Feb. 14, 2013 —, -- An elderly Toronto couple's unlikely love story continues to prove that the strongest of romances can be forged even in the darkest of times.
Howard and Nancy Kleinberg, now both in their 80s, have been happily married for more than 60 years, and have four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. But the two will likely never forget where and when they first encountered each other.
Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp in what is today the German state of Lower Saxony, was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945. Between 1941 and 1945, approximately 70,000 inmates died there.
"You had to find a spot between corpses in order to lie down," Howard Kleinberg told ABC News, referring to the nearly 13,000 corpses that lay strewn about the camp unburied. Kleinberg had been ordered by the fleeing Germans to carry the bodies into pits.
"I felt I had to lie down in order to meet my maker," said Kleinberg as he lay down exhausted among the bodies. "I don't recall how much time went by, but suddenly I heard voices from women checking, and I could hear the voice of a young girl," he said.
"He's still alive," said Kleinberg's future wife Nancy. "He's still alive, and we should save him."
Nancy Kleinberg told ABC News that she could recognize Howard because she had previously seen him while visiting her older brother in his barracks. She spent the next weeks helping to nurse Howard back to health.
"I really found him in a bad condition," said Nancy Kleinberg. "He was very sick, but I felt I wanted to do a good deed because I was looking for my family, perhaps if I saved this boy, somebody would find my family," she said. Nancy was the only one in her family to survive the Holocaust.
"The first week I was in the bunk sleeping most of the time," said Howard. "The second week I opened my eyes and I see this young girl near me." Kleinberg said he asked Nancy to find him a doctor, but with the war still going on, that wasn't possible.
The following week, Howard crawled from his bunk and out the door onto a nearby road, where he was picked up by a military vehicle, taken to a military hospital and treated. He tried to locate Nancy at Bergen-Belsen after he was discharged, but he couldn't find her.
At the end of 1945, Howard Kleinberg was brought to Toronto to live with relatives. A month after arriving, he learned Nancy had arrived in Toronto too.
"At that point I knew you had to be a gentlemen," said Howard. "I bought flowers and went to meet the girl who'd saved my life. I went over and this beautiful lady opens the door." Asking if Nancy remembered him, she replied, simply, "I do." Three years later, she repeated those words and the couple were married.
Nancy and Howard Kleinberg will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary next month, and call their marriage "blessed."
"We came out from this experience, and we were blessed with this marriage. Many people turn their backs on relationships, feeling that they don't want to bring children into the world, we appreciate everything. The world is good, life is so beautiful to live [with] respect and love," said Howard.
"Thank God we have a very good marriage. He has always treated me like a princess," said Nancy, adding that she believed the marriage was fated.
"I really wanted to go to Israel, but I was meant to meet this boy," she said.