ATLANTA — A Georgia woman found out years after her grandfather's death that he helped save thousands of lives during the Holocaust in a very unique way. She even got to meet a woman who is alive today because of what her grandfather did.
When Alexandra Reiter first got the email she told 11Alive’s Kaitlyn Ross she thought it was a scam.
"If anything looks suspect, delete it don't respond, don't open it. But it had my grandfather's name in the subject line, so I felt compelled to read it," she said.
It was from the First Secretary to the Polish Embassy, who explained her grandfather's role in an elaborate scheme during World War II.
Stefan Ryniewicz was a Polish Diplomat who died in 1987.
"Had he been caught, I would not be sitting with you here today. And that's the beauty of it, the sheer awesomeness of it all. He risked everything to save people," she said.
Her grandfather was a Polish Diplomat who started forging Paraguayan Passports for Jewish people at the outbreak of the war. The fake documents would help Jewish families fool the Nazis into thinking they were from a different country.
"I wish I could have a conversation with him, I really do. Because I have so many questions I want the answers to," she said.
Her grandfather never breathed a word of what he did to anyone and moved his family to Argentina after the war.
He passed away years ago, and no one ever knew his role in saving thousands of lives.
"There are no words to describe the magnitude of seeing these documents and these pictures and understanding what my grandfather did," she said.
But it didn't end there.
When the local newspaper ran an article about her grandfather, she got another email the very next day.
From a woman whose grandfather Alexandra's grandfather saved.
"Imagine the shock, imagine the surprise, to find out, wow, there's a survivor, there's an ancestor of a passport survivor," she said.
Heidi Fishman's grandfather was being sent to Auschwitz when he pulled out the fake document.
"At the last minute, literally in front of the train, he showed a German official that he had a passport from Paraguay. He wasn't really from Paraguay, this was a falsified passport, and he was allowed off the transport and was not sent to Auschwitz. So that passport really saved his life," said Fishman.
6 million Jewish men, women, and children were murdered in the Holocaust. Another 5 million were murdered for other reasons. While they're still counting, the Polish Government estimates 8,000 lives were saved because of these fake passports.
"When bad things happen in the world, you have to do something. Alexandra's grandfather did something. He got involved and he helped people," said Fishman.
"Everyone can make a difference. Everyone can be a hero. Even an everyday, normal person can do something extraordinary for someone else," said Alexandra.
Fishman and Alexandra talk almost every day now... sharing in the courage and bravery that saved both of their families.
"It's kind of an adventure because now I get to go back in history and find out what more my grandfather did with these other men to save these people, who desperately needed some sunshine, they needed a ray of hope," said Alexandra.
Fishman wrote a book about her family's story that includes how the passport saved her father.
Alexandra and Fishman gave a speech about their shared history in April.
The Pilecki Institue in Poland has published a list of 3.262 people who are known to have been on the list for passports. They're still looking to locate another 5,000 to 7,000.
Since she first discovered her grandfather's heroism, she was invited to Poland to receive an award on his behalf.