Noah Klieger, a journalist for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and an Auschwitz survivor who wrote for decades about the Holocaust, died on Thursday at the age of 92.
Born in 1926 in the French city of Strasbourg, Klieger was active during World War II in the anti-Nazi underground and helped smuggle Jews from France to Switzerland. He was ultimately arrested by the Germans and between 1942 and 1945 was interned at a number of camps – Mechelin, Dora-Mittelbau and Ravensbruck, in addition to Auschwitz.
At Auschwitz, as he faced the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, who decided who would be sent to the left, to their immediate deaths, and who would be allowed to live, at least somewhat longer, Klieger saved himself.
“I had no chance,” KIieger recalled. “It was clear to me from Mengele’s look that he would send me to the left, and that’s what he did, and I automatically turned around, knowing that this was the end. To this day, I can’t explain it, but all of a sudden, I turned around again and went back to [Mengele’s] desk. I delivered a desperate speech in which I stressed that I could still be of benefit by working,” Klieger recounted. “There I was, a naked skeleton of a figure, standing up straight and delivering a speech. It's bizarre.”
After the war, Klieger helped smuggle Jews into British-ruled Palestine and was even a member of the crew of the S S Exodus, which attempted to bring Holocaust survivors to pre-state Israel in 1947. In 1948, he immigrated to Israel himself and fought in the War of Independence.
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He embarked on his long journalism career immediately after the War of Independence, covering the trials of Nazi war criminals in Belgium, France and Germany. In 1958, he joined the staff of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and later covered the Nazi war crimes trials in Israel of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 and John Demjanjuk in 1987.
Klieger lectured frequently around the world about the Holocaust. He used to open his talks with a statement about how he could not explain the Holocaust because it has no explanation.
In 2005, 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, he wrote: “I have visited the site of the Auschwitz extermination camp every year for the past 60 years. Every time, it has been as if everything had just happened. It was like that this time too, when I stood in that accursed place as part of the entourage of the president of the independent, strong and proud State of Israel, which rose from the rubble of Europe.”
In the introduction to Klieger’s autobiography, his friend Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel wrote that reading Klieger’s autobiography was like diving into the events of the history of the 20th century, painful events at first that were followed by lofty ones.
Klieger will also be remembered for his involvement with sports. He even engaged in boxing at Auschwitz. For many years, he also worked as a sports reporter and also assumed management roles in the field of basketball.
Over the years, he received a number of awards and other recognition for his work commemorating the Holocaust. The most important recognition was his designation as a knight of the French Legion of Honor.
Klieger is survived by a daughter and three grandchildren.