Gerda Klein recounts her liberation by the American Army from a concentration camp

June 22, 2023 • 11:30 am

Malgorzata sent me a link to this video with the words, “I knew this story but I never saw her own testimony. If you don’t know it, it’s worth watching, but you will cry in spite of the happy ending.”  And indeed, I began tearing up only a few minutes into the video.

This is a five-minute monologue (posted by the USC Shoah Foundation) in which Gerda Klein , a Jewish Pole put in the camps by the Nazis, recounts her liberation by the American Army after three years in captivity (not counting her earlier confinement in a ghetto). In fact, she later married the American soldier who liberated her, also a Jew.  It’s an amazing story, and she tells it very well.

Do watch it: click to enlarge, and there are English subtitles though she speaks in English:

Gerda, who died in 2022 at 97, has her own Wikipedia page, which explains that she wrote a book about her experiences (All But My Life) that was made into an Oscar-winning documentary, “One Survivor Remembers”. She and her husband were both devoted to helping people remember the Holocaust, and her activities earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given by Barack Obama.

Notes from the USC Shoah Foundation:

Gerda describes being liberated by the United States Army and encountering her future husband, U.S. Army Lt. Kurt Klein, in Volary, Czechoslovakia, in May 1945. Gerda Klein was born Gerda Weissmann on May 8, 1924, in Bielsko, Poland. Gerda and her brother, Arthur, grew up relatively unaware of the spread of Nazism, until Poland was invaded in 1939; soon after, Arthur was taken away on a transport. In April 1942, Gerda and her parents were ordered into the Bielsko ghetto. Two months later, Gerda, her mother, and father were separated, and Gerda was sent to the Sosnowitz transit camp in Poland. She never saw her family again. After that, Gerda was moved from camp to camp. In January 1945, Gerda was sent on a death march from the Grünberg labor camp to the Helmbrechts labor camp in Germany and from there continued into Czechoslovakia. Gravely ill during the forced march, Gerda was liberated by the American Army, including her future husband, Lt. Kurt Klein, in Volary, Czechoslovakia. In August 1946, Gerda and Kurt were married in Paris before rreturning to Kurt’s home in Buffalo, New York. There, Gerda would eventually work as a columnist for the Buffalo Evening-News. At the time of her interview in 1995, Gerda was living with her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona, and had three children and eight grandchildren.

You can see the entire 40-minute film “One Survivor Remembers” at the U.S. Holocaust Museum site (they made it in conjunction with HBO); just click on the screenshot below. The film is mesmerizing:

14 thoughts on “Gerda Klein recounts her liberation by the American Army from a concentration camp

  1. Thank you Malgorzata. Growing up in the 1950’s here in the US, the end of the war and liberation of the camps was only ten years earlier. We had two survivors in our community and it seemed that all of the fathers had fought in some capacity. The stories were told constantly in Hebrew School, but still they fade in time…even for me…and even though I just recently re-read “Night”. Thank you for this stark first person reminder.

    1. And antisemitic discrimination continued unabated in this country
      after WWII. Nobel prize winner and navy veteran Arthur Kornberg described it well
      in his book “For the Love of Enzymes”.

  2. When reading about the WWII period of our history I use to wonder how a country like Germany could become such a place ruled by Hitler and the Nazis. How did the people let it happen? I use to think it must be a pretty rare thing. After the last 8 or 10 years in the age of Trump I realize this was not such a rare condition and such a thing could easily happen right here. You don’t want to think about it very much or it will make you sick.

    1. The Holocaust happened as the result of a particular historical circumstance combined with human psychology. Such is the case with all genocides. The Holocaust museum has posted a series of essays explaining how “ordinary people” were induced to become mass murderers. Has human morality progressed enough in the last 80 years so that another Holocaust cannot happen again? I would like to think so, but there have been other genocides since the end of World War II. Genocides require a charismatic leader that can convince the populace to engage in genocide or at least look the other way when it is taking place. Not all autocrats, probably not most, desire or promote genocide as a way to satisfy their personal need for power. But, some do and can emerge quickly from obscurity, as was the case with Hitler.

      No nation has absolute immunity from the appeal of the demagogue. This is why the Holocaust should be taught in all schools, probably by the 5th or 6th grades. This does not mean teaching the “controversy.” What staggers the mind in that in 2021 an administrator in a Texas school district thought that due to state law, teachers needed to teach the “controversy” regarding whether the Holocaust actually took place. From what planet did she come from? Historical ignorance is a dangerous thing.

      By the way, welcome back, Randy!

    2. Yes, I agree entirely. I’ve lived the “American Dream” but I feel that the world is back at least 100 years. Religions, hate, and money rule even the best countries. The story brought tears probably because I came pretty close to it.

  3. Evolution theory, is what caused the holocaust to occur. The nazi regards the issue of personal character to be an objective issue, determined by racial science. Therefore the nazi has an emotionless measuring and calculating attitude towards people, because emotions are irrellevant for factual issues.

    The relevant truth here is, that subjectivity is an inherently creationist concept. Actually objectivity is as well an inherently creationist concept, but the concept of fact can be lifted from it’s creationist roots, without losing much meaning.

    The evolutionists are throwing out the concept of subjectivity, together with throwing out creationism. Jerry Coyne with his book faith vs fact, is going out of his way to destroy the concept of a personal opinion. It is an attack on basic humanity, and it is a certainty that societal catastrophy will follow from such anti-human beliefs.

    1. Something that is not theory, but fact is that Islam and Christianity have
      a history drenched in the blood of millions.

    2. You need far more help than I can provide. Just throwing a pile of words that together mean nothing. That’s what you did here….nothing. Evolution is a science, not a subjective concept.

      1. 1. Creator / chooses / spiritual / subjective / opinion
        2. Creation / chosen / material / objective / fact

        Where subjective means, identified with a chosen opinion, and objective means identified with a model of it.

        Personal character is in category 1, because decisions are made out of personal character. Therefore it is chosen opinion to say someone is courageous, and it would be equally logically valid to choose the opinion this person is cowardly.

        But then come the evolutionists.
        1. material / objective / fact
        2. see 1

        Oh, so personal character is now objective, now we can measure the personal character. And it is heritable ofcourse, like anything else.

        Evolution theory, is total evil. You’re all monsters. Certainly in your intellectual persona, you have all quite systematically annihilated any emotion, any subjectivity, from your own intellectual persona. You’re all disgusting, anti-emotion, anti-human.

        Jerry Coyne does not even acknowledge free will. It is ofcourse blatantly anti-human.

  4. I see what you mean about having Kleenex nearby. What an amazing story of survival. It seems to me that in the 1970s many of the survivors of the Holocaust started publishing their stories, probably fearing that their story would be lost when they passed away. My mom was a voracious reader of these autobiographies, and I consumed them, too.

    Thanks for pointing us to Garda’s video documentary.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *