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Centennial celebration

Friends celebrate storied life of 100-year-old Holocaust survivor

Frieda Kliger, who survived Majdanek, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Bergen Belsen camps, as well as the Warsaw Ghetto, celebrates birthday with the help of volunteer groups

A volunteer from the Association for Immediate Help of Holocaust Survivors gives Frieda Kliger flowers for her 100th birthday on March 14th 2021. (Screen capture: Channel 12 News)
A volunteer from the Association for Immediate Help of Holocaust Survivors gives Frieda Kliger flowers for her 100th birthday on March 14th 2021. (Screen capture: Channel 12 News)

Frieda Kliger, who lives alone, celebrated 100 years of life on Sunday. The Holocaust survivor didn’t expect such a large, happy celebration, considering none of her relatives reside in Israel.

But on Sunday, she celebrated with dozens of guests in the central city of Holon — eating cake, listening to songs and sharing stories.

Surrounding Kliger were neighbors, old friends from her days working as a guide at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, as well as young theater-makers who recently wrote a play inspired by her life.

And Kliger’s life story is one that needed to be told. The 100-year-old survived the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps, as well as deportations and death marches.

Sitting in the Ben Gurion Community Center garden on her birthday, she smiled widely and expressed her hope that “the country flourishes, and people live in peace and harmony, enjoy life and raise their children in the spirit of humanity.”

Kliger’s story and spirit has captured the attention of many. In addition to inspiring a play, Kliger was the subject of a film produced by Yad Vashem that chronicles the unimaginable hardships she suffered before coming to Israel.

Holocaust survivor Frieda Kliger celebrates 100 years surrounded by friends, neighbors, and volunteers on March 14th, 2021. (Screen capture: Channel 12 News)

Her birthday celebration was supported by two nonprofit organizations, the Association for the Immediate Help of Holocaust Survivors and AMCHA, whose volunteers participated in the event itself.

Reuven Sharf, an AMCHA volunteer and long-term friend of Kliger’s, explained to Channel 12 news: “She doesn’t understand how so many people got here. She knows how to give, and she loves to give, but she doesn’t know how to receive.”

Kliger was born in Warsaw in 1921 into a religious Jewish family. She had two older sisters, one of whom who was married with a son, and a younger brother, who passed away suddenly in the early 1930s. Following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Kliger’s family was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, where they lived under brutal conditions.

Kliger and her sisters survived the “Great Deportation” from Warsaw in 1942, but their father did not. He was sent to Treblinka extermination camp, where he was murdered.

In this picture from November 9, 2005, a couple walks along the outer fence of the former Nazi death camp Majdanek outside Lublin in eastern Poland. ( AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

In April 1943, the three sisters found refuge in a bunker during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A month later, they were found by the Germans, who sent them to Majdanek, where Kliger’s married sister and nephew were killed. That summer, Kliger and her last living family member were transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In December of 1944, the two were sent on a death march from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. Later, they were transferred to Bergen Belsen, where they were liberated by British forces on April 15, 1945.

Kliger met another Holocaust survivor, Romek, at the displaced persons camp in Bergen Belsen. The two were married at the camp’s first Jewish wedding on December 18, 1945.

The two immigrated to Israel in 1948 and served in the War of Independence. Later on, they moved to the United States, but Kliger returned to Israel in 1973. She has two children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. The rest of her family lives in the US.

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