Joseph Zalman Kleinman, a Holocaust survivor who survived the Auschwitz extermination camp and who testified against Adolf Eichmann during the Nazi commander’s trial in Jerusalem, died on Tuesday, Israeli media reported. He was 91 years old.
The cause of death was not immediately revealed. Kleinman was one of less than 180,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel.
Kleinman was born in Slovakia in January 1930 and was deported by Nazi Germany to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp at the age of 14. His father, mother and sister were killed in Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps in occupied Poland.
“In the summer of 1944, 3,000 young men between the ages of 14 and 16 were gathered at Auschwitz … under difficult conditions, acute famine. We were there all summer, then on Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah holidays), almost everyone was wiped out, ”he said.
Eichmann, one of the main organizers of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, was captured by Israeli Mossad agents outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1960. He was tried in Jerusalem in 1961 and convicted crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and war crimes. He was executed the following year.
During his testimony during the trial, Kleinman told the court about the conditions at Auschwitz and how he avoided being executed as ordered by Josef Mengele, the Nazi officer and doctor known as the “Angel of the death”.
After his liberation by US forces from a concentration camp near Dachau, Germany, Kleinman drove “a huge train, with two large locomotives pulling it, which began to move south” through Europe , he later told archivists at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
“In all the stations, the Italians got off the train, returned to homes they had not seen for years. All the townspeople awaited this train with refreshments, here and there even a welcoming orchestra. At each station, people got off, but for us Jews, no one was waiting for us. “
Kleinman immigrated to Israel after the war.
Earlier this year, he spoke to The Associated Press after receiving his coronavirus shots. He said he came into repeated contact with the disease, both during his stay in Auschwitz and after. As the war drew to a close, Jews were placed in camps for internally displaced people.
Kleinman encouraged others to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. “Don’t overlook this thing. It has to be done, and the point is, it saves people,” he said.
Kleinman was buried in Jerusalem on Tuesday.