Doug Harvey share experiencesSophie Tajch Klisman and
Doug Harvey share experiencesSophie Tajch Klisman and VTI Productions

Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman reunited with U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey this week at her suburban Detroit home and thanked him for helping liberate her from the Salzwedel concentration camp in Nazi Germany during World War II.

Harvey, 95, learned about Klisman, 89, while reading a Detroit News story about Klisman’s plan to return to Poland and Israel as part of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) “From Holocaust to Independence” mission. He took particular interest as a veteran of the 84th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, which liberated the camp in which Klisman was held.

They connected and met on Monday, May 13, after Klisman’s return from Poland and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camps over the weekend.

Outside her home, Klisman greeted Harvey with a hug and thanked him with tear-filled eyes, saying, “you gave me my life.” The two then went inside to talk and recount their wartime experiences.

“They were telling us: ‘The war is over. You are free. You survived,’” Klisman remembered the 84th Infantry Division soldiers telling the captives after breaking through the camp gates with tanks.

After surviving the Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Salzwedel concentration camps, Klisman, with her sister Felicia, immigrated to the United States in 1949 and settled in the Detroit area. The rest of their family perished during the Holocaust.

Klisman told Harvey that she feels he and his fellow soldiers are responsible for her “beautiful family” of children and grandchildren, whose photos surrounded her as she sat on her couch. “I can’t take credit for the entire 15,000 guys,” in his 84th Infantry Division, Harvey said. Klisman replied, “but you were one of them ... and I’m very fortunate to meet you.”

“We are privileged to witness this historic meeting between two amazing people, both of whom are heroes and a source of great inspiration to us all,” said FIDF Michigan Director Paula Lebowitz, who attended the reunion.