By Melanie Reynard

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