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Remembering Holocaust Resource Center Co-Founder Clara Kramer

Clara and Sol Kramer, founding members of Kean's Holocaust Resource Center

Clara and Sol Kramer, two founding members of Kean's Holocaust Resource Center.

Clara Schwarz Kramer spent 20 months hiding from the Nazis in a bunker and dedicated the rest of her life to teaching others about the horrors of the Holocaust. Kramer, who wrote a 2009 memoir, Clara’s War, based on her experience, died recently at the age of 91.

Together with her husband Sol, she turned Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s admonition to “never forget” into action, helping to create the Holocaust Resource Center (HRC) at Kean University to instruct teachers on the Holocaust, so that they could teach the next generation about one of the darkest times in human history.

“My mother felt she had an obligation to speak out for herself and for those who died in the Holocaust,” said her son Eli Kramer. “She would say, ‘When I was 15, I never thought I would see 16. Each day is a gift, but you have to use it.’”

Each day is a gift, but you have to use it.

~ Clara Kramer (1927-2018)

Kramer was actively involved in the HRC’s programs. Her recorded testimony is part of HRC’s collection of more than 200 original oral histories from Holocaust survivors, rescuers and liberators, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s collections.

Each year, Kramer would accompany New Jersey teachers enrolled in HRC’s tuition-free graduate courses on a trip to the national Holocaust museum, personally sharing what she went through in World War II with the educators as they traveled to and from Washington D.C. by bus.

“The Center is an embodiment of Clara’s vision: that the memory of prewar Jewish history and the tragic events of the Holocaust be transmitted to future generations, far beyond the natural life of survivors like herself,” said Adara Goldberg, Ph.D., director of the Holocaust Resource Center. “Clara made it her personal mission to inspire hope and understanding in everyone she met, endeavoring to create a kinder, more just world. Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers have benefited from her generosity and moral clarity.”

Clara Kramer at the age of 15.
Clara Schwarz Kramer at the age of 15.

Born in 1927, Clara Schwarz went into hiding when the Germans invaded her hometown of Zolkiew, Poland in 1942. She was one of 18 people holed up in a crawl space they dug beneath one of their homes, hidden by Valentin Beck and his family. Clara kept a diary, now held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Longtime Elizabeth residents, Clara and her husband Sol Kramer, who died in 2011, were active in Jewish causes.

“She had no hate in her — she would always say that,” said her son Eli. “My parents’ legacy is that they always got the next generation involved. They would say to whomever they met, 'Let me speak with your children.’”

Clara Kramer is survived by her sons, Eli and Philip; her brother, Alex Orli; her sister, Naomi Kornberg; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

To view Kramer's obituary in The Star-Ledger, click here.