Sadly, Gerda Weissmann Klein has passed away at 97-years-old.
Klein was only a teenager when she survived the Holocaust. She went on to become an author and an activist. Not only was she awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011, but she was also the subject of a 1995 Oscar-and-Emmy-winning film called “One Survivor Remembers.” The film’s director, Kary Antholis, announced her death on Twitter.
Gerda Weissmann Klein Was Only A Teenager When She Survived The Holocaust
It’s with a heavy heart that I share that Gerda Weissmann Klein, the subject of my 1995 documentary One Survivor Remembers, passed away last night.
I’ve attached a link to the film in my bio case any of you want to remember or share with loved ones.
May her memory be everlasting. pic.twitter.com/LG1rBwwtkV
— Kary Antholis (@kantholis) April 4, 2022
Klein was born on May 8, 1924. When she was only just a teenager, she was sent to a concentration camp in the German-occupied country of Poland. She was sent through three different camps and almost died from overwork.
As Allied troops advanced on the region, Klein was one of the 4,000 women who were sent on a forced death march away from freedom. The group marched from Poland, through Germany, and into what is now the Czech Republic. Although she was able to survive the concentration camps and the forced death march, her parents and her brother passed away.
After her liberation, she married a soldier named Kurt Klein and the two traveled to the United States, where they had three children together.
Gerda Weissmann Klein Touched The World With ‘One Survivor Remembers’
Klein’s autobiography, “All But My Life,” was turned into a documentary short by Kary Antholis in 1995. He produced and directed the 40-minute film for HBO, calling it “One Survivor Remembers.” It won an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Special and the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.
After actor and presenter Nicolas Cage announced the film as the winner, Antholis brought Klein up to the stage with him to accept the Oscar. Although the music began playing them off, the music stopped when Klein stepped up to the mic. Her speech is widely regarded as one of the most memorable speeches ever given at the Academy Awards, which can be read in full below.
“I have been in a place for six incredible years where winning meant a crust of bread and to live another day. Since the blessed day of my liberation I have asked the question, ‘Why am I here?’
“I am no better. In my mind’s eye I see those years and days and those who never lived to see the magic of a boring evening at home.
“On their behalf I wish to thank you for honoring their memory, and you cannot do it in any better way than when you return to your homes tonight to realize that each of you who know the joy of freedom are winners.”
The full video of her Oscar speech can be viewed above.
Tributes Pour In For The Late Gerda Weissmann Klein
Rest in Power, Gerda Weissmann Klein. May Your Memory Be a Blessong. ❤️
— Susan Ruth (@SusanRuthism) April 5, 2022
I had the honor of meeting Gerda Weissmann Klein years ago as part of my synagogue’s commitment to Holocaust education. A remarkable woman. May her memory be a blessing. https://t.co/bwaIaCXH88
— Michael Schwartz (@mschwartz95) April 5, 2022
Today during the #HolocaustMemorialDay debate in Parliament I shared some of Gerda Weissmann Klein’s story, who was only 18 when she was sent to a concentration camp.
It’s a heart-breaking story – but we must never forget these stories, or the horrors of the Holocaust. pic.twitter.com/nnOMo3MJfU
— Ed Davey MP 🔶 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@EdwardJDavey) January 28, 2021
#HolocaustRemembranceDay is a day to remember, reflect and educate ourselves so something like the Holocaust never happens again. Listen to this short testimony from survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein on finding hope during these dark times. pic.twitter.com/1j73lXxeX0
— ADL (@ADL) January 27, 2021
“That makes it more difficult to speak of the past, because the memories are apt to turn into the living present.”
Gerda Weissmann Klein, All But My Life: A Memoir
Joshua Flint (oil on canvas) pic.twitter.com/fFVAzjvTWS
— Tina (@Tina69911364) July 7, 2021