All But My Life

Awards and recognition

On February 15, 2011, President Barack Obama presented Gerda Weissmann Klein and 14 other recipients with the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom. At the ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Obama announced, "This year’s Medal of Freedom recipients reveal the best of who we are and who we aspire to be." He stated the following as Klein was presented with her Presidential Medal of Freedom:

By the time she was 21, Gerda Klein had spent six years living under Nazi rule — three of them in concentration camps. Her parents and brother had been taken away. Her best friend had died in her arms during a 350-mile death march. And she weighed only 68 pounds when she was found by American forces in an abandoned bicycle factory. But Gerda survived. She married the soldier who rescued her. And ever since — as an author, a historian and a crusader for tolerance — she has taught the world that it is often in our most hopeless moments that we discover the extent of our strength and the depth of our love.

President Obama then read a statement from Klein: “I pray you never stand at any crossroads in your own lives, but if you do, if the darkness seems so total, if you think there is no way out, remember, never ever give up.”[4]

Klein was selected to be the keynote speaker at the United Nations' first annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2006. She has spoken to school children in each of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and has traveled the world to spread her message of tolerance and hope, meeting with world leaders, including Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt and U.S. Presidents Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 1996, Klein was one of five women to receive the prestigious international Lion of Judah award in Jerusalem. She has also been featured on the cover of the McDougal-Littell high school textbook, The Americans, with such other notable figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan and General Norman Schwarzkopf.

Exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Governing Council. In 2007, the museum bestowed Klein with its highest honor at The Arizona Biltmore before 1,000 guests.

In May 2001, Chapman University awarded Kurt Klein and Gerda Weissmann Klein an honorary doctorate of humane letters, the only married couple to be so honored by the university. Klein has spoken at Chapman University several times, most recently in November 2011.

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