Holocaust survivor Sonia Klein addressed the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton on Sunday night and shared her amazing and traumatic story of survival during the Holocaust.
“I am here not only because I want to tell you my life story. I’m here because I carry a message with my life story. A thousand hours could not tell what I went through, so it’s not easy for me. When I talk about it,” she said, “I relive it. So it gives me quite bad nights. If not I, we Holocaust survivors, who? If not now, when? It is a must for everyone to know.”
“I had the most wonderful early childhood years,” she said, “and I was a very happy girl until I reached my teenage years, and the war came along, and there was never a normal moment since then.”
Throughout this transformational evening Klein shared of chance meetings and moments that saved her and her beloved sister. She speaks to groups regularly, relives her nightmare repeatedly, so that the next generation can tell her story, and the story of the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust, after her generation is gone.
The 230 people in attendance were given a mission, a Jewish mission: carry on the memory of Klein’s father, mother, little brother, aunts, uncles, friends and all the Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis. Klein pointed out that “there were six million Jews who were murdered, but there were six million non-Jews who were murdered, too. We picked up on our six million, where the world didn’t pick up as much on the other six million. Now it became a Jewish Holocaust.”
Klein and her family were in Warsaw for the ghetto uprising; at the end of it she and her family were on the last transport out of the ghetto, among the 75 people who escaped on that last transport. “Of the 75,” said Klein, “me and my sister were the only two who survived the war—thanks to Hashem.”
Klein and her family were first taken to Mydonick, where her mother and 10-year-old brother were immediately sent to the gas chamber. Through a barbed wire fence, her father gave her a ring and a watch, which he told her to use to bribe the SS woman to get her and her sister on the last transport out of the camp. After the sisters left Mydonick, the 20,000 remaining Jews, including their father, were killed, the bodies gathered in a single grave.
Klein and her sister then went on to survive three more concentration camps, including Auschwitz/ Birkenau. Toward the end of the war she and her sister, and nearly 1,000 Jews, were led on a grueling three-month death march, during which anyone who stopped to eat some snow was shot.
Klein continued, “One day, a train came into Auschwitz from Hungary, straight to the gas chamber, and I looked back and I saw a bride in her bridal gown going off the train straight to the gas chamber.” She implored, “Now, how does one forget this—ever; how can this be forgotten?”
Klein’s story of survival against the cruelest of odds was more than captivating. It demanded the audience’s attention and that they carry on the message of the survivors—never forget.
Klein has used her survival to tell her story because, as she said repeatedly throughout the night, “Silence leads to death.”
Crimes against humanity beg one thing—a witness. And we are hers. Sometime soon survivors won’t have the voice to say, “I was there. I saw the bride in the gown go into the gas chamber.” We must be their voice.
By Alissa Paige Joseph