Shaya Fried (Part VI)

Please tell us about liberation.

Typhus was rampant. I contracted the disease as well. At midnight came the news that the war was over, and everyone was free to go where they please. The soldiers and guards were gone. The Russian army had arrived and liberated us. There were at least a hundred people lying on the floor and not one of them moved. Some of them were fatally ill. Others, like myself, had nowhere to go.

I remained there until six o’clock in the morning, and then I began to walk. Because I had typhus I didn’t feel well, so I didn’t overeat when food was available.

I was able to get a ride with a Russian convoy, headed toward Czechoslovakia. We were situated about an hour and a half from Czechoslovakia. Once in Czechoslovakia, I took a train to Bruno, where I lost consciousness and collapsed. They took me to a nearby hospital. I was unconscious for three weeks. During that time, I had a dream. I dreamed that I died, and then my father appeared before me, and he said to me, “You promised me something.” At that point I regained consciousness and I started to scream. The doctors and everyone around came running.

It took another few weeks until I was able to move around. When I was released from the hospital, I wanted to go to Budapest. However, the train was not an option for me. There was pushing and shoving and far too many people. I got a worker from a nearby hotel to transport me to the spot where the train leaves. He was kind and helped me up to the train and found me a seat.

Did any members of your family survive?

My mother’s brother, my uncle Yeedle Friedman, was the only person in my family who survived the war. He spent the war years in Romania. He knew that I was alive, and he kept asking after my health. When I arrived in Budapest he met me at the place where refugees were housed.

At liberation I weighed 35 kilos (about 77 pounds). After I lived with my uncle for five months, and I had gained back some weight; my cousin came from Germany.

This cousin took me from my uncle’s house and registered me in a yeshivah. In 1948 the yeshivah moved. I had a chance to travel to Holland. There I went back to school and learned the trade of typesetting. This trade served me well once I came to America. Although today everyone has a computer and this job is not so necessary, back in the 1950s it was considered a very good business. I left Europe in 1950.

When I arrived in the U.S., I settled in Williamsburg with an older couple. They had two bedrooms. I shared a room with another boy as well. I had an aunt here by the name of Mrs. Brach who lived in Brooklyn, a wonderful person. Two of her sons were in yeshivah with me. We formed a very close relationship, and I spent many Shabbosos with them. I married my wife in 1954. We had a very nice wedding.

I never spoke to my children as they were growing up, about my experiences in the Holocaust. I began opening up to them during the Pesach Seder. Here in America, a Rav by the name of Rabbi Lichtenstein was mekarev me tremendously.

What message would like to leave for future generations?

Everything comes from the One Above. Even those who never davened for Moshiach, today they await his arrival.

 


These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.