Obit of the Day: Saved and Savior
Schaja Kleinberg was a survivor. His hometown of Bochnia, Poland had a thriving community of 3,500 Jews before the Nazi invasion. After the end of World War II, Mr. Kleinberg was one of only 50 to survive.
In 1942, Mr. Kleinberg was sent to the Plaszow labor camp. It was at the camp that he first met Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist whose “list” saved 1,100 Jews from the death camps. But Mr. Kleinberg had a more personal connection to Mr. Schindler. Asked by soldiers to dig his own grave, he was moments from being shot when Mr. Schindler ran up shouting “Stop! This is one of my workers!”
Mr. Kleinberg also had first-hand experience with the sadistic commandant of Plaszow, Amon Goeth. Goeth, according to Mr. Kleinberg, had a dog that he trained to attack Jews. One day in the camp he commanded the dog to attack a boy. The dog, who had developed a relationship with the boy, refused. Goeth shot the boy, and the dog.
After the war, Mr. Kleinberg emigrated to Germany where he worked as a cantor - the leader of song and prayer in a synagogue. While in Germany, Mr. Kleinberg played his own role in preserving Jewish history. Two copies of the Torah had been spirited away from the Munich synagogue on Kristallnacht by a non-Jewish janitor who buried them to spare them from destruction by the Nazis. (He also convinced the Nazis to not burn down the synagogue.) Unfortunately the burial made the Torahs unusable in worship and Munich’s rabbis were going to re-bury the sacred scrolls. But Mr. Kleinberg recognized their importance and had them preserved above ground - one in Munich, one in Oak Park, Michigan, where he and his family moved in 1989.
Schaja Kleinberg died on December 4, 2013 at the age of 93.
(Image of Mr. Kleinberg blessing his granddaughter on her wedding day. Copyright of Robert Bruce and courtesy of redditlurker.com)
Other Schindlerjuden featured on Obit of the Day:
Kuba Beck - Died on November 5, 2013
Mietek Pemper - The man who typed up Schindler’s famous list