TORONTO — Holocaust survivor Nancy Kleinberg, whose against-all-odds survival and love story inspired audiences when it was featured on Live! With Regis and Kelly’s Greatest Love Story contest earlier this year, will be sharing her testimony at a Holocaust Memorial Service in Oshawa.
Nancy and Howard Kleinberg
On May 1, Oshawa’s Beth Zion Congregation and Ajax’s B’nai Shalom V’tikvah will host their sixth annual service at Beth Zion.
Kleinberg will share her story that includes forced labour, a three-day death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, constant hunger and debilitating disease.
“So many times I was close to death,” Kleinberg said in an interview.
But what makes Kleinberg’s story unique is the events that unfolded after Bergen-Belsen was liberated in April 1945, when she and her aunt decided to cross over to the men’s side of the camp to check for survivors.
“All you saw were so many corpses,” she said.
Kleinberg, who was 16 years old at the time, saw movement in a pile of dead bodies.
It was an 18-year-old boy, Howard, whom she recognized from her hometown of Weirzbnik, Poland. He was barely clinging to life.
“My aunt said, ‘You’re crazy. He’s dead.’ I said, ‘He is not dead, but if we leave him here, he will be for sure.’”
Over the next three weeks, Kleinberg was committed to saving his life and slowly nursed him back to health in an abandoned barrack. One day, Howard mustered up enough strength to make his way to the side of the road. He was picked up by British soldiers and taken to a hospital where he spent six months recuperating.
Kleinberg said she had no idea where he’d gone and was sure she’d never see him again.
Upon learning that her parents, siblings and most of her relatives had perished during the Holocaust, she eventually made her way to North America, finally settling in Toronto in 1947.
Meanwhile, Howard had also immigrated to Toronto about six weeks earlier and learned that she had arrived.
“Back then, Toronto was a very small town and he heard that I had arrived, and he wanted to see the girl who saved his life,” she said.
Without warning, Howard showed up on her doorstep with a corsage and a question: “Remember me?”
Three years later, they were married, and last month, the Kleinbergs celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.
Kleinberg said that at the May 1 service, she will be sharing more details about their love story, as well as stories about her countless near-death experiences and the unimaginable hardships she faced.
She added that sharing her story is difficult, but insisted that “as long as HaShem gives us the strength, we should speak out and educate our children about the Holocaust.”
Lina Zatzman, one of the organizers of the service, said the event will also include a candlelighting service and the reading of names of community members’ relatives who died during the Holocaust.
The Beth Zion Hebrew school children will also be singing.
“Our synagogue is not large, and we find that… the children’s singing makes the service personal and heimish,” Zatzman said.
For more information about the service, e-mail [email protected].