Hundreds of Kern County students got a rare history lesson Thursday.
A Holocaust survivor, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, author, and Academy Award winner visited Frontier High School to share her amazing story of survival. As a thank you, the students gave her a gift, of music.
Frontier's Big Blue Marching Crew performed their current show, "Paper clips and Angels."
The music is inspired by a documentary called, "Paper clips." Middle schoolers in Tennessee collected six million paper clips, one for every Jewish victim of the Holocaust.
On Thursday, the Frontier band played their music for someone who knew a lot of people those paper clips represent. In the front row, Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein, who was just 15 when World War II began.
"What I want to do is assure our young people here, my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, that they should always value freedom and American citizenship among anything else," said Klein.
At the age of 88, Gerda still travels the country, sharing her story as she did on this day to more than 700 Kern County students.
The last time she saw her parents, they were being separated to different concentration camps in the summer of 1942. Her father made her wear ski boots. She didn't want to then, but now she credits them for saving her life, after wearing them three years straight in captivity.
"I saw girls breaking off their toes like twigs from frost. I had my ski boots," said Klein.
Gerda shared the unthinkable details of those years and unforgettable ones too, like the day in May of 1945 when she was liberated. Weighing 68 pounds and without a shower for three years, she saw a U.S. Army officer in a car and he stopped.
"Here was this very handsome, young American officer holding the door for me," said Klein.
That officer, Kurt Klein, wouldn't just hold that door open for her. He opened the door to their lives together. They were married the next year.
"Yeah, it was moving," said student Crystal Lopez of Klein's story. "I was on the verge of tears."
"It was really nice for her to come out here, I think. I liked it," said student Marcus Williams of Klein's visit.
Gerda has shared her story by writing a book. Then, her memories turned into an Academy Award winning documentary, and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom two years ago.
And, the performance from the Frontier band, "Paper clips and Angels" is something else Gerda can take away, knowing she's helping keep the memory of those lost alive, held together by music and paper clips.
"So, you can identify each paper clip with a story. You can identify it with my story because I almost wasn't here," said Klein.
Gerda lost her husband several years ago. She currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and travels with her granddaughter to do these special appearances.