KISS rocker Gene Simmons gave a briefing at the Pentagon this week, and as he spoke about his mother, who survived the Holocaust and came to the United States, he became emotional about what America and the American flag mean to his family.
“I’m a proud son of a concentration camp survivor of Nazi Germany. My mother was 14 when she was in the camps,” Simmons said before taking a pause. “I’m measuring my words because I’m about to break up again.”
“My mother just passed at 93, but…,” Simmons paused as he choked back tears. “… If Americans could see and hear… my mother… talk about America, they would understand.”
Watch his four-minute speech here:
Simmons’ mother, Flóra Klein, was born in Hungary. She and her brother, Larry, were the only two members of their family to survive the Holocaust. She was 93 when she passed away in her sleep this past December.
View this post on Instagram
I lost my Mother. My mentor. My moral compass. And I am heartbroken. 😞 My Mother, Flora Klein passed away at 93 years of age. No illness. No pain. She simply quietly, went to sleep. My Mother will always be in my thoughts and in my heart. Today. And Forever. And I would urge all of you, to run over, put your arms around your mother, kiss her and tell her how much you love her. Do this every day!
“When we first came to America, my mother let me stay up and watch TV with her,” Simmons, 69, said at the Pentagon. “I couldn’t speak English very well, my mother could barely get by. By 12 o’clock, the three or four TV stations would go off the air and you’d just hear noise.”
“[One night,] Before then we saw a jet flying through the sky on TV. A man in a deep voice was saying something, I couldn’t understand it, and then the jet turned skyward and flew seemingly into the heavens, through the clouds,” he continued. “I remember what the man said: ‘And saw the face of God.’ And then it melted into the black and white, because in those days we didn’t have color [TV].”
“The [American] flag was full-screen, billowing. I heard the national anthem […]. And every time… ah…,” Simmons said, as he chocked up again, “… Every time my mother saw the flag, she’d start crying.”
“As an 8-year-old boy I didn’t understand why. But from my mother’s point of view, we were finally safe,” he said. “I may have been born in the country that people throughout history have referred to as the promised land, but take my word for it: America is the promised land for everybody. And don’t be ashamed, don’t hesitate. We need to teach young people to be comfortable with saying God bless America.”