At the tender age of 16, Klara Wizel had a picturesque life with a loving and supportive family. There was no way to know that the Holocaust was creeping toward her and that soon this young Hungarian Jew would be fighting for her life due to the most notorious doctor of the 20th century, Dr. Josef Mengele.
Swept up in a week long deportation process along with fifteen thousand other Hungarian Jews, Klara and her family arrive on cold night at the infamous Auschwitz - Birkenau concentration camp after a three day journey with no food or water. There, she and her family would first meet Josef Mengele who would later become known as the Great Selector.
That night Mengele selected Klara’s mother Freda, father Ignatiu, her older sister Ancy and younger brother Mortho to die in the gas chamber sending the adolescent Klara and two of her sisters Hedy and Rose to be housed like animals in the women’s barracks of Auschwitz. Dr. Mengele, who was in charge of the women’s barracks, would become the chief provider for the gas chambers and order gruesome experiments on children that often maimed or killed his Jewish subjects. Like a blood hound, Mengele, also known as the Murderer in White, searched out those who were too old or too sick to survive his cruel science and those who served no purpose to the Nazi regime. As Klara would later say, “Day or night you never knew when he would show, the ovens were always burning around the clock.”
As the Russian front approaches, Mengele and the Nazi’s selection process speed up. Klara finds herself sick, weak, tired and not able to eat. Naked, she is brought before Mengele, a tall Rock Hudson-handsome man who ideally would have been asking for her hand instead of deciding her fate. Klara was wowed by his presence and hardly realized that Mengele had deemed her unfit and sentenced her to die the gas chamber. As Klara is taken away with approximately seventy other women, her sisters Hedy and Rose scream and cry as she is dragged off, for they know this is her death.
Yet, somehow sick and dying on a snowy night, now 17 year old Klara Wizel not only escaped the gas chamber, but she also smuggles herself out of Auschwitz. She's the only Holocaust survivor of record to ever escape Dr. Josef Mengele’s selection process. Her escape and journey through war torn Europe to get back home to her small home town of Sighet is one of the most inspiring stories of that time.
Now 86 years old and thriving in Los Angeles, Klara is a grandmother and lives a comfortable life. She is a member of the 39 Club and is dedicated to helping survivors of the Holocaust and their families. Her story is one of survival against the greatest odds and a perpetual love for life despite extreme loss and cruelty.
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About the Author
This book, the story of Klara Iutkovits Wizel was compiled from numerous conversations between Klara and Danny Naten during the making of an award-winning documentary. They spent hours on the phone as well as in person talking since Danny wanted to know her story accurately to tell. The relationship they formed was much more than just professional, it was true friendship. Many times Danny paused in writing in order to absorb the horrific things that happened to Klara as he took time to find the words that would be felt in the way he wanted the reader to experience them. Although there are many wonderful and heroic stories of Holocaust survivors, Klara’s survival and escape is unique. Perhaps the reason is her life story. Or maybe it is because he knew her personally. Randy Gifford came on to the project after seeing the documentary show at AOFIFF. The collaboration that ensued brought out a side of Klara, Randy and Danny that they had not known of before. Ultimately, Danny was heard to say that he realized that it was an undeniable privilege to meet and profile such courage.