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Survivor Profile: Isaac Klein

“The twins would have to go to the clinic almost every day for medical experimentation. I don’t know how to explain all the extreme pain I went through so that a little bit more or less didn’t really make any difference.” -- Isaac Klein

Isaac Klein and his twin brother were born in a hollowed out tree on their family’s farm in Czechoslovakia in 1931. When Hitler’s troops occupied Czechoslovakia and stripped Jews of citizenship, Isaac’s family lost their home and their livelihood. In 1944 they were relocated to the Satoraljauhley Ghetto where Isaac was put to work chopping rocks to build roads. His bar mitzvah was in a rundown synagogue in the ghetto.

When the ghetto was liquidated, 13-year-old Isaac was separated from his parents and younger siblings as the family was herded into a cattle car for a 14 day journey to Auschwitz. On arrival at Auschwitz, early in 1944, Isaac and his twin brother were immediately selected by the infamous Joseph Mengele for medical experimentation. Isaac remembers receiving injections and having blood drawn almost daily. Surviving 10 months of hard labor, surgeries, lashings, and near starvation, Isaac then endured a 700 kilometer death march to Mathausen where he was liberated by the Americans in May 1945. Isaac and his brother went back to their family home and learned their parents and six siblings did not survive.

Isaac and his brother, now orphans, arranged to be smuggled into Palestine. Once the British finally allowed their ship to dock, the refugees were detained in Atliet prison camp for 10 months. Once Isaac was freed, he was housed in an agricultural school where he was trained to be a soldier and joined the Haganah. In 1948, 17-year-old Isaac joined the Israeli Army and fought in Israel’s War of Independence. He served in the Israeli military and in the Merchant Marine for several years before emigrating to the United States with his wife and sons.