Rabbi Abraham Klausner, an American rabbi who as a chaplain in the U.S. Army served as an advocate for the needs of Jewish Holocaust survivors, died June 28 in his Sante Fe, N.M., home of complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 92.
For 25 years he had served as spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Yonkers, N.Y., retiring in 1989.
The first American Jewish chaplain to arrive at Dachau after its liberation in 1945, he coordinated efforts on behalf of survivors in the American zone of Germany who remained in displaced-persons camps for years after the war.
“Rabbi Klausner was the key figure in interacting with the American authorities – he was the person who championed the rebirth and rehabilitation of the survivors,” said Menachem Rosensaft, a Manhattan attorney who was born after World War II to Holocaust survivors in a DP camp on the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. “At a time when there were very few people who understood the enormity of the survivor’s plight, he understood that the Jewish survivors needed not just physical and medical rehabilitation, but needed to be able to reclaim their political and social independence.”
Rosensaft is founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. His father Joseph, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, worked with Rabbi Klausner as head of the provisional committee of liberated Jews in the British zone of Germany.
“Together they were the individuals most responsible in the weeks and months after the end of the war for the spiritual, moral and political rehabilitation of the Jewish survivors,” said Rosensaft.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Rabbi Klausner graduated from the University of Denver and from Hebrew Union College.
He arrived at Dachau in May 1945 with the 116th Evacuation Hospital, three weeks after the camp’s liberation. He wrote letters of protest about conditions in the camp, and helped reunite hundreds of families.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called Rabbi Klausner “the father figure” for the more than 30,000 emaciated survivors at Dachau, and later for thousands more in other camps.
The rabbis was the author of several books, including “Weddings: A Complete Guide to All Religious and Interfaith Marriage Services” (Alpha Publishing Co.), “A Child’s Prayer Book” (Emanuel Press, 1979) and his memoir, “A Letter to My Children: From the Edge of the Holocaust” (Holocaust Center of Northern California, 2002).
“He saved the lives of thousands of Jewish survivors and brought them together as much as he could with any families that would still be alive,” his wife, Judith Klausner, told the Associated Press. Rabbi Klausner is survived by his wife; three sons, Jeremy, Amos and Michael; a daughter, Robin Cooper; and two grandchildren.