A Holocaust survivor shared her story of pain and loss to encourage the international community to “stand up, call out religious and ethnic intolerance and persecution, and work toward the idea of never again.”
Theodora Klayman shared her story Wednesday during a National Prayer Breakfast sideline event on religious persecution worldwide co-hosted by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and 21Wilberforce.
Born in 1938 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, Klayman was 7 years old at the end of World War II.
“I still do remember, so I will speak about that,” she said.
She described Yugoslavia as a country “cobbled together after World War I” and made up of “differing historical alliances, many religions, several languages,” and “serious ideological and political disagreements.”
These disagreements resulted in the formation of an ultranationalist group known as the Ustaša, who broke off from the Yugoslav establishment and collaborated with the Nazis. With the support of Nazi Germany, the Ustaša ruled the Independent State of Croatia, “eager to persecute anyone who was not politically conservative, Croatian, and Catholic,” Klayman said.
Klayman’s grandfather was a Jewish Rabbi who had served as the community rabbi for more than 40 years and taught religion courses in the local school alongside the Catholic priest. She described her family’s relationship with their predominantly Catholic neighbors as “very cordial.”
“For the forty years my family lived there, practically no anti-Semitic incidents occurred in that area,” she recalled.
But just a few months after the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia, Klayman’s parents and infant brother, Zdravko, were arrested. Her father was deported to the notorious Jasenovac concentration camp and their mother to Stara Gradiska, a subcamp of Jasenovac.
Fortunately, their housekeeper was able to get Zdravko released from jail. Both children were taken to Ludbreg, where they were cared for by their grandparents.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett