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GIs Remember - Gerda and Kurt Klein

Kurt Klein was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1937. He went into the Army in 1942 from Buffalo, New York. Subsequently, he went overseas, joining the Fifth Infantry Division in Northern Ireland, and served in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. During his European service he received a field commission.

"I first came upon Jewish survivors in a Czech border town in the final stages of the war. Word reached me that a group of Polish and Hungarian Jewish women had been locked in a factory building by their SS guards, after having undergone a four hundred mile death march. Before making their getaway, the SS guards set dynamite charges to the building in which they had herded the young women. It was their intention to dispose of the women, at the same time obliterating all traces of an atrocity. Fortunately, a torrential rain prevented the explosives from going off.

There were 120 women in this group, of whom two dozen died after liberation. I was hardly prepared for what we actually found. I entered the courtyard and saw walking skeletons making their way to a hand pump to get some water. On the other side of the yard, I saw a girl leaning against the entrance to the building, and I inquired whether she spoke either German or English. She answered in German, almost as if by way of apology, 'We are Jewish, you know.' My reply was, 'So am I.'

Inside the building, girls were sprawled on the floor, lying on scraps of straw, wearing tattered clothes, and it was obvious that many of the young women had the mark of death on their faces. One of them addressed me in English and muttered, (too late, too late for me.' She died a short while later.

Meeting the girl who took me through this scene of devastation, Gerda Weissmann, was to change my life. For her, there followed a lengthy period of hospitalization and recovery during which our relationship developed, leading to our marriage a year later. The events of that period have profoundly affected our outlook on life. We have a sense of obligation to devote much of our time and energy to Jewish causes and to help others in need."

GIs RememberNational Museum of American Jewish Military History