For award-winning artist Gene Simmons, it's very clear who affected his life most profoundly out of anyone: his mother. Their joint and individual struggles during Gene's childhood provided the basis for everything that he has become today, and he isn't shy to admit how important a role she played in making him the man he is.
In an exclusive interview with Distractify, Gene candidly reflected on some of his mother's sage advice to him. Furthermore, the KISS singer-bassist addressed the adversity that she faced — both on her own and with him — and touched on how it all culminated into the life lessons he hopes to instill in a younger generation. Keep reading for some personal details on who Flóra Klein was in the rock star's own words.
Gene Simmons' mother, Flóra Klein, was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
Flóra was a resident of Budapest when the Nazis came into power. At this time, she and virtually all other Jewish people in Europe had their freedoms stripped from them in a gradual process that resulted in her imprisonment at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
"When my mother was 14 years old she was in a German Nazi concentration camp along with our family, and only my mother made it out alive," Gene reflected about the ordeal.
As he grew older, Gene learned the true extent of what Flóra had endured as a young woman.
On Jan. 15, 1945, Flóra was transferred to the Venusberg subcamp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Just two months later, after a grueling journey in which many fellow Jewish people died, she was relocated yet again to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Flóra remained imprisoned there until the United States Army liberated the camp just a few days before the war ended.
After Flóra recovered from malnutrition, she flew back to Hungary to start anew. In 1946, she married a carpenter named Ferenc "Feri" Yehiel Witz. The duo immigrated to Haifa, Israel in 1947 and she gave birth to Gene in 1949. Flóra and Feri divorced shortly after, leaving Gene and his mother to fend for themselves in the newly-established nation.
According to Gene, his mother afforded him "every opportunity and every choice" by immigrating to America.
Gene's childhood in Israel is an important building block in who he became as an adult. It allowed him to develop an appreciation for the little things in life that he wasn't able to have access to in the then-burgeoning country.
"Israel was a new country and if you’re born there [at that time] there was no infrastructure," he explained, "I was born six months after the country became independent, and people were poor."
On that lack of infrastructure, Gene elaborated, "We had dirt roads, horses, donkeys, and all that stuff. There was no Air Force, Navy, nothing!"
"We didn’t have a refrigerator, we didn’t have a radio," he added of his childhood home, "our bathroom was a little hole in the ground outside this one-bedroom where we lived, my mother and I."
The duo immigrated to the U.S. in 1958, but even then, Flóra endured a difficult life to provide for herself and her young son. According to Gene, she worked "in a sweat factory without even a minimum wage." He said that her shifts were "six days a week from 7 in the morning until 7 at night" and that she put up with this treatment "just to be able to pay the bills because my father was not around."
Despite all odds, Flóra worked diligently to provide for Gene and gave him the springboard to pursue the creative interests that have made him a worldwide superstar. Sadly, Flóra died in December 2018 at the age of 93, but her words of wisdom still resonate with Gene to this day.
"When I heard my mother say what I thought were corny things like, ‘Every day above ground is a good day,’ you know when you’re a kid you’re like, ‘Come on!’ Then you get older and realize what a jack--s you were not to recognize the truth of that," Gene reflected.
The unapologetically truthful rock legend went on to say: "My mother knew what she was talking about and young people don’t know f--k-all. They’ve experienced no life, no qualification, and have no experience."
As a word of advice to his younger fans, Gene stated that "younger people should shut their pie hole and listen to people who have actually lived life to find out what’s going on."