Gerda Weissmann Klein, Honored Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 97

Gerda Weissmann Klein, Honored Holocaust Survivor, Dies at 97

Then she heard a noise. Weighing just 68 pounds, her hair turned white from malnutrition, she made her way slowly to the door. Across a hill she could see a vehicle approaching. As it neared, she saw two men seated in front, and on its hood the giant white star of the United States Army.

The jeep pulled up, and one of the men walked over to her. He asked if she spoke German. She nodded, then said, “We are Jewish, you know.”

The man, hale and hearty and wearing sunglasses, was silent. Finally, he said, “I am, too.”

He asked her if he could see the other “ladies,” using a formal address in German that Gerda had not heard for almost six years. Then he held the door for her.

“That was the moment of restoration of humanity,” she said.

The soldier’s name was Kurt Klein. He was born in Waldorf, Germany, but his parents had sent him to the United States in 1937. They had promised to follow, but only got as far as France before they were captured by the Nazis. They both died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex.

As Gerda recovered, she and Kurt fell in love. They married in Paris in 1946 and settled in Buffalo, where he had lived before the war and where he later owned a printing company.

Mrs. Klein wrote a memoir, “All but My Life” (1957), and nine more books, many of them dealing with her experience during the Holocaust.

After Kurt Klein retired, they moved to the Phoenix area. There they founded the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, which promoted tolerance and Holocaust remembrance through education, and also through a nearly nonstop speaking schedule by the Kleins.

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