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
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