Holocaust Survivor Shares Story of Overcoming Hunger and Helping Those in Need

40 Faces of 40 Years Milton Kleinberg

Photo: Milton is seen standing in front of a photo of his book Bread or Death: Memories of my childhood during and after the Holocaust—which has been transcribed in Hebrew.

Milton Kleinberg knows true hunger. As a Holocaust survivor, he and his family were among Jews exiled to Soviet labor camps. The excruciating journey from Poland through Russia and Siberia and eventually to Central Asia took him 4,500 miles away from home. Milton—only four years old old at the time— quickly became familiar with the feeling of hunger.

“For over nine years I knew what real hunger was,” said Milton. “Just imagine waking up every day and not knowing if you’re going to eat. It occupies everything you do. The average person really can’t understand it unless they’ve been through it.”

During the Holocaust, he saw how hunger affected those around him. How the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness made people do just about anything to satisfy their need for food. “People will kill for hunger,” said Milton.

Despite living through one of the worst atrocities in human history, Milton never gave up hope. With the help of his family, he eventually escaped and moved to the United States when he was 14 years old, eventually finding a permanent home in Omaha.

“I’ve been so many places in my lifetime. I’ve seen people in all conditions, but I haven’t found a place in the world that competes with Omaha.” He says it’s the people of the Midwest that make Omaha an easy place to live, a good place to do business and a great city to raise a family. “Here, they treat me well and I can prosper,” said Milton.

Milton credits his faith and family for overcoming his time during the Holocaust. He says family is the foundation of everything. “I tell my kids the same thing I tell my staff, if you belong to family who cares, you’ll never go hungry.”

These fundamental values can be accredited to everything Milton’s achieved in his personal and professional career, making him a successful entrepreneur. He is the chairman and CEO of Senior Market Sales, Inc., an Omaha-based insurance marketing company—founded in 1982.

Milton views Food Bank for the Heartland as a family— working together to alleviate hunger in our communities to take care of the people who need the most help. “The Food Bank does a wonderful job providing food to everyone who needs it— it doesn’t matter who you are.”

Milton uses his past experiences as a platform to make a difference for the future. He supports several Omaha non-profits including Food Bank for the Heartland. When asked why it’s so important to give back, his response was simple; “The world belongs to the doers, and you never know what someone is really going through.”

While he thinks it’s intolerable that people in our country face hunger every day, he wants everyone to know that together we can make a difference. “When people respond to hunger, they respond to kindness.”