Holocaust survivor
Holocaust survivorYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

When the Nazis invaded Romania during World War II, Simon Phippen was eight years old and his cousin Morris Sneh was ten years old. The cousins, who were also close friends, were forced to part when each of their families fled for their lives from their hometown of Iași, a Mako report said on Sunday.

"Grandpa was sure that Morris died during the war," Simon's granddaughter Gemma told Mako. "He was convinced that he and his sister Betty remained alone in the world. The thought that he'll never see his cousin again was a source of great sadness for him."

Simon and his sister Betty ended up escaping Romania, ultimately ending up in France after many travails. Later, they were smuggled out of France together with hundreds of other children to England, where they were adopted by local families.

At the same time, Morris, his parents and brothers escaped to the forest. "During the day we hid in the forest and at night we would walk and try to put as much distance between the Nazis and us who were present almost everywhere," Sneh said. His two younger brothers, aged two and four, did not survive.

The family also ended up escaping from Romania and arriving in France. From there they traveled to Italy and a few years later they immigrated to Israel.

Morris grew up in Israel, married and had children, and his cousin Simon did the same in England, without knowing that the other one had survived the war.

In England, Simon not only hid from his children and grandchildren what he went through but he never even told them he was Jewish. "Eleven years ago, Grandpa decided to tell us that he's Jewish and reveal the huge secret of everything he and his sister went through and that his entire family was killed by the Nazis," Gemma said.

Gemma decided to help her grandfather search for his family roots in Romania in the hope of finding relatives who survived the war.

"When I began my research I didn't have anything - no information - not even the edge of a needle [in a haystack] except for what Grandpa told me," Emma said. "I tried to search in Romania but they don't have anything in their archives. At Yad Vashem, they told me that my grandfather died in the Holocaust. It was exhausting and frustrating but I decided that I'm not giving up."

Six years ago, Gemma came across a Facebook post written by a relative of Morris, who was searching for families who lived in the city of Iași before the Holocaust. At that moment, Gemma knew that she found the edge of the needle she was looking for. After lengthy inquiries, Gemma discovered that Morris Sneh, her grandfather's cousin, had survived the Holocaust and was living in Israel.

Gemma wrote to Sneh's daughter, Carmella, and told her the news that her father's cousin Simon is alive and well in England. "Dad was very excited," Carmella said. "We were elated when we discovered that Dad's cousin survived the Holocaust together with his sister and that we have cousins."

This past weekend, Simon and Morris, together with their children, met in Israel for the first time in 75 years. There wasn't a dry eye in the room when the cousins embraced.

"They hugged, cried and sat together for a few hours," Emma said. "They looked at pictures together of relatives who were killed by the Nazis. They shared their experiences from their separation until today and reminisced about the sad and happy moments they experienced in their lifetimes."