On Thursday April 3, the Morrison Center hosted Gerda Weissmann Klein to a full house as she recounted her story of surviving the Holocaust.
Klein was born in 1929 in Bielsko, Poland. She was the youngest child.
Her older brother Arthur was her role model. She was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded her hometown.
That same year, her brother was sent to fight for the Germans.
“Losing my brother was hardest to bear,” Klein said.
Klein lived in her home’s basement with her mother and father, and eventually in the ghetto when her family was forced out by the Nazis.
Klein lost all contact with her brother.
In 1942, her father was taken away and on June 28, 1942, Klein was separated from her mother and sent to a labor camp in Germany.
“(It was) the worst day of my life,” Klein said. After the war, Klein received word that her parents were both sent to Auschwitz.
Klein had three friends who helped her to get through her three years in the labor camps. Tragically, all three friends were killed while in the camp. There were many times when Klein felt like giving up, but she persevered.
In January of 1945, Klein and roughly 4,000 other girls began a death march from their labor camp in Germany to the Czech Republic. Out of those girls, approximately 150 survived.
While at the final stop on the death march, American soldiers arrived to save the remaining girls. Klein was finally liberated, and ended up meeting her future husband.
As she approaches the 75th anniversary of her liberation, Klein is still haunted by the regret she has being the only one from her family to survive—surviving when everyone around her
“Why am I here? I am no better,” Klein said. This quote was echoed throughout the speech.
Klein, to this day, has no idea what became of her brother.
Even through all the years of being persecuted, Klein still found hope.
She credits the American soldiers for her liberation and feels she will always be indebted to them.
During the event, an audience member asked Klein, “What is your legacy?”
Klein paused, then said, “This is my legacy, if there is one. To tell this story.”
To this, she received a standing ovation.