Gerda Weissmann Klein

Gerda Weissmann Klein was born on May 8, 1924 in Bielsko, Poland. Gerda grew up with her mother, father, and older brother, Arthur before the German army invaded Poland. Her family would suffer many levels of persecution by the Nazis before being sent to a ghetto. Gerda was not in the ghetto long before she was separated from her family and it would be the last time that she would ever see them again.

Gerda traveled to several different work camps that were apart of the concentration camp system, Gross-Rosen. At the work camps, Gerda was responsible for managing the looms that would produce clothing and parachutes for the German army. As the Allied powers were advancing Gerda was led on a death march until her liberation. Gerda was liberated by a US Army Lieutenant, Kurt Klein. Kurt would eventually become her husband and they would travel to the United States.

After her liberation, Gerda wrote her acclaimed memoir, All But my Life. She would travel to schools and other public events talking about the Holocaust and her experiences. Gerda and Kurt would eventually move to Scottsdale, Arizona to be closer to family. The two founded Citizenship Counts and in 2011 Gerda received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Now travel back in time to experience the journey that Gerda went through during the Holocaust. Learn about the different work camps that she was at and the experience her family had when Germany invaded Poland.

Growing up in Poland

Gerda Weissmann was born on May 8, 1924 in Bielsko, Poland. Bielsko is surrounded by the Szyndzielnia Mountains. A lot of skiing and hiking can be done on these mountains throughout the year. There is also the famous castle of the Dukes of Cieszyn,…

Summer Vacation

Krynica, Poland is located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship (southern Poland) and is considered to be one of the biggest spa towns in all of Poland. It has been known as a popular tourist attraction for the people of Poland and other Europeans to…

Invasion of Poland

Gerda’s father had suffered a mild heart attack which put him on bed rest for quite sometime to follow. (Klein, 4). Gerda’s family was dealing with the issue of her father’s heart attack, but the real concern was coming from the political tension…

Life in a Ghetto

On April 19, 1942, Gerda’s family received orders that they would have to prepare to move to a small ghetto that was located in a remote part of the town next to the railroad terminal. (Klein, 72) Gerda and her family were able to take a small number…

Auschwitz Transit Camp

In June of 1942, everything that Gerda had known or come to love about Bielsko, Polond was gone. A couple of days before Gerda’s departure from Bielsko, her father was taken away by train to a new destination. Then Gerda and her mother left the…

Operating the Looms

In July 1942, Gerda was put on a train leaving the transit camp, Sosnowitz-Dulag, Poland, for an unknown place with no known expectations of what was to come. As the hours passed the train finally came to a stop at the train station in Bolkenhain,…

Thoughts of Suicide

In August of 1943, Gerda and some of the other girls at Bolkenhain were loaded into trucks to travel to their new destination of Merzdorf (in All But my Life, Gerda refers to the camp as Märzdorf). (Klein, 144) Gerda describes seeing the camp for the…

Sister Camp

There was no exact record detailing when Gerda was taken out of the horrendous work camp of Merzdorf and transported by truck to Landeshut. Gerda and ten other girls boarded the trucks, which drove up the mountains to their new work camp, Landeshut.…

The Spinnerei

In May of 1944, Gerda and several other girls from Landeshut were onboard the train headed for their new destination of Grünberg. Before arriving at their new destination north of Landeshut, Gerda had to change trains in another city. She describes…

Liberation

The girls marched for months across Germany with no knowledge of where they may end up by the end of it. There were questions about where they might be headed, like Auschwitz. They thought to themselves that this might be the end for them. Throughout…

Civilian Censorship Division

After being in the hospital for several months, Kurt made arrangements for Gerda to go to Munich, Germany. Germany at the time was now occupied by Allied powers (United States, England, France, and Russia) and there was a need for workers who could…

The Wedding

Kurt eventually came back for Gerda and the two traveled to Paris, France. On June 18, 1946, Gerda and Kurt Klein exchanged their vows. (Klein, 247) This came nearly a year after Gerda had been liberated in Volary and Kurt had opened the door for…

American Experience

After Kurt and Gerda got married in Paris, France, they traveled across the Atlantic Ocean for the United States. They arrived in Buffalo, New York on August 30, 1946, to start their new lives together. (Klein, 248) In several interviews, Gerda talks…

Presidential Medal of Freedom

Later in life Gerda and her husband, Kurt, decided to move to Scottsdale which is located just outside of Phoenix, Arizona to be closer to their family. Gerda continued traveling throughout the country speaking at events, high schools, and televised…