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Abraham Klausner Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-879

Scope and Content Note

The Abraham Klausner Papers consist of correspondence, writings by Klausner and others, research materials, newspaper clippings, reference materials that Rabbi Klausner used in his position as a chaplain, and a DVD of a short 1946 documentary about the opening ceremony of the Central Committee of the Liberated Jews on January 27, 1946 at the Munich town hall, which Klausner made and that he narrates. This film, These are the People, was made in Germany in 1946 and produced by the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the American Zone and discusses the Jewish DPs in the American zone at the DP camps Feldafing and Landberg and the agricultural training camp Zettlitz (Hachshara). Some of the people who appear in the film include David Ben Gurion (Jewish Agency), Zalman Grinberg (chairman of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews), Isak Schwarzbart (World Jewish Congress), Simon H. Rifkind (Judge and Advisor on Jewish Affairs to the American Command in Germany), Rabbi Blum of Palestine, Eva Reading (World Jewish Congress), Wilhelm Hoegner (Bavarian Prime Minister), Samuel Gringauz (Central Committee of Liberated Jews), and Isaac Ratner (editor-in-chief of Unzer Weg, the newspaper sponsored by the Central Committee).

The materials in this collection generally relate to Klausner’s work as a chaplain and his efforts on behalf of the Displaced Persons community in postwar Germany. There is also some material that Klausner used in order to write several articles and his memoir, A Letter to My Children, mainly concerning his work at the Displaced Persons camps, conditions at these camps, his interactions with the Joint Distribution Committee, and the relationship between Earl Harrison and President Truman.

A great deal of the collection is organized into research files and most of these files are copies of original documents from other repositories, such as the JDC Archives and YIVO Archives, with Klausner’s notations on them. There are also copies of documents about Klausner from the files of the Jewish Welfare Board, although it is not clear whether the JWB or Klausner himself gathered these materials together. Rabbi Klausner’s papers do not contain a great deal of original materials from his time spent as a representative of and aid to Displaced Persons. There are several speeches and lectures about his experiences as well as articles by and about him, which would be useful for researchers of WWII chaplaincy and Displaced Persons camps.

When the materials came to the AJHS Archives, they were in labeled folders and generally organized by the type of materials, whether writings, research materials or correspondence, as well as some personal documents and books labeled as resource materials. These folder titles have been retained and the books and personal documents have been given their own groupings. In addition, the materials originally labeled “writings” have been divided into writings by Klausner and writings about Klausner. Among the writings by Klausner are an article in issue one of Fun Letstn Hurbn (From the Last Extermination) [other issues of this journal are gathered at the end of the collection] and an Unzer Weg (Our Way) English Supplement, both of which were published by the Central Committee of Liberated Jews, and a DVD of These are the People, which was produced by Klausner and the Central Committee of Liberated Jews. The materials in this collection date from 1942-2002. The majority of the collection is in English although various documents are in Yiddish, German, Hebrew and French. The collection consists of 3 manuscript boxes and one half manuscript box comprising 1.75 linear feet.

Dates

  • 1942-2002

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with some Yiddish, German, Hebrew, and French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:



American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011



E-mail: info@ajhs.org

Biographical and Historical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Photograph of Abraham Klausner from the National Jewish Welfare Board Records (I-337, Subgroup III, Series B, Subseries 1: Chaplains Files, Box 71, Folder 23)" href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=1931044" show="embed" title="Photograph of Abraham Klausner from the National Jewish Welfare Board Records (I-337, Subgroup III, Series B, Subseries 1: Chaplains Files, Box 71, Folder 23)" linktype="simple"/>

Abraham Judah Klausner was born in Memphis, Tennessee on April 27, 1915, one of five children of Joseph Klausner, a Hungarian immigrant who owned a dry goods store, and Tillie Binstalk Klausner, an Austrian immigrant. He was raised in Denver, Colorado and graduated from the University of Denver in 1938 and was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1941. Following ordination, Klausner joined the army and served as a chaplain at the Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Klausner eventually shipped out to Germany and was assigned to join the 116th Evacuation Hospital, which had just entered Dachau. The 116th Evacuation Hospital arrived at Dachau, which was 10 miles northwest of Munich, in May 1945, three weeks after the camp had been liberated on April 29, 1945. While Rabbi Eli Bohnen was the first Jewish chaplain in the United States Army to arrive at the Dachau concentration camp after its liberation, Bohnen’s unit remained only a short time. Rabbi Klausner arrived soon after.

During his first days at Dachau, survivors asked him over and over if he knew their family members and if he could provide aid in finding them. Experiences such as these convinced Klausner of the importance of working to reunite families that had been separated by the war. In the several weeks that the 116th Evacuation Hospital was stationed at Dachau, Rabbi Klausner worked to find the 32,000 survivors bedding and food, including kosher provisions. He also worked to put together lists of survivors at Dachau and made sure that these lists, which he called shearit ha’pleita or surviving remnant, were posted at other camps. Klausner eventually published six volumes of the shearit ha’pleita lists and distributed them worldwide. He traveled throughout Bavaria looking for survivors, helping to reunite families and setting up a center for survivors at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Those who did not find the names of relatives on the shearit ha’pleita lists wrote notes and tacked them to the walls at the center, in the hopes that relatives might visit and find them. When the 116th Evacuation Hospital was ordered to move on to an Army rest camp, Klausner initially went with them but surreptitiously returned to Dachau against Army orders and told the commander of the 127th Evacuation Hospital unit at Dachau that he had been reassigned. Eventually the 127th would also depart Dachau, on a day that Klausner was traveling around Bavaria, allowing Klausner to remain behind once again.

The conditions in Dachau, as at all the former concentration camps and the Displaced Persons (DP) camps, were often quite bad with overcrowding and inadequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical supplies. On July 1, 1945 at the Feldafing Displaced Persons camp near Dachau, Klausner and Zalman Grinberg, a survivor of Dachau, established the Central Committee of the Liberated Jews in the U.S. Zone of Germany as the official representative body of the Jewish DPs. The purpose of the Central Committee was to champion the interests of the Jewish DPs and to draw attention to their plight. Klausner was horrified by the fact that the survivors were still living in the camps in much the same conditions as they had under the Nazis. He wrote letters of protest including detailed reports about these conditions and sent them up the army chain of command. Klausner also wrote to various Jewish organizations in the United States, which he felt were not doing all that they could to help the survivors. Klausner did whatever he felt was necessary to get the Jewish DPs what they needed including setting up Jewish hospitals and procuring clothes, food and medical supplies and, while he did a great deal of good, his actions often put him at odds with the army, the Red Cross, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and various Jewish organizations. His relations with the Joint Distribution Committee were particularly fraught, with the JDC successfully removing him from Germany, although he soon returned, this time to Kassel, Germany.

When Earl Harrison, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and head of the International Refugee Organization, came to Germany, Klausner was able to meet him at Dachau and to convince Harrison to go to over thirty Displaced Persons camps to investigate the conditions. Harrison’s report to President Truman maintained that the living conditions of the DPs under the supervision of the United States’ Army were not much better than they had been under the Nazis. Harrison also recommended that the Jewish survivors should be sent to Palestine rather than sending them back to their countries of origin, an idea Klausner actively supported. On orders from General Eisenhower and with Harrison as the American representative to the Intergovernmental Commission on Refugees, conditions soon improved in the camps.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Klausner left the military and began recruiting pilots and nurses for the Israeli Defense Forces in the United States. He became Provost of the Hebrew Union College in 1949 and was the Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston from 1949-1953. During this time, Klausner also earned a Doctorate in Divinity at Harvard University. He was the rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Yonkers from 1954 until his retirement in 1989 when he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rabbi Klausner wrote several books, including Weddings: A Complete Guide to All Religious and Interfaith Marriage Services, which provides texts of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Russian Orthodox and Muslim wedding services, and suggestions for combining texts of different faiths, A Child’s Prayer Book and his memoir, A Letter to My Children: From the Edge of the Holocaust. He was also featured in the 1997 Academy Award-winning documentary about Holocaust survivors in the immediate aftermath of the liberation of the concentration camps, The Long Way Home. In 1966, Klausner married Judith Steinberg. He adopted the two children from Steinberg's first marriage, Robin and Michael, and they had two children of their own, sons, Jeremy and Amos. Abraham Klausner died June 28, 2007 of complications from Parkinson’s disease at the age of 92.

Extent

1.75 Linear Feet

Overview

This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Abraham Klausner, including articles written by and about him, research materials for his articles and his memoir, correspondence, and Klausner’s personal and military records. These materials reflect his active involvement with Displaced Persons and the DP Camps in Postwar Germany as well as his sometimes complicated relationships with the Joint Distribution Committee and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The collection also contains issues of Fun Letstn Hurbn (From the Last Extermination).

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically in one series.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by Rabbi Klausner’s son, Amos Klausner, in March 2009.

Digitization Note

Selected original items within some folders in this collection have been digitized. Duplicates originating from other archives and published materials were not digitized.

Related Material

The AJHS library has a copy of a bicentennial haggadah that Klausner created, as well as a copy of a haggadah from a Passover seder that Rabbi Klausner conducted in 1946 in Munich. AJHS also has Kodesh: The History, Art and Artifacts of Temple Emanu-El, Yonkers, New York by Klausner, Contemporary Development in American Synagogue Art, which Klausner collaborated on, and Klausner’s memoir A Letter to My Children: From the Edge of the Holocaust. The LBI Library has microfilm copies of Sharit HaPlatah, the lists of survivors that Klausner helped create. There is some of his correspondence in the Leo W. Schwarz Papers in the YIVO Archives, RG 294.1. In addition, AJHS has material about Jewish chaplains and AJHS, YIVO and LBI have materials about World War II and Displaced Persons camps. Rabbi Klausner’s story is included in The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History, by Rabbi Albert Slomovitz, and Rekindling the Flame: American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors of European Jewry, 1944-1948, by Alex Grobman, both of which are held by AJHS.

Physical Description

3 manuscript boxes and one half manuscript box.
Title
P-879
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Rachel S. Harrison
Date
© 2009.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation. Selectively digitized as part of the Center for Jewish History Holocaust Resources Initiative, made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, and with additional funding from Amos and Jeremy Klausner.
Edition statement
This version was derived from AbrahamKlausner.xml

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States