Fred Friedman

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Fred Friedman - Austria


Fred Friedman was born in Salzburg, a city in Western Austria near the German border, in 1926. His immediate family consisted of four people: Fred, his parents, and his younger sister. His father was a veteran of World War I. Fred attended elementary school from 1933 to 1937, and then he started gymnasium, which was a combination of what we think of as middle and high school.


In March of 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria. Saltzburg was the first big city to be occupied by the Nazis. The Germans were welcomed with open arms by the general public, many of whom believed that Austria was a natural part of the Reich. Many Austrian Jews were very fearful of what Nazi control of their country would mean. They knew what conditions were like for Jews in Germany - they were stripped of all civil rights, constantly harassed and deported.


Soon many of these anti-Semitic restrictions were in effect in Austria, mirroring the Nuremberg Laws which had been passed a few years before in Germany. Nevertheless, at the start, Jews were still allowed to freely emigrate and to leave Austria. One needed to wait and obtain a permit to do this. These permits were hard to come by, but Fred's father got one and he was able to leave the country and go to Switzerland.


Next, Fred and his sister were smuggled out with the help of a Swiss woman. They left through the town of Freiburg and were passed secretly into Switzerland. Fred's mother came through two months later, and the family was reunited.


Fred's family came to live in Central France. They stayed there about a year. When World War II broke out, the French government required that all males over the age of 18 from the refugee population be sent to detainment camps to live. Fred's father had to go to one of these camps. Conditions there were not the best; there was always a shortage of food, and the living quarters were cold and threadbare. His father started keeping a diary, and formulated a plan to leave Europe and take his family to America to live as soon as he could get released. Fred's mother worked to get visas from the American Consulate, and they were sponsored to come over by an uncle who already resided in the U.S. In 1941 the family left France. They traveled through Spain and Portugal and arranged passage to leave for America, but it was not possible for them to travel all together. Fred went over on a ship with his father, while his mother and sister went on another ship. A few weeks later they met again in America.


Fred continued his education growing up in New York. When the U.S. joined the War against Germany, Fred wanted to enlist in the army right away, but he was too young. He didn't turn 18 until 1944.

When the War was over, Fred went back to Austria several times. He looked for anyone from his family who might have survived. Not many had. His two grandmothers and an aunt died in Theresienstadt. He was married in Buffalo, New York and studied accounting and law. When the time was right, he took his youngest son to Dachau, a concentration camp near the German-Austrian border. How do you explain to anyone such hatred and darkness? Fred knows that though it may be impossible, we must try anyway.



Related Resources for this Speaker:



To the Land of the Cattails

Applefeld, Aharon. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1986.

The Devil in Vienna

Orgel, Doris. Puffin Books, 1988.


The Holocaust: Life Unworthy of Life

55 minutes