Yosef Kleinman, one of the last Eichmann trial witnesses, dies aged 91
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Yosef Kleinman, one of the last Eichmann trial witnesses, dies aged 91

Kleinman recounted during the 1961 trial how he narrowly escaped a sadistic game at the hands of Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Holocaust survivor and campaigner Yosef Zalman Kleinman, who testified at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, has died in Jerusalem at the age of 91.

Kleinman was taken to Auschwitz aged 14 and narrowly escaped a selection experiment at the hands of Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele.

He later became one of the 110 witnesses when Eichmann was captured and put on trial in 1961.

Kleinman was already well-known in Israel but found wider recognition last year during Remembrance Day in 2020, when he was filmed wearing a concentration camp uniform.

The viral video showed him holding a photograph of his family born after the Holocaust as he sang Am Yisrael Chai (“the people of Israel live”).

He had been unable to leave his house for several months because of the pandemic but did receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Kleinman was taken to Auschwitz as a 14-year-old along with his parents, his 15-year-old brother and a younger sister.

The two brothers managed to sneak out on a train to another camp, where they were forced to work building shell-proof bunkers for a German bomber aircraft project. They never saw their parents and sister again.

During his testimony he recounted witnessing Josef Mengele nailing a horizontal wooden plank to a goalpost and forcing a group of boys, including Kleinman, to march underneath it.

Any boy whose head did not reach the plank was sent to their deaths.

Kleinman survived only by forcing stones and parts of a torn hat into his shoes, which helped him hide among a group of taller boys.

Eichman was captured by Mossad in 1960 and returned to Israel for trial. He was sentenced to death and hanged in June 1962.

Mengele was never captured.

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