Holocaust survivor tells story to save others

Sam Fried was 15 when he was captured and sent to Auschwitz.

Sam Fried was 15 when he was captured and sent to Auschwitz.

His parents were sent to the gas chambers right away. He was forced into labor in the high-voltage lines of the coal mines, and eventually escaped from a Nazi death march as the Allies approached to liberate everyone still alive.

From a conversation with Sam Fried:

My late wife Magda, also a survivor, and I never used to tell our stories. We didn’t want to subject our children to the horrors of our pasts. But in 1978, some professor wrote a book about how the Holocaust was a hoax and people like us said, “We can’t let them murder the victims all over again.” That’s when Magda and I started telling our story to kids in schools.

In April of 1979, as part of the Society of Survivors, we had a dinner to honor all of the liberators we could find. We wanted to let them know how grateful we were to the American GIs who risked so much for our freedom. Louis Blumkin was involved in the liberation of Dachau and the Blumkin family (who owned Nebraska Furniture Mart) helped the survivors rebuild their lives in Omaha by giving anyone who wanted one a job.

Louis and Frances have, over the decades, supported our efforts to help the world avoid another atrocity like the Holocaust.

I lost my wife in 1985. My current wife, Frances, lost her husband in 1986. We were lucky enough to find each other and to begin life again. It is rare to find love even once in a lifetime, and I am lucky to have been able to fall head over heels with this lovely lady.

Although Frances did not have to endure the horrors of the Holocaust personally, she embraced this cause and together we co-founded the Heartland Holocaust Educational Fund, which finances Holocaust education courses at Nebraska colleges.

We also gave much of the funding for the Nebraska Holocaust Memorial in Lincoln’s Wyuka Cemetery. At first, I didn’t want to support it. I’m not about building memorials of just bricks and mortar. I believe that the best way to honor the victims of the Holocaust is to ensure that their future generations will not have to be subjected to similar horrors.

But then I found that this was an opportunity to reach the thousands of schoolkids who are brought to Lincoln each year to visit the Capitol and also visit Wyuka. We worked very hard to make sure that the Holocaust Memorial in Wyuka tells the story of the Holocaust and is used to educate all who visit it. There are pictures of many of the victims of families in Nebraska, including my own.

In 2011, Frances and I were honored that Louis and Frances Blumkin once again joined us in our efforts toward educating future generations by establishing the Louis and Frances Blumkin Professorship of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Much has been said about “survivor guilt.” I didn’t have that problem. The last words I heard my mother say to me were, “Save yourself.”

I feel so grateful for my life. I feel that the biggest gift I can give to my parents is to do what I am doing. I feel the biggest honor I can give to the people who died is to help make sure that their descendants have an opportunity to live lives that are free. It has been difficult for me to tell my story over the years, enduring the nightmares that the memories bring.

But I’m not telling this story for my sake or your sake or even for the victims’ sake. I’m telling this story for our grandchildren’s sake, and for the future generations, so that this horrible part of history will never be repeated.

For information about supporting UNO, contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

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