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Ex-POW Holds Reunion With Woman He Saved

September 11, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ A onetime British prisoner of war got a tour of the city Thursday from a special guide - a woman he helped save from a Nazi death march.

It was the first reunion on American soil for retired machinist George Hammond of Kent, England, and Hannah Sarah Rigler of Brooklyn.

Mrs. Rigler, a native of Lithuania, was a starving 16-year-old waif in 1945 when she escaped from a 300-mile death march, from the Stutthoff death camp in Germany to Danzig in German-occupied Poland, in a desperate attempt to find bread for her family.

Chased by Nazi police, she stumbled into a barn near Praust, Poland, where she was found cowering by prisoners from Stalag 20B. The men fed, washed, clothed and hid her for about three weeks until Russian troops liberated the area.

Mrs. Rigler, now the city Board of Education’s director of food services for the elderly and homeless and the wife of state Supreme Court Justice William Rigler, traced her 11 rescuers through the War Department in 1969.

Since then, the former prisoners have held annual reunions in England, ″always raising our glass to Sarah, our long-lost sister,″ said Hammond. In 1972, she joined one of the gatherings.

On Thursday, Mrs. Rigler carried a diary given to her by another former POW, the late William Fisher, who described the rescue of the ″crippled, frightened″ girl on Feb. 26, 1945.

″I don’t read it myself. I can’t - it’s too painful to me,″ said Mrs. Rigler, who placed the document in the archives of the Center for Holocaust Studies in Brooklyn.