Valentin Klinghoffer was a Polish Jew who spent the last 7 years of World War II in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Nazi Germany. He grew up in Krakow, the son of a Jewish cobbler father and Silesian mother. He learned his father’s trade and dreamed of one day leaving Poland and immigratingji to America where free speech was guaranteed any great things were taking place. At university he studied logic and jurisprudence. In 1939 he was abruptly taken from his home in Krakow when the Nazis occupied Poland.
The Nazis rounded up large groups of Poles, and forced Polish Jews to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing plainly proclaiming, or rather crudely “labeling” them “Jude” or “Jew”. Wearing his own star Klinghofer found himself in a packed box car bound for God knows where. Buchenwald camp was a site where prisoners were forced to work producing buttons, shoes and textiles. The camp was overseen by German SS officers and was frequently used by the Gestapo for torturing prisoners.
Some time after Klinghofer’s arrival, but no sooner than he was able to cement his reputation as a highly skilled and productive worker, the camp was visited by one of the most feared Nazis, Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich had inspected the camp closely. As he walked the rows of prisoners lined up at the barbed wire fence at the perimeter of the common yard he came face to face with Klinghoffer. As a skilled bootmaker, and his reputation in the camp beamed from him, Klinghoffer was promoted by Heydrich to foreman of the boot factory workers, due to praise lavished upon him by his Nazi captors who had daily witnessed the production of finely crafter leather boots for German officers.
Praise was rarely given to prisoners but the product of Klinghofer’s toils was valued by the SS, and the skilled young boot “Artist” in the camp was widely spoken of.
An ambitious, young and cruel SS captain named Boris Schoelch was subsequently stationed …