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Gerda Weissman Klein
Gerda Weissmann Klein is an extraordinary woman, eloquent speaker and ardent patriot. A Holocaust survivor, Gerda has lived in Arizona for the last 35 years. She is keeping the Holocaust memory alive through her personal story of tragedy and triumph. Gerda’s message is of hope and tolerance.
Gerda was born in Bielsko, Poland. Germany invaded and Gerda’s family along with other Jews, were stripped of their civil rights and forced to live in ghettos. Three years later Gerda was separated from her parents and brother, and never saw them again. She was forced to work in various concentration camps suffering hard labor and starvation. In 1945 Gerda was forced on a 350 mile death march along with 4000 other women through the frozen winter.
In early May 1945, the few surviving women were abandoned by the Nazis
in a warehouse in Czechoslovakia. Within a few days, the women were rescued by two American soldiers. One of the soldiers, Kurt Klein, a Jew, and Gerda soon fell in love, married and moved to Buffalo, N.Y.
Since her liberation, Gerda has committed her life to sharing her tragic experiences to help others overcome difficult times in their lives. She has traveled the world to spread her message of tolerance and hope, often meeting with world leaders. Gerda also realized her dream of becoming an author and has published wonderful books for children and adults.
In 1995 Gerda’s autobiographical account of the Holocaust, All but my life,
received an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and was selected for the National Film Registry.
Gerda was the featured speaker at the opening of the Anne Frank Exhibit in Chandler. The audience consisted of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers. Gerda’s first words were “Thank you. You are my keepers of freedom.” Gerda’s statement “ Guardian of Freedom” is engraved on a coin carried by many law enforcement officers.
On February 5, 2011, President Obama awarded Gerda Weissmann Klein the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States highest national civilian honor.
We know that Gerda’s important life story will continue on for generations to come. We are grateful for her contribution to humanity.