Oskar survived many close calls. Every four or five days, he had an experience where he thought he was going to die, but he miraculously survived.
The closest was when a Nazi soldier was counting off every 10th Jew to kill, and he was mistakenly counted as No. 10, but the Nazi guard caught the mistake, and Oskar was actually only number 9.
Another time he escaped and travelled hundreds of miles eastward through the Polish forests, crossed a heavily guarded river, and was rescued by Soviet soldiers.
He was once strafed by British Spitfire planes along with other laborers at an airfield.
Another time he escaped from the Germans by hiding in a hay bale.
Then another time he snuck into a group of American POWs being marched to a camp, falling behind the last guy in the line. When he tapped the man on the shoulder, he responded 'Holy sh--!,' The Americans gave him a coat to blend in.
After the war was over, Klausenstock served as an interpreter for the occupying U.S. Army, he even spent some time working for Gen. George Patton.
Klausenstock was the only one of 38 family members to survive the Holocaust.
Oskar Klausenstock served as a doctor in the U.S. Army from 1955-57.
Tiburon man recounts escapes during Holocaust
Marin Independent Journal
Wednesday is International Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Dr. Oskar Klausenstock of Tiburon never spent time in Auschwitz, but he vividly remembers the names of five camps where he did spend time: Plaszow, Gross-Rosen, Ganacker, Flossenburg and Dachau.
"There were several others," said Klausenstock, 87.
A retired radiologist/oncologist, Klausenstock sits in his comfortable Reed Ranch home and marvels that he survived so many close calls. The closest: when a Nazi soldier was counting off every 10th Jew to kill, and Klausenstock - then in his late teens - was No. 10.
"He counted sieben, acht, neun ... and then for some reason he looked at me and said neun again," Klausenstock said. "And the man next to me had to step out and be No. 10."
Klausenstock was the only one of 38 known family members that survived the war. Two aunts and one uncle escaped to Palestine before the war broke out.
"Dad's an amazing man," said Dan Klausenstock, 48, son of Oskar and Judy Klausenstock, who were married in 1952. "To overcome what he has experienced and still have a positive attitude and be upbeat about humanity at all, it amazes me."
Klausenstock was born in a tiny village in southern Poland. "My shtetl made the one in 'Fiddler on the Roof' look like a metropolis," he said. As a teen he apprenticed to a weaver and a furrier and played goalie for his school soccer team. All that changed on Sept. 1, 1939, when World War II began with the German blitzkrieg.
The area was quickly overrun and the apartment he shared with his mother and stepfather was ransacked. Jews were rounded up and detained.
In the first of his many escapes, Klausenstock received a break from an old soccer friend who had been recruited to work for the Germans. A planted note from the friend told him to scale a wall at midnight, so young Oskar did just that, slicing his hands on the glass shards protruding from the top. He fled with a younger cousin hundreds of miles eastward through the Polish forests, forded a heavily guarded river and was welcomed by Soviet soldiers.
He assumed the life of a Ukrainian farm boy but was overrun again by the Nazi forces. His first concentration camp was Plaszow, made famous by "Schindler's List" - a film Klausenstock is forbidden to see by order of his wife. He was often transferred to other camps and worked in quarries, as a blacksmith and as a welder.
At Flossenburg, he was detained along with the son of Soviet premier Jozef Stalin. He narrowly missed being assigned to an unexploded bomb detonation detail in which many Jews were killed.
He was once strafed by British Spitfire planes along with other laborers at an airfield where the Nazis were testing the first jet plane, the Messerschmidt Me-262.
"Somehow my luck followed me the entire war, and I don't know why," Klausenstock said. "Every four or five days, I had an experience where I thought I was going to die."
In May 1945, he was being marched outside of a camp with a group that had started as 800 emaciated and exhausted prisoners. Anyone who stumbled and fell was shot. The group, down to about 45 survivors, was stopped for a rest at a barn. Klausenstock hid in a hay bale and was stunned that no German soldiers checked the bales with a pitchfork.
When he came out the next day, he saw in the distance American POWs being marched under guard toward a camp. He sneaked behind the group while wearing his prison camp striped pajamas and tapped the shoulder of the last man in line.
"He said two words I'll never forget: 'Holy sh--,'" said Klausenstock, who knew enough English to understand.
He was given a coat to blend in with the marchers. Arriving at the camp, the prisoners cleaned up their new mascot by soaping him up in a pigs' trough. "That was my baptism," Klausenstock said.
A few days later, an Allied victory was declared. Within weeks, Klausenstock was serving as an interpreter for the occupying U.S. Army, and that fall he spent some time working for Gen. George Patton just before the general died from injuries in a traffic accident.
When the Allies were staking European claims in the months after the war, the Soviets had eyes for the famed Lipizzaner Stallions, which had been moved from Vienna to Simbach, Germany. As far as the Soviets were concerned, the show horses were property of the Hungarian military and thus could be turned into cavalry horses. Klausenstock orchestrated a transfer of the horses into American hands and later learned to ride the stallions himself.
Klausenstock studied medicine in Frankfurt, Germany, before coming to the United States in 1949 with the aid of U.S. Army contacts. He had $1.90 to his name when he was accepted at Boston University.
He laughs as he recounts the three years he worked as a doctor at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. "Imagine me, after what I had been through, a captain in the U.S. Army right next to Tombstone, Ariz.," he said. He finished his studies at Stanford, worked at two hospitals and then opened his practice in San Francisco in 1959.
Klausenstock has soothed himself by writing his memoirs, mostly unpublished, and immersing himself in poetry. He has never attended a Holocaust survivors meeting.
"When it was all over, foremost in my mind was to forget it," Klausenstock said. "Some people have more difficulty than others in doing that. My healing was that I was not a Holocaust survivor, I was a human being. In a way, I have become a stranger to myself, but it is a good estrangement."