'We Got the Water:' Holocaust Survivor Pens Memoir

Wednesday, 11 Sep 2013 06:48 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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The title of Gene Klein's new book "We Got the Water" may sound ordinary — but the phrase is close to the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor's heart.

"This was a statement by my older sister Lilly. It was well known by the time the Hungarian Jews were taken to be killed that a lot of extermination camps, they told their people they wanted to kill that you're going to be taking a shower, then they're going to feed you, and, of course, gas came out of the showers and killed you," Klein told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"And so when they were transferred from one location to another and they were told they're going to be taking a shower, of course, everybody was frightened. But when they went into the shower room, water came out and my older sister said we've got the water which was 'we survived.'"

Gene Klein and his daughter Dr. Jill Klein, wrote "We Got the Water: Tracing My Family’s Path Through Auschwitz" as a way to memorialize the family's tumultuous history.

"My dad and his family were in Hungary in 1944 when the Hungarian Jews were taken," Jill Klein said.

"It had appeared that the Hungarian Jews were safe because Hungary was basically on the side of the Germans. Part of the deal was that the Jews stayed put.

"And then Hungary looked at switching sides in the last year of the war and Germany realized what was happening and they basically overran the country overnight and so the Jews in Hungary went from being reasonably safe to not at all safe."

In a flash, Gene Klein, his mother, father, and two older sisters were rounded up and taken to the notorious Auschwitz death camp.

"My dad was in Auschwitz for a few weeks and then was shipped out to a slave labor camp where he was carrying very heavy steel rails for some railroad construction," she said.

His sisters and mother actually got to stay together and they worked in munitions factories "… They were constantly getting bombed … by Allied bombers. So that was very tough for them."

"My grandfather, my dad's father, was killed upon arrival in Auschwitz."

She said her family and other Jewish prisoners were able to help prisoners of war keep diaries.

"They worked in this munitions factory … and on the day shift, some POWs were working. And so the POWs were able to leave them little slips of paper that they could use and they actually made diaries," she said.

Some of the women also secretly wrote poems and humorous columns.

"[They made] fun of the guards or talking about their spring fashion and how they should be tailoring their gray striped dresses or [what] they had the menu for the next week: Monday will be potatoes with water and Tuesday will be water with potatoes," she said.

 

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