As a Holocaust survivor on the cusp of his 99th birthday, little surprises Abram Goldberg — but a recent email to his son from Europe got pretty close.
The email came from German documentary maker Tanja Cummings, who said a man featured in one of her films remembered Abram Goldberg from when they were young men inside the Lodz ghetto, in Nazi German-occupied Poland, during World War II.
"She came across dad's name and things clicked together," said Abram's son Charlie Goldberg.
"The word I keep on using is 'astounding'."
Abram now lives a comfortable life in Elsternwick in Melbourne, with his children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild living nearby.
It's a far cry from the nonagenarian's traumatic younger years growing up in a Jewish family, during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
"Of my generation, there are not many survivors left," Abram said.
Eight decades ago, Abram and his parents and three sisters were imprisoned inside the Lodz ghetto.
Along with about 200,000 others, they endured forced labour, starvation, brutal violence and terror.
Only he and his sister survived.
"My mum, she was gassed and cremated in Auschwitz, this I know for sure; I know my father and the majority of my family, extended family were murdered," he said.
Abram was 20 on May 2, 1945, when he was liberated by the American army in Germany from the Wöbbelin concentration camp.
He put his survival down to chance.
"I was 29 kilos and white, I was not sick -- I was lucky," he said.
A promise to survive
Throughout his long life, Abram has shared his story, fulfilling a promise he made to his mother in the chaos of their arrival by train at Auschwitz.
"The screaming, barking of dogs, the SS screaming 'everybody out'," Abram recalled of that moment.
"They're yelling 'men on one side, woman and children to other side' and [my mother] realised that she would not get out alive.
"She turned to me and said, 'Abram you should do everything humanly possible to survive and when you survive you will tell people what actually happened'."
He's worked hard to fulfil that promise since moving to Melbourne in 1951 with his wife Cesia.
Abram has consistently shared his story through his work at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum, which he helped to found, and where he still speaks to groups of school students.
He's also written a book and has recorded his testimony of the Holocaust on video.
It was one of those videos that led the German documentary maker, Ms Cummings, to email Abram's son Charlie.
Ms Cummings released a film called Line 41 in 2015, about another survivor of the Lodz Ghetto, Natan Grossman.
About two months ago, Ms Cumming watched a video recorded by Abram in 1992 for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was struck by the similarities between their stories.
"There were so many details that I thought Natan would maybe know Abram," she said.
Now 96 years old, Natan Grossman worked in the same Lodz ghetto metal factory as Abram, followed the same journey to Auschwitz, on death marches and then to Wöbbelin concentration camp where they were liberated on the same day.
Natan and Abram shared a mutual friend, Bono Wiener, who was also one of the founders of the Melbourne Holocaust Museum.
Ms Cummings decided she needed to put the two survivors in touch after hearing that Abram was still alive.
Given their age, she knew she had to act quickly.
"Abram and Natan are still very lively, but this could change any day, so if there's a chance, one has to grab it immediately," she said.
After emailing both men photos of each other, a meeting was organised over Zoom, so the two could meet face-to-face.
"To me, it's a miracle," Charlie Goldberg said.
"For two men to have gone through what they went through, with all the terror and the horror, to finally be able to talk to each other after 78 years, that's amazing."
Neighbours in the ghetto
Inside the Lodz ghetto, Abram Goldberg and Bono Wiener were firm friends, and neighbours.
Natan Grossman was then 17, and lived in Bono Wiener's attic. He worked at the same metal factory as both men, where they were given an extra serving of soup each day.
He believes the extra food given to workers there was one of the reasons he survived.
"We hardly got any food in the Lodz ghetto, most of us died of hunger," Mr Grossman said.
"It seems that when we stood in line [for soup] there, I saw Abram, but this was 80 years ago and we look different now – he's getting close to 100 and so am I."
Despite the experiences of horror and loss they shared as young men, the two survivors welcomed the opportunity to speak.
"I belong to the last witnesses and when I hear that there is another witness who is even older than me … I appreciate that very much," Mr Grossman said.
Revisiting the past
On a Saturday night just weeks out from Abram Goldberg's 99th birthday, his granddaughter Nastassja Kuran wrangled a patchy internet connection in Melbourne, connecting Abram to the video call on her laptop.
In Germany, Mr Grossman and Ms Cummings dialled in from an apartment in Munich for what was Natan's first-ever Zoom meeting.
"It's a great moment, the memories will flash back. You'll see, they're not unhappy," Abram said in the lead-up.
After hellos in English, Yiddish and Polish, the men began reminiscing about their shared past, comparing memories of people who did and didn't survive the Holocaust.
Over nearly two hours, photos were shared and songs from the ghetto were sung.
The two sparred over political views and wished each other more years of life, agreeing to speak again.
"I told him I wished him to live until 120 years old, then I will be 116 years old and when we meet again, it will be a very important meeting," Mr Grossman said with a smile after they spoke.
"This means he still has 21 years to live and I too have a few more years to live."
While Natan remembered Abram, Abram wasn't sure.
"I didn't specifically recognise him because he was a young boy, so many years ago," Abram said.
"I saw him where he worked, I knew exactly where he worked and I dropped in every day there."
He put the younger man's memory of him down to his appearance, chuckling that because he was short in stature and his friend Bono Wiener was tall, the two stood out in a crowd.
What both men are acutely aware of is that they are members of a shrinking group of Holocaust survivors and their stories of survival remain as important today as when they were liberated in 1945.
"I will never be silent as long as I am able to," Abram said. "It's a mission of my life".