“I survived three ghettos, nine concentration camps and three death marches,” says Holocaust survivor Lou Frydman, 77. “My (older) brother Abraham and I are the only survivors of a family which once numbered over 40 individuals.”
When Germany invaded his native Poland in 1939, Frydman’s family was forced from its Lodz apartment into a series of ghettos until finally captured with 400 others during the Warsaw Uprising.
“My concentration camp experiences began on April 28, 1943, when I was 12,” Frydman says. “As we emerged from the bunker where we’d been hiding, the Nazis removed our belongings. All the men, including my father and uncles, were led away and executed nearby. The rest of us were marched through the burning ghetto to the train for a five-hour journey to Majdanek, a deadly concentration camp in eastern Poland.”
Two days later, a camp announcement called for all expert male metal workers to step forward.
“My mother ordered us to volunteer,” Frydman says. “At her bidding, Abraham and I raised our hands, and our lives were saved. We were immediately marched to a waiting train. I never saw my mother again. She couldn’t have survived more than six months. In November 1943, all 42,000 Jewish prisoners in the Majdanek camp complex were executed.”
Frydman survived a year at Budzyn before being moved to other camps either by marching or train. One train ride included a horrific “selection” stop at Auschwitz station.
“Everyone got off the train and lined up. Able-bodied men and women were directed to the left,” Frydman recalls. “Children and adults determined unfit to work were sent to the right to be gassed. The air was laden with the acrid smell of burning flesh. Witnessing the column of those shuffling towards the crematoria defied human comprehension.”
On a later death march from Natzweiler to Dachau, Frydman was separated from his brother.
“I couldn’t continue,” he says. “I urged Abraham to go on because he’d be shot if he stopped to help me. My next memory was waking up in an American Air Force hospital after the liberation of Dachau on April 29, 1945. I’ve no memory of being rescued or liberated.”
Three months later, he and Abraham were reunited. The United Nations Refuge Rehabilitation Agency made arrangements for their travel to New York and placement with the Jewish Childcare Association.
The brothers survived a series of unhappy foster homes until they finished school and got their own apartment. Frydman worked a variety of jobs and attended night classes at City College, N.Y. He became a U.S. citizen in 1953, graduated top of his class in sociology in May 1954, married Jane Brunner in Central Park the following December, and received his master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in 1956.
In 1969, Frydman accepted an associate professorship at Kansas University’s School of Social Welfare.
“We intended to stay a few years, but my boys loved Lawrence, and we’ve been here ever since,” he says.
He’s doesn’t know why he survived when others did not.
“I think it was partly luck, my mother’s quick thinking and sacrifice, my brother’s support, and the different thought processes I used to keep me alive,” he says.