The Nazis arrived in her village in Belarusia when she was eight years old. When Klara was 10 yrs old her family was forced into a ghetto along with thousands of other Jews. Her father was in the Red Army fighting at the front so she was with her mother and sister.
“One day we were all rounded up in a group and shot. It was an aktion. You know what an aktion is? They had pogroms for extermination, just like the concentration camps, and they would choose groups to kill.
“When the women and children in our area of the ghetto were forced outside, they began shooting us all. My 5 yr old sister was killed right away. I was wounded and fell down with my sister. My mother was mortally shot and she fell across me, as did others.
“I lay underneath my dying mother and other dead bodies for several days. It took my mother two days before she died. Eventually a neighbor was going through the pockets of the dead people and pulling gold teeth from the bodies. She needed money to feed her children. She found me, helped me get out and nursed me back to health. After that I was passed among the neighbors for a number of years, going from one family to another. Eventually I escaped the ghetto.
“I worked during the day for various families in exchange for food, but was not always fed. Sometimes I worked all day only to be thrown out. At night I often ended up sleeping in the forest under the snow, next to a pile of coal, to keep warm. Sometimes when a family did let me stay with them I would wake up and find they had left during the night and did not take me along. I would be alone again.
“I eventually was caught and returned to the ghetto. During the time I was there I was often sick and had to work for others anyway so I thought I might as well leave. I again got out, but was found again and returned to the ghetto a third time. This time I stayed there until the end of the war. Several years after the war, my father found me. However, he was so depressed after finding his wife and young daughter were dead that he never recovered. He did not live very long after that.
Klara tells the story of when she met her husband – they had a rather sad joke between them. Both of them were completely alone and had no family left after the Holocaust. He told her it was perfect! He said he could marry her, arrange to have her killed (not really!), inherit her money and no one would know. After they got married they had a son, but he was killed in a car accident when he was small. They had two other children after that. She and her husband, Yacov, moved to Israel in the early 1990’s.
Yacov went to a nursing home in another city and she could no longer get over to see him as her health was so bad. Her daughter came to Israel and her son went to the USA.
When we visited Klara, if a translator was not available it did not matter. We would use charades and she would laugh. Our goal was to cheer her up and it worked.
Klara’s husband passed away and then her daughter had a terrible accident so she could no longer drive or come see her mother. In 2007 Klara passed away. She had a very sad life and spent much time by herself. It was a joy and privilege to visit her and bring small gifts, music and laughter.
Klara’s interview was taped by Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and is registered at Yad Vashem here in Israel.