Oakland County Holocaust survivor shares story on day of remembrance

Sophie Klisman, family working to get book in local high schools

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – An Oakland County Holocaust survivor opened up and shared her story on Friday at First United Methodist Church of Troy.

A somber day around the world on Friday for those who stopped to remember the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Local 4 sat down with a local survivor who will be sharing her story Friday night to mark the day of remembrance.

Sophie Klisman is 93 years old but only started sharing her Holocaust survival story about seven years ago. She realized, despite her pain, people need to know what happened so it doesn’t happen again.

“I’m nervous but I’m doing it for a good cause,” Sophie said.

If you ever meet Sophie Klisman, she’ll show you pictures of her family and will tell you how lucky she is, but there is one photo that’s hard to talk about.

“That was me, right after I was liberated, I was 16 years old,” Klisman said. As a Holocaust survivor, it’s the earliest photo she has of herself. No baby pictures, pictures of her parents, or older siblings.

Her husband was a survivor too and they vowed not to tell their children. “We were afraid, they were young, when you hear such unimaginable horror, we were worried it would affect them,” she said.

Their daughter, Lori Klisman Ellis, only found out seven years ago. “I was on a cruise with my family and when I came back, my mom said ‘I have something I want to share with you, I hope you won’t be mad, I finally opened up and shared my story, it’s videotaped and it’s at the Holocaust Memorial Center,’” Lori said.

Sophie was just ten years old living in Poland when her family was forced into a ghetto enclosed by barbwires. She watched her mom, dad and 17-year-old brother suffer and die.

Years later, Sophie, her sister and her brother were taken to Auschwitz concentration camp. “Two Nazi soldiers came up to us right away and took our brother away,” Sophie said.

The stories are moving, so much so that Lori started to dig. “I found out where her mother and her brother were buried, the exact spot, and we went back to Poland,” Lori said.

Lori put her mother and aunt’s journey of survival into a book so their story will never be forgotten and be used as a tool to educate.

“Amazingly proud of her that she could tell that story,” Lori said.

Lori is working on getting her book, “4,456 Miles: A Survivor’s Search For Closure,” into schools for students to read when they’re learning about the Holocaust.

The two shared Sophie’s story for International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the First United Methodist Church of Troy on Friday.

For more information on Lori’s book or to find out how to get it in schools, visit her website by clicking here.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.