Gerda Klein is a recipient of the 2010 Medal of Freedom. America's highest civilian honor, it is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Here is what was said about her:
Gerda Weissmann Klein. Gerda Weissmann Klein’s life is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit. A Holocaust survivor, she was separated from her parents and sent to a series of Nazi labor camps. In 1945, she was one of a few survivors among those forced to undergo a 350-mile death march to avoid the progress of liberating Allied forces. From tragedy to triumph, she and her husband proudly started the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation to promote tolerance, respect and empowerment of students throughout the world. By sharing her stories and encouraging others to see themselves in one another, Gerda Klein has helped to advance understanding among all people.
In the bitter winter months of 1945, the Nazis forced 2000 women slave laborers on a 350-mile death march. On May 7, 1945, a young American Army lieutenant named Kurt Klein
Barely alive and weighing only 68 pounds, Gerda Weissmann demonstrated an indomitable spirit and faith in the goodness of man that stunned the young GI. From that first encounter between a survivor and a soldier whose own parents had perished in Auschwitz, they developed a love that would lead to a marriage of 56 years, three children and eight grandchildren - and a partnership to fight for human rights.
Some of her many other honors include six honorary doctorates, the Lion of Judah Award, and the Human Rights Award given by the National Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, Gerda Klein has been featured on 60 Minutes and appeared with husband, Kurt, on Nightline following their inspiring meeting with parents, teachers, and students at Columbine High School after the tragedy there in 1999. She has authored several books including All But My Life upon which the Emmy and Academy Award-winning documentary One Survivor Remembers is based.
Excerpt from a fall 2000 lecture held at Chapman University's Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.