For all they know, George Berci and Frank Shatz crossed paths in the anti-Nazi Hungarian underground nearly 80 years ago. Regardless, they met for the first time at least since then in a Los Angeles reunion.
Berci, 101, is a pioneering Los Angeles surgeon who still reports to work in a white coat at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Shatz, 96, is an author who still writes a weekly column for the Virginia Gazette.
Both native Hungarians, they each escaped a Nazi labour camp and later achieved prominence in their respective fields in the United States.
They shared wide smiles as they met at Berci's nursing home. As Berci waited, Shatz strode toward him, walking briskly with a cane, and they hugged, as Shatz presented him with one his books personally inscribed.
"We escaped almost the same day from the slave labour camp and we found ourselves in Budapest and we both joined the anti-Nazi underground," Shatz said.
"We were in the same place, did the same job, so most probably our paths passed a few times."
Berci has said he was a captive of the Nazis in the summer of 1944 when he escaped at age 23 thanks to a nearby attack by US and British forces that distracted his guards. He then joined the Hungarian underground in Budapest.
Shatz wrote in a recent column he was a slave labourer in the Carpathian Mountains building a railroad for the German army and escaped during an aerial bombardment. He, too, joined the anti-Nazi underground in Budapest.
Shatz learned of Berci's story from a recent profile of the doctor in the Los Angeles Times, and they spoke on the phone.
Since then, the younger man made the cross-country trip for a physical reunion in part, Shatz said, to counter the persistent voice of Holocaust deniers.
"We are very fortunate that we remember these historical sites, these historical events and we can draw some conclusion," Berci said.
"And we can draw attention to the present people who are around us, what's happened and what should we do that this should never, ever occur again."
The dwindling number of Nazi Holocaust survivors is difficult to estimate, depending on how a survivor is defined.
Berci helped develop the tiny cameras used for endoscopic and laparoscopic surgery and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons has a lifetime achievement award in his name.