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: