Michael Bennet, the Colorado senator who is running for the Democratic nomination to the White House, says that the issue of families being separated at the border is personal for him. During the Democratic debate on June 27, Bennet said that his own mother had been separated from her parents as a child. Bennet said that his mother was separated from her parents during World War Two when she was a young child in Poland.
The Colorado senator said, “When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom because I know she sees herself because she was separated from her parents for years during the Holocaust.”
Bennet’s mother, Susanne Klejman, was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, and so were her parents. You can read more about the Colorado senator’s family here.
Susanne Klejman Was Separated from Her Parents as a 5 Year Old in Poland
Klejman said that her parents were well to do, secular Jews living in Warsaw, Poland. Her father, John Jacob Klejman, was an art dealer. He and her mother, Helena, considered themselves to be ordinary Polish citizens. They were, Klejman said, shocked when they were forced into the Warsaw ghetto.
She said that in 1943, when she was five years old, her parents began to realize just how dangerous their circumstances were. That’s when decided that they had to get her out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Here’s how she described what happened:
“In ’43 when my relatives didn’t come back that day, my parents decided they had to get me out. And they made arrangements with, they had been able to stay in contact, I don’t know how, with friends on the outside who were not Jewish. And they arranged through one of them, Wladislaw Brezovsky to and he arranged with a Polish policeman to come in. And take me out.”
Klejman remembered the story the way that a child would remember it. She remembered that she was wearing a beautiful white coat. A friend of hers took her to a Polish policeman. She remembered getting the coat dirty, too:
“That night apparently I spent somewhere that was like a cellar because my coat, one of these things that my mother said afterwards was a, the friend who had arranged this said the next day that when he picked me up, my coat was very dirty. That I must have been sleeping somewhere. And he took me on a tram of some sort.”
She was taken to a cottage in the countryside, about 13 miles from Warsaw. Her mother eventually got out of the ghetto, disguised as a Roman Catholic nun; her father managed to get out by crawling through the sewers. Eventually, the family was reunited. They eventually left Poland to settle in Sweden; from there, they went to Mexico, and then to the United States.