Tonawanda News

The Town

November 28, 2012

Holocaust survivor attends local play adaptation of her book

Tonawanda News — A Holocaust survivor and author brought her message of acceptance and understanding to a packed auditorium at Mount Saint Mary Academy Tuesday night.

Gerda Weissmann Klein, who suffered at the hands of the Nazis for six years, attended the performance of an adaptation of her book at the school and spoke to the audience about her experience.

After surviving World War II and moving to Kenmore, Klein met her neighbor, a young girl named Jenny, on her street, East Hazeltine. Jenny has disabilities and Klein observed her outside, not jumping the fence or playing like the other kids.

Klein was inspired.

“I sat at my kitchen table and wrote this little book,” Klein said. 

Klein’s book was published in 1974 and has since been translated into 20 different languages. The work has a strong anti-bullying message and is one of the first books to advocate for those with disabilities.

“Jenny and I have a lot in common,” Klein, now 88, said. “I was being made fun of because I was different, because I was Jewish in Nazi Germany.”

And although Jenny is different, too, the play shows she is remarkable in her own way. She still can make friends, love her family, dance and joke. She may struggle with learning certain things, but in many ways, she is just like us.

Klein’s book was published in 1974. Then a few years ago, the executive and artistic director of the local Theatre for Change, Darleen Pickering Hummert, got the chance to meet Klein. Hummert told Klein she wanted to adapt the book into a play, and Klein readily accepted.

“I revered her so, so I wanted to make sure it was excellent,” Hummert said. “I thought so much of her book and wanted to be able to bring it to more people in a theatrical way.”

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