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Meet Saul & Ruby: 2 Holocaust survivors with a klezmer band

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Six years ago, Saul Dreier read about the death of renowned pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer, who said music sustained her through the darkest times in the camps.

At the time, Dreier, now 95, was a novice musician who hadn’t picked up an instrument in more than 60 years. But as a Holocaust survivor himself, the story sparked something in him — he decided to start a klezmer band.

He teamed up with Ruby Sosnowicz, a fellow Polish-born survivor and accomplished professional musician. Their story unfolds in the poignant new documentary “Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band” (now streaming on YouTube, Google Play, Vudu and Amazon Prime). It reveals how Dreier — who told The Post that his musical experience started with clapping spoons and playing drums to keep up morale in the camps — took the duo from playing modest community centers and libraries to eventually their home country, Poland.

Dreier, who moved to New York after the war, raised his family and eventually retired to South Florida, said everyone in his life thought he was nuts when he told them he wanted to start a band.

Ruby Sosnowicz and Saul Dreier
Ruby Sosnowicz and Saul Dreier
Samuel Goldwyn Films

“Because they told me I’m crazy, I’m going to do it,” said Dreier. He had a vision of using music to honor the lives of the Jews who were murdered in World War II: “I want to play for the 6 million to hear us. I want to play for my parents.”

When he met Sosnowicz — who specializes in the accordion — their bond was instantaneous.

The pair became like brothers, and had surprising musical chemistry as well. Not only did they know the pain of surviving the camps, but they’d also both recently lost their lifelong partners. Sosnowicz’s beloved wife of 55 years, Gina, died in 2016, within a week of Dreier losing his dear wife Clara, who he had been married to for 58 years.

“When they lost their wives, it’s like losing a limb,” the film’s director, Tod Lending, told The Post, who added that following the duo for over two and a half years was a “privilege.”

After the pair started playing together in 2014, they worked on classics such as “Que Sera, Sera” and “Hava Nagila,” which they performed at local synagogues. Soon, however, they had moved onto tours in places like Cleveland and Hamilton, Canada. “When I play music I’m alive. Music is my life,” Sosnowicz, 91, says in the film.

Their determination and resilience led them to even greater venues. In 2015, the two nonagenarians landed a huge gig: playing the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in the nation’s capital.

“Sometimes I don’t believe I’m here,” Sosnowicz says in the film during an impromptu street jam session in DC ahead of the Kennedy Center concert. “Music [kept] me alive when I was in the Holocaust times. Because when you play music, you forget that you have to eat.”

Added Dreier, “To survive in the ghetto and camps is the miracle. I can’t comprehend how I survived, the way I was living and eating — the lice [were] eating me.”

They still had their sights set on a performance abroad.

“We want to play in Auschwitz and Warsaw for the 6 million people who perished,” Dreier says in the film. “It’s my biggest ambition in life.”

In 2016, they got to see that dream come true.

The pair raised money for a trip to Poland, which is captured in the moving film. They wanted to play in the very same concentration camps where they and their relatives were held as captives so many years before. In a move both beautiful and defiant, they set up to perform on the infamous railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz: an act of solidarity with the dead.

On that same trip, they were invited to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, where they met with government officials and shared their stories.

“Never in their wildest imagination [did they think they would be] invited there in the country where such terrible things happened,” said Lending. “To me, the most powerful message in the story is to persevere — that it’s never too late to pursue your passion.”

But for Dreier, the most memorable moment of the trip was an act of weather in a sacred place. “When I walked into Treblinka where my mother perished, the rain started,” Dreier said. “It’s almost as if all 6 million were crying.”

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