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Gerda Weissmann Klein
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Advocate
    (May 8, 1924- )
    Born in Bielsko, Poland
    Born Gerda Weissmann
    Human rights activist and author
    Belonged to a prominent middle-class Polish-Jewish family
    Was a fifteen year-old student when the German forces invaded her hometown of Bielsko, Poland (Sept. 3, 1939)
    Interred in the Nazi concentration camps, Bolkenhain (July 1942 - August 1943), Màrzdorf (August 1943), Landeshut (1944), and finally Grunberg (May 1944 - Jan. 1945)
    Was among the 4000 female prisoners to partake in the Nazis' forced 350-mile death march to avoid the impending advance of the Allied liberation forces
    Was one of fewer than 120 women who survived the death march and the exposure to the winter elements, starvation, and sadistic treatment
    Liberated by forces of the US Army in Volary, Czechoslovakia; met future-husband Lieutenant Kurt Klein, during the liberation (May, 1945; were married Paris, France in 1946)
    Author of ‘All But My Life’ (1957), ‘The Blue Rose’ (1974), ‘Promise of a New Spring: The Holocaust and Renewal’ (1981), ‘A Passion for Sharing: The Life of Edith Rosenwald Stern’ (1984), ‘Peregrinations: Adventures with the Green Parrot’ (1986), ‘The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in the War's Aftermath’ (2000),‘A Boring Evening at Home’ (2004), ‘Wings of EPOH’ (2007), ‘One Raspberry’ (2009), and ‘The Windsor Caper’ (2013)
    Served on the governing board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which featured her personal story and testimony in one of their permanent Washington, D.C. exhibit
    Subject of the documentary short film, 'One Survivor Remembers,' which won both an Emmy and an Academy Award (1995)
    Was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President Barack Obama (Feb. 15, 2011)
    Co-founded the non-profit organization, Citizenship Counts, whose mission is to 'champion the value and responsibilities of American citizenship'
    Some viewers of her 'One Survivor Remembers' documentary have been known to swear off raspberries, because of the sad memories they evoke.
    She mistook the formal White House phone call, notifying her about her Presidential Medal of Freedom selection, for a prank call.
    She gave, hands-down, the best ever Oscar acceptance speech in the award show's history - and, as such, probably made everyone in attendance feel like crap for different reasons (hard to feel upset about losing an Oscar, or thrilled about winning one, after hearing someone talk about a time when 'winning' meant 'a crust of bread and to live another day').
    Nonetheless, those familiar with her Academy Award win apparently still come up to her and asking if her winning an Oscar was 'the greatest moment' of her life (what part of 'to live another day' do you not understand?)
    She has spoken to school children in each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.
    Shortly after the German invasion, her brother Arthur received a summons to report to a labor camp. He was never heard from again.
    Her parents were murdered in death camps (her in-laws had also been sent to Auschwitz and systematically killed).
    She almost died from starvation and overwork during her last year in the camps.
    Her best friend, Ilse (the subject of the famous ‘raspberry on a leaf’ passage) died in her arms during the Nazi death march.
    The story of how she met her husband is legendary. White-haired, malnourished, and a day short of her 21st birthday, all Kurt did was open a door and she felt human again.
    Communicating with one another in German, she blankly confessed ‘we are all Jews, you know.’ He replied, ‘so am I’ (they were engaged in September of that same year).
    She was one of only 5 women to receive the prestigious international Lion of Judah award in Jerusalem.
    She was featured on the cover of the McDougal-Littell textbook, ‘The Americans,’ alongside FDR, MLK, Ronald Reagan and General Schwarzkopf.
    She has traveled the world to promote tolerance, meeting with Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
    She and her husband became the only married couple to receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Chapman University (May 2001).
    She was selected to be the keynote speaker at the United Nations' first annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 2006).
    Upon receiving an Oscar for 'One Survivor Remembers,' she gave a powerfully humbling speech: 'In my mind's eye I see those years and faces of those who never knew the magic of a boring evening at home. On their behalf I wish to thank you for honoring their memory, and you cannot do that in a better way than when you return to your homes tonight to realize that each of you who knows the joy of freedom is a winner.'

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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