Two Nazi concentration camp survivors find each other at Pompton Plains retirement community

PEQUANNOCK — At Cedar Crest Village, a retirement community disguised as a college campus, the stories echo throughout the 130 acres.

If there are two things a senior citizen has plenty of, it’s pills and stories.

The woman bowling a 215 on the Wii video game has a story, as do the residents singing along to the piano accompaniment of old-time ditties.

Inside these walls are stories of contentment, and of missed opportunities. Of friendships made, and love that got away.

There are stories behind the creases in each face, and the limp in each gait.

But the most incredible tale of all belongs to Leo and Paul.

Leopold Lowy, a spry 82-year-old native of Czechoslovakia who moved to Cedar Crest at the end of last year with his wife, was in a memoir-writing class two months ago when he noticed a familiar accent.

He asked Pavel Graf Loewner, a 3½-year resident of the retirement community in Pompton Plains, which languages he spoke.

Czech, English and Slovak, he was told.

Lowy asked Loewner, a fellow Czech Jew, where he was during “the war.” No qualifier was needed that he was talking about World War II.

“I went to concentration camp, and I finished in Buchenwald,” said Loewner, who was liberated by Americans in April 1945.

Suddenly, a continent away and more than 6½ decades later, two survivors of the same notorious Nazi concentration camp found themselves together at the same New Jersey retirement community.

“Of all the places to meet somebody that is from your own country, being in the same camp,” Lowy said. “It was a little mind-boggling.”

“Then he told me what his stories are, and I told him what my stories are,” Loewner said.

Their tale really begins in 1940s Nazi Germany.

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