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Klausner, Abraham J.


KLAUSNER, ABRAHAM J. (1915– ), U.S. rabbi and activist. Born in Memphis, tn, raised in Denver, co, Klausner received an M.A. from the University of Denver in 1938 and a Master of Hebrew Letters and ordination from Hebrew Union College in 1943. In June 1944 he volunteered as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

Klausner arrived in Europe in late 1944 and in mid-1945 was assigned to the 116th Evacuation Hospital, a mobile unit. He arrived in Dachau within three weeks of its April 29, 1945, liberation. Klausner's responsibility was to American Jewish troops, not the survivors, but he felt duty bound as a rabbi and as a Jew to come to the aid of Jews. He worked on creating separate dp camps for Jews; evacuated Jewish patients from outlying areas and consolidated them in hospitals where they could be treated by Jewish, not German, doctors; and played a key role in the establishment of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Bavaria – so that the Jews could assume responsibility for their own fate.

His unauthorized June 24, 1945, report "A Detailed Report on the Liberated Jew As He Now Suffers His Period of Liberation" was sent to the leadership of the American Jewish community.

Klausner's – and other – contemporaneous reports prompted Earl G. Harrison, former U.S. Commissioner of Immigration and U.S. representative on the Intergovernmental Committee, to go on a fact-finding mission as the representative of President Harry S. Truman. His mandate was to determine whether or not Holocaust survivors' needs were being met by military, government, and private organizations. Harrison's trip was pre-arranged by the Army to cover areas that were less than problematic.

Col. Milton Richmond, a Jewish officer who headed a special military unit out of Dachau, saw the schedule and asked Klausner to intervene. Klausner met with Harrison and as a result, Harrison's itinerary was changed, and Klausner was asked to accompany him on his inspection tour of the camps.

Harrison's report resulted in the creation of a post for an advisor on Jewish affairs who would report on issues affecting Jewish Displaced Persons (dps) to the commanding general in the European theater of operations.

Klausner was honorably discharged in 1946. With the help of Robert A. Taft, the senator from Ohio, he returned to Germany in 1947 to work with the dps.

When Klausner returned to the U.S. in 1948, he accepted the position of senior rabbi of Temple Israel in Boston, ma, until 1953. In 1954 he became the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Yonkers, New York, where he served for more than 35 years, retiring in 1989. He subsequently wrote his autobiography, A Letter to My Children from the Edge of the Holocaust (2002).


A. Grobman, Rekindling The Flame: American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors of European Jewry, 19441948 (1993); ajyb, 47 (1945–1946); Archives of Temple Emanu-El, Yonkers, New York.

[Alex Grobman (2nd ed.)]

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