Nightly News | January 21, 2014
>>> finally here tonight. a story that begins at the end of world war ii , two people, one of them caught in the horror of the concentration camps . the other, a man who arrived on the side of the liberators. now, almost 70 years later, their story has come full circle . we get the story tonight from nbc's rehema ellis.
>> reporter: at almost 90 years old, marcia cruzman is still frightened by the memories of the holocaust.
>> we were pushed to death. killed, murdered.
>> reporter: she spent five years in concentration camps . she was even forced to dig her own father's grave.
>> they put him in front of me, i have to put the wood on top of him and burn him, because he didn't want to be buried.
>> reporter: her brother and mother also killed. at 18 years old, cruzman weighed just 68 pounds. she was standing in a line of people being led to their death when the americans died.
>> i was outside the crematorium, and i remember like today, the noise when they say you're free, you're free.
>> reporter: she never got to thank the soldiers who rescued her, she became a nurse, moved to america and married another holocaust survivor .
>> you did find love in why are life?
>> oh, yes. my husband was a nice man.
>> reporter: to honor his memory, her parents, brother and the 6 million jews killed, she's spent years telling her story to school groups and others.
>> what does it mean to you when you look at all these thank you cards?
>> i love it. that's what i wanted. i keep something.
>> reporter: little did she know, someone else had been doing the same thing just a few miles away , but from a different point of view. joe served in the u.s. 11th armored division that helped liberate concentration camps . for years, he also spoke to students sharing pictures he took. and letters he sent home. but for cruzman never meeting any of the americans who saved her life was a nagging regret. then last october she was reading a local newspaper.
>> i nearly fainted.
>> reporter: in a story about a couple's 65th wedding anniversary , the man in the article helped liberate mauthausen. a survivor met her liberator.
>> what did you say to joe?
>> i love you. thank you for liberating us.
>> i'm so thankful that we saved you, because we --
>> give me a kiss. give me a kiss.
>> and now they share a friendship, rooted in a life changing moment decades ago. rehema ellis, nbc news, union, new jersey.