Karol ("Lolek") Wojtyla and Jerzy ("Jurek") Kluger were schoolmates until the autumn of 1938. They played hockey and went to dances together, went skiing and swimming, and studied in one another's houses. They learned about life from their loving families and endured the agony of tests and entrance examinations as a team.
High school graduation and creeping anti-Semitism led to their separation. In the years that followed, they endured the unendurable: the invasion of Poland, the destruction of the Wadowice community, the creation of the Jewish ghetto, the decimation of the synagogue; the army for Jurek, the catacombed seminary study for Lolek, the loss of beloved family members, and every day the fear for their very lives.
It would be fifty years before their emotional reunion. The seed of hope that had been planted in their personal story would be magnified by world-changing events in politics and religion. So it was that when the rebuilt synagogue in Wadowice was about to be dedicated in 1989, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to his Jewish friend, Jerzy Kluger, reestablishing the ties of friendship. When diplomatic ties between the Vatican and the State of Israel were being established on December 30, 1993, and again on April 7, 1994, when the Holocaust was being remembered in The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah, on April 7, 1994, Lolek and Jurek, together, remembered, and were healed.