John Gualtier received many enthusiastic greetings from friends, relatives and those who helped tell his story, including Deb Bowen, the publisher of a book that two teens wrote about John after visiting him in Vinton.

John Gualtier answers questions from the audience. Next to him is documentary producer Brent Watkins.

The documentary, “Hero Among Us,” featuring Vinton veteran and WWII Army medic John Gualtier was coming together well, but there was a missing piece, producer Brent Watkins told the audience during the world premiere of the documentary on Sunday.

Gualtier and one of the other people helping to tell his story found that missing piece by chance in Des Moines: Holocaust survivor Martin Weiss.

Weiss now lives near Washington, D.C., where he occasionally shares his Holocaust survival story at the Holocaust Museum. He was a teenager in May of 1945, when Gaultier, also a teenager, was among the medics who helped evacuate the Malthausen concentration camp. Although the two teens never met at Malthausen, Gualtier was among those who helped liberate Weiss and countless others 73 years ago.

The documentary tells the stories of both Gualtier and Weiss, as they look back on the experiences that, for years, neither wanted to talk about. The film also shares how each became well-known in his area because of the experience he eventually shared.

Gualtier has been speaking to area high school students for the past several years. He also continues to be one of the local veterans who regularly volunteers at the VA center in Iowa City, helping veterans to fill out the paper work needed to receive VA services. In 2012, Gualtier was chosen from among that year’s KCRG “9 who Care” honorees to go to Washington, D.C. See a 2012 story about John HERE.

The two men still have not met, but have spoken on the telephone. Perhaps one day, one of them will be able to travel the nearly 1,000 miles between the two.

Holocaust survivor Martin Weiss lights a Menorah at the White House a few years ago.

Gualtier was in Des Moines that day, accompanied by Deb Bowen, the publisher of a “Barbed Wire Wings,” a book about Gualtier written by teenagers, to speak to teachers about the Holocaust. One of the other speakers turned out to be a relative of Martin Weiss. She gave Bowen and Gualtier his contact information. Later, Watkins flew to D.C. to interview Weiss for the documentary. After the showing of the film, Bowen said that connecting with Weiss was a blessing from God.

Watkins told the audience after the show that the project was truly a community effort, and thanked area residents for their support of Gualtier, as well as the project. Many of Gualtier’s family members, as well as doctors and others who have been part of his journey, were there for the premiere.

The event was sold out; so far, 35 tickets have been sold for the Saturday, March 31, showing.

See Martin Weiss’s Holocaust Museum page, including a speech by Martin, HERE.

See another story about Weiss HERE.