Abraham Klausner, Shoah Survivors’ Advocate

By Forward Staff and JTA

Published July 11, 2007, issue of July 13, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Rabbi Abraham Klausner, the first Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Army to enter the Dachau concentration camp after its liberation, died June 28 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 92.

He died several years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, his wife, Judith, told The Associated Press.

Klausner had been a leading advocate for Holocaust survivors, collecting and publishing lists of survivors’ names in volumes called “Sharit ha-Platah,” or “Surviving Remnant,” to try to reconnect children of the Holocaust to their families.

Born in 1915, Klausner was the leader of Temple Emanu-El in Yonkers, N.Y., for a quarter-century. He retired in 1989. He was also the author of several books on Jewish topics, including a guide to performing interfaith weddings.

His most prominent role, however, was as an advocate for Jews living in displaced persons camps following the Allied Forces victory over the Nazis in 1945. Klausner arrived at Dachau shortly after the liberation and was assigned to handle death certificates and burials, but he soon became the point man for Jewish refugees struggling with hardship and despair, this time under the American military occupation.

Klausner quickly began making lists of survivors in order to reunite families, and he urged soldiers to provide food for the Jews. He also commandeered hospitals for the use of Jewish refugees and employed the military mail service, in defiance of U.S. Army regulations, to help Jews find their families, according to Alex Grobman, a historian who wrote about Klausner in his book “Rekindling the Flame: American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors of European Jewry, 1944-1948.”

His efforts fighting the American military’s indifference to the plight of newly liberated survivors culminated when he accompanied President Truman’s special envoy, Earl G. Harrison, on an eye-opening tour of the displaced-persons camps. That trip led to the nomination of a special adviser for Jewish affairs at the military command.

Klausner’s decision to leave his military unit and devote his time to aiding the DPs was not without significant risk, Grobman said: “He could have ended up in jail or thrown out of the Army, but he didn’t care.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.