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Holocaust Survivor Meets Her Liberator, Seven Decades Later

Joe Barbella and Marsha Kreuzman NBC News

Marsha Kreuzman weighed only 68 pounds and was near death when American soldiers freed her from the steps of one of Hitler’s concentration camps where Jews were cremated. She was 18 years old at the time and says she looked like a skeleton.

Now, almost 90 years old, Kreuzman is still haunted by the bitter realities of her painful past.

“They murdered [my father] in front of me” she said. Her mother and brother were also killed. There was a time, Kreuzman says, when she wanted to die too.

“We knew that we were going to die, so we wanted to die sooner than later. Because of all the tortures, nothing to eat, nothing to drink, no wash, no going to the bathroom.”

For 5 Years, 'Nothing to Sleep On' 1:38

The article, published in a local newspaper, noted that Joe was a WWII Vet and had served in the 11thArmored Division – the same unit that helped liberate the Mauthausen concentration camp. That was Kreuzman’s camp.

“I nearly fainted. I still have a shock, really and truly” she said.

Kreuzman looked up Joe Barbella, 93, and after a tearful conversation, visited him at his home. As fate would have it, the two had lived in the same town -- just a few miles apart -- for more than 33 years.

And they lived somewhat parallel lives. Like Kreuzman, Barbella, also spent years talking to students about the horrors of the Holocaust -- insistent the world should not forget those who were murdered. Two people determined to tell their stories.

Now, the survivor and her liberator have become friends.

Kreuzman calls Barbella a hero.

“He deserves to be honored”, she said. “Now I can rest in peace knowing that I found him and got to thank the Americans that liberated me.”