Gene Simmons was surprised by German media, Bild, who shown him documents related to his mother's release from a Nazi concentration camp.
Simmons' mother, Flora Klein, was aged 19 when American troops liberated the Mauthausen camp on 5th May 1945, just three days before World War II ended. Her Jewish family had been subject to Nazi Germany's attempts to wipe out her race and Klein was the only survivor of her family. She lived a long life afterwards and had passed away in 2018 aged 93.
She fought all of this on her own.
When discovered and revealed by Bild to mark the anniversary today, Simmons became very emotional upon reading her victim impact statement. "She was strong," the KISS band leader said as he shed tears from time to time.
"... If somebody says that all of this was in the past - that's not true. It was yesterday. It all happened just now. When you see what recently happened at many elections, that's not good."
In the statement, Klein wrote that after her family was ordered to leave Budapest, Hungary, she was sent to a "Yellow House" to live in 1944. She was then moved to the concentration camp in Ravensbruch where she worked gathering potatoes and lived in a hut that was "surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the SS". A year later in January, she was moved yet again to another camp and then to Mauthausen via forced marching and overcrowded train carriages. She had also written that many died during the journey. You can see the statement at the end of the article.
Klein was awarded compensation payment in 1949 for her ordeal. She moved to Israel, and later the U.S. when Simmons was just eight years old.
Upon reading the documents, Simmons pointed out his grandmother's name. "My mother told me that they drove the old people into the gas chambers first," he said. "My mother spoke of her last conversation with her mother. They touched each other's hand, and then – gas chamber."
The Kiss frontman later recalled, "My mother told me why she had survived. When she was a 12-year old girl, she came to a hairdresser and learned how to cut hair. The SS commander's wife needed someone to do her hair. She asked several girls: 'Do you speak German?' The girls raised their hands and said 'Yes'. Whoever raised their hand was sent to the gas chamber".
Simmons continues, "My mother spoke a little German, but she didn't say so. That was the reason for why she was chosen. When she was doing the hair, the commander's wife thought she wouldn't understand anything. But she did."
Simmons' band mate Paul Stanley had later asked the paper to help him discover more about his own mother, who had escaped from Nazi persecution in Berlin in 1935 as a girl.
Documents that Bild recovered told them that Stanley's mother and her parents abandoned their belongings one late night after being tipped that the secret police, Gestapo, was going to arrest them the next day. "We drove to the Anhalter Bahnhof train station, where the car was simply left behind, just like the apartment and everything that was in it," Stanley's grandfather wrote in his victim impact statement. "In order to remain inconspicuous, we chose the slowest train via Dresden to the Czech border at Tetschen-Bodenbach. Wife and child were seated in a third-class compartment. I myself sat down in an adjacent compartment."
His family safely reached the Netherlands in 1936 and eventually the U.S. four years later. Stanley's mother died in 2012.