Ella Wieder Freilich visits a spa in postwar Czechoslovakia.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 75344
1946 June 19
- Krusnych, Czechoslovakia
- Photo Designation
DISPLACED PERSONS/RETURN TO LIFE -- Medical Care -- Czechoslovakia
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hadassah Lieberman
Ella Wieder Freilich visits a spa in postwar Czechoslovakia.
- Hadassah Lieberman is the daughter of Rabbi Shmuel (Samuel) Freilich and Ella Wieder Freilich. Samuel Freilich was born to Aaron and Hewci (Katz) Freilich in Torun in Transcarpathia on April 16, 1902. Samuel had three brothers Menachem Mendel, Hersch Tzvi and Moshe (b. 1888) and two sisters, Gitel and Chaja. Hersch immigrated to US in 1909. The family was strictly religious and followers of the Satmarer Rebbe. Samuel and his brothers received a traditional yeshiva education. Hersch moved to the United States and settle in New York in 1909. Menachem traveled to Switzerland to study and became an avid Zionist. Having broken with Hasidism, he settled in Brno and became chairman of the local Poalei Zion. Under his influence, Samuel also decided to obtain a secular education and attended the Charles Law School in Prague, graduating in 1934. He then became the rabbi of a liberal congregation in Leitomischl (Litomysl). However after Germany annexed that portion of Czechoslovakia, his congregation folded, so Samuel moved to Brno to join his brother. His brother Hersch requested an American visa for him but it arrived too late to be of use. Samuel also sought the assistance of American congregations for help in getting a U.S. visa but none was willing to help. Since Hungary annexed the Transcarpathian region of Czechoslovakia, Samuel obtained Hungarian citizenship which exempted him from wearing Jewish star. Menachem obtained a Palestine visa; he sold his and immigrated with his family. In 1940 Samuel also received a Palestine visa. However, rather than leave immediately he spent the winter in Budapest and then went to visit friends and family in Munkacz. There he was conscripted into a Hungarian forced labor camp. After several weeks he was allowed to return home but in the summer of 1941, he was mobilized to build fortifications on the Yugoslav border. By the time he was released, his travel papers had become invalid. Samuel accepted a job teaching Hebrew in Munkacz only to be conscripted yet again the following autumn. Hungarian gendarmes loaded the Jewish conscripts on a train east eventually arriving in Minsk in January 1943. Hungarian military policed stripped them bare, beat them and forced them to perform calisthenics prior to marching them towards the front. They arrived at Ostrogozhsk on the Don River where they bedded down in abandoned Russian huts, but within a few hours they had to resume their march to escape advancing Russian troops. Samuel's brigade began marching west through deep snow. The Jews were not issued rations, but some Belorussian peasant s shared their food. During the march, a truck ran over Samuel's foot. At first the captain refused to allow Samuel to ride in a military vehicle but eventually relented after Samuel pleaded and warned that he would later need to account to God for his actions. He became separated from his original unit but continued west joining up with others until he eventually arrived in the Ukraine. By the spring of 1943 the snow began to melt, but by then many of the Jews had contracted typhus. The retreat was halted on the outskirts of Lvov, and the Hungarians decided to quarantine the Jewish typhus victims in a former Russian cooperative called Doroschitz. The make-shift hospital had neither beds nor medicine; over a thousand Jews died. Eventually the Hungarian government recalled the Jewish battalions and sent them back by passenger train to Budapest to recuperate. After his release, Samuel briefly worked in Khust as a Hebrew school principal though he was officially on leave from his work brigade. However he soon rejoined his brigade and was dispatched to the Austrian border to build anti-tank traps and bunkers. In December 1944, Russian troops were deep in Hungary and his brigade was forced to march to Schachendorf in Austria. The workers again built fortifications and received barely any food. A friend from Munkacz served as camp leader and appointed Samuel to be his secretary. Samuel assigned hospital passes to those who were sick. However he soon learned that instead of taking the infirmed Jews to a hospital a German soldier simply removed them from the camp and shot them. Samuel therefore established a work rotation to keep the weakest men away from the "hospital" but also allowed them to rest. In March 1945 the Germans evacuated Schachendorf, and the prisoners were sent on a death march. Samuel managed to escape together with twenty others by pretending to be Hungarian farmers escaping the Russians.
After liberation Samuel returned to Hungary and went to Budapest where the greatest number of Jewish survivors had gathered. In consultation of the rabbinic seminary, Rabbi Freilich helped establish Tarbut schools in Budapest, Debrecin and Sighet funded by the Joint Distribution Committee. Rabbi Freilich also became politically involved. A delegation came to him asked him as a lawyer and rabbi to assist with the plight of Carpathian Jews who faced deportation from the Sudetenland. With funding and support from the JDC and the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Freilich established the Reconstruction and Naturalization Office and successfully lobbied the Czech government to grant full citizenship to Carpathian Jews.
Samuel Freilich also met Ella Wieder who was born February 17, 1916 in Raho (Rakhiv), Transcarpathia. She had survived early internment in Bratislava and Calomea and deportation to Auschwitz and subsequent incarceration in Natzweiler, Dachau and Allach concentration camps. They married n Prague in the Altneuschul in February 1947. After the Soviet Union assumed power in Czechoslovakia the following year, the Freilichs left Prague and immigrated to the United States with their infant daughter Hadassah (b. March 28, 1948). Rabbi Freilich worked as a pulpit rabbi congregation in Gardner, MA until his retirement.
Though Samuel Freilich and his wife survived, most of their immediate family perished in the Holocaust including their parents Aaron and Hewci Freilich and Chaim and Esther Wieder and siblings Gitel Chaya and Moshe Freilich and Magda Wieder, Rochel Wieder Davidovicz and Sarah Wieder Feig.
[Source: Freilich, Rabbi Samuel; "The Coldest Winter", New York: The Appelbaum Co., 1998.]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Hadassah Lieberman
Record last modified: 2015-05-12 00:00:00
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