Holocaust survivor returns to Dachau


| nrosenberg@queenscourier.com |

Editor’s Note: Pick up the 10/29 issue of The Queens Courier and visit queenscourier.com for photos and a report on Kleeman’s return to Dachau.

On a recent Friday morning, Werner Kleeman slowly took in the new sunlight-flooded exhibition space at the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives.

The 90-year-old – himself a survivor who managed to flee Dachau concentration camp for the United States, only to join the U.S. army and assist in the war effort – said he hoped the Bayside center would “stay a few hundred years.”

If the center’s new light-filled, modern home on Queensborough Community College’s campus serves as a metaphor for the importance of illuminating the painful stories of the Holocaust, Kleeman himself is a breathing personification of that purpose.

He and a son-in-law took off on Sunday, October 11 for a 12-day trip to Germany, courtesy of the German government. They will spend three days at Dachau – which Kleeman has not set foot in since an American relative issued an affidavit for his release some 70 years ago – as personal guests of the head of the museum.

The German-born Kleeman was invited as a “memorial witness” after he sent the Dachau museum a copy of his book, From Dachau to D-Day.

He will speak at the former concentration camp – “It’ll be a very sharp speech,” Kleeman said with a smile and eyebrows raised – and give television interviews about his war-time and subsequent experiences.

“I’m very happy that they want me,” Kleeman said. “It’s an historical moment for a survivor to be invited to speak out.”

Of course, while he said he is not nervous, Kleeman admitted that the second leg of his trip – the first is in Munich and the third in Wurzburg, where he attended school – might not be easy.

“I never wanted to see the camp anymore,” Kleeman said, his voice breaking and eyes filling with tears, as he stood in a room surrounded by posters of global genocides of the last 100 years.

“But this invitation was so warm, from the heart, that I broke down and said yes to them.”On a recent Friday morning, Werner Kleeman slowly took in the new sunlight-flooded exhibition space at the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives.

The 90-year-old – himself a survivor who managed to flee Dachau concentration camp for the United States, only to join the U.S. army and assist in the war effort – said he hoped the Bayside center would “stay a few hundred years.”

If the center’s new light-filled, modern home on Queensborough Community College’s campus serves as a metaphor for the importance of illuminating the painful stories of the Holocaust, Kleeman himself is a breathing personification of that purpose.

He and a son-in-law took off on Sunday, October 11 for a 12-day trip to Germany, courtesy of the German government. They will spend three days at Dachau – which Kleeman has not set foot in since an American relative issued an affidavit for his release some 70 years ago – as personal guests of the head of the museum.

The German-born Kleeman was invited as a “memorial witness” after he sent the Dachau museum a copy of his book, From Dachau to D-Day.

He will speak at the former concentration camp – “It’ll be a very sharp speech,” Kleeman said with a smile and eyebrows raised – and give television interviews about his war-time and subsequent experiences.

“I’m very happy that they want me,” Kleeman said. “It’s an historical moment for a survivor to be invited to speak out.”

Of course, while he said he is not nervous, Kleeman admitted that the second leg of his trip – the first is in Munich and the third in Wurzburg, where he attended school – might not be easy.

“I never wanted to see the camp anymore,” Kleeman said, his voice breaking and eyes filling with tears, as he stood in a room surrounded by posters of global genocides of the last 100 years.

“But this invitation was so warm, from the heart, that I broke down and said yes to them.”

Editor’s Note: Pick up the 10/29 issue of The Queens Courier and visit queenscourier.com for photos and a report on Kleeman’s return to Dachau.