Gerda Weissman Klein, ‘crusader of tolerance,’ receives Medal of Freedom


(JTA) — Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein was among 15 Americans to receive the 2010 Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

"(A)s 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," Obama said about Klein during the award ceremony Tuesday at the White House.

Klein, who worked in slave labor and concentration camps until she was forced to take a 350-mile death march at the end of World War II designed by the Nazis to keep Jews from being rescued, recently founded Citizenship Counts, a nonpartisan organization that is committed to educating middle- and high-school students on the tenets of citizenship, inspiring their pride in America and encouraging them to participate in community service.

Klein authored her autobiography, "All But My Life," which has been in print for 53 years in 62 editions and has been read by students around the world. She has spoken about freedom and tolerance to groups throughout the world.

The Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Other medal recipients Tuesday included former President George H. W. Bush; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou; investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and sports greats Stan Musial and Bill Russell.

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