Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman reunited with U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey yesterday 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.

Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman and U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey share their experiences during World War II with reporters, following Sophie’s trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission.
Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman and U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey share their experiences during World War II with reporters, following Sophie’s trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission. Photo by VTI Productions

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. 

U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey of the United States 84th Infantry Division, who took part in the liberation of the Salzwedel concentration camp.
U.S. Army veteran Doug Harvey of the United States 84th Infantry Division, who took part in the liberation of the Salzwedel concentration camp. Photo by VTI Productions

“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.

Holocaust Survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman, following her trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission.
Holocaust Survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman, following her trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission. Photo by VTI Productions

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.”

Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman with her (left to right) son Mark Klisman, daughter Lori Ellis, and daughter-in-law Anne Klisman, all holding photos of her grandchildren, following her trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission.
Holocaust survivor Sophie Tajch Klisman with her (left to right) son Mark Klisman, daughter Lori Ellis, and daughter-in-law Anne Klisman, all holding photos of her grandchildren, following her trip to Poland and Israel with the FIDF “From Holocaust to Independence” Mission. Photo by VTI Productions

“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.