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Herman Klein

Sirma, Czechoslovakia

Herman was the fourth of eight children born to a religious Jewish family in the small town of Sirma, located near the city of Sevlus. The Kleins had a small plot of land, which they farmed, and they also ran a shoe shop. At age four Herman began attending religious school. When he started public elementary school, he continued his religious lessons in the afternoons.

1933-39: In March 1939, the region of Czechoslovakia in which I lived was annexed to Hungary. Our teacher at school was replaced by a Hungarian and Hungarian became the official language. Except for us Jews, all the students joined the pro-Nazi youth group "Levente." While the group marched and trained in military drills with wooden guns, we'd get sent outside to clean the yard.

1940-45: When I was 16 my family was deported to Auschwitz. Separated from my mother and sisters, I was placed in an all-male barracks. One day, a neighbor from my hometown and I were looking across the barbed-wire fence. I asked him, "What are all those white trees thrown on top of one another?" "They're not trees," he said, "they're people. Don't you see the crematorium? Can't you smell the people burning?" After a week in Auschwitz, my father, my brother and I were deported to a labor camp built in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto.

In 1944 Herman was deported from Warsaw to the Kaufering labor camp. He was transferred in an open wagon to the Dachau camp only hours before it was liberated by U.S. troops.

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