Klaus Weiss was born to a Jewish veteran and Christian mother in Berlin. He recalls feeling great love and support from his parents and siblings throughout his childhood. He worked in his family-owned men’s clothing store as an errand boy and attended a public school and Jewish vocational high school. He cites that he never experienced any anti-Semitism from his peers.
As Hitler began to rise in 1933, his family moved to Wiesbaden to live with his mother’s father for shelter. Despite the passing of the 1936 Nuremburg Laws and prioritization of the Aryan race, his family remained a strong unit. During the beginning of WWII in 1939, he was relocated to England via Kindertransport. He was 15 at the time.
When he turned 16, the British police placed him into an internment camp alongside other refugees. He worked within the cook house and prepared food for the other inmates. Through this, he was able to secure small rations for himself. He was released shortly afterwards and moved to London, where religious restrictions were lifted. He notes that all citizens treated others as “friendly creatures.”
He worked in a department store until the age of 18, when he was able to volunteer to serve in the British army. This opportunity presented him with the option to legally change his name to Kenneth Wilde. He describes this choice as one that was rooted in protection for his family who continued to live in Germany. The English Red Cross allowed him to periodically correspond with his immediate relative through letters of 25 words or less. He traveled back to Kiel with the American Joint Distribution Committee.
Weiss reunited with his family, who then was given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States in 1946. He was demobilized after this and moved back to England where he obtained a visa to follow his family. In November 1947, he started his new life with his family in St. Louis. Here, he met his wife.
Written by Emma Rieser