Kiss frontman Gene Simmons — born Chaim Witz in Haifa to Hungarian-Jewish immigrants — says his late mother almost never spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust, including her time spent in Nazi concentration camps.
But a German newspaper recently provided Simmons, 70, with plenty more information and filled in gaps.
Bild am Sonntag presented the long-tongued rocker and TV reality star with 100 pages of documents about his mother’s ordeal, including her impact statement, to mark the 75th anniversary of her liberation.
Flora Klein, a native of the Hungarian village of Jand, was 19 when U.S. troops liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 5, 1945. She died in 2018 at age 93 in the United States.
In her statement to the former Restitution Office in the German city of Koblenz, Klein wrote, “In November 1944, I was brought to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I lived there in block no. 21 and worked in the fields, gathering potatoes outside the camp. I wore old civilian clothes with a white oil (paint) cross painted on the back, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the SS.”
Klein was transferred to the Venusberg subcamp of the Flossenburg concentration camp in January of 1945, and arrived at Mauthausen two months later.
“She was strong,” Simmons told Bild in an interview published May 3, while reading the documents. “She fought all of this on her own.”
He also found his grandmother’s name among the documents. Ester Blau died in the Nazi gas chambers
Simmons’ mother married a carpenter, Ference Yehiel Wiitz, in 1946, and a year later they immigrated to Israel. Simmons’ parents later divorced and his mother brought him to New York in 1958.
Simmons warned that people should not forget the about the Holocaust.
“It can happen again and again. That’s why you have to talk about everything,” he said. “When Jews are advised to no longer wear the kippah on the streets. At least this is being addressed. The same applies to the Muslims. As long as you talk about things, there is a chance. When you see cockroaches in the kitchen, you must point the light at them so you can see them clearly. And you must drive them out of the light.”
Marcy Oster writes for the JTA global Jewish news source.