Witness to the Holocaust
“Tomorrow will be better”Fritzie Fritzshall was born Fritzie (Frida) Weiss in Klucharky, Czechoslovakia in 1931. Upon Nazi occupation of Klucharky, Fritzie and her family were brought to a ghetto in a nearby town.
In 1944, at the age of only 13, she and her family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Fritzie survived selection by pretending to be 15 years old at the advice of one of the inmates when she got off the train. Otherwise, she would have been considered too young to work. Eventually, Fritzie would be separated from the rest of her family. When she asked when she would see her mother again, fellow inmates pointed to the smoke of the crematorium.
A few weeks after her arrival, Fritzie saw her brothers Elia and Mendel on a work detail, however, she did not get the chance to speak with them. It was the last time she would see either of them again.
While interned the only family member Fritzie found was her mother’s sister, who brought Fritzie into her barracks. Each night Fritzie’s aunt would hold her close and tell her, “Tomorrow will be better.” Fritzie attributes much of her survival during her time in Birkeanu to her aunt.
While inside Birkeanu, Fritzie worked on a labor detail that carried stones from one corner of the camp to another. On the next day, she had to carry the stones back to where they had been before. Close to the end of the war, Fritzie was moved outside the camp to do slave labor in a factory, where parts for airplane compasses were produced.
In 1945, Fritzie was liberated on a death march by the Russian army. In 1946, she came to the United States and was reunited with her father, who had been able to escape the Holocaust. Her mother, two younger brothers and other family members all perished.
Today, Fritzie Fritzshall is Vice president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and speaks extensively about her experiences on the local, state and national level. She sees the new Illinois Holocaust Museum as a place for remembrance, and a place dedicated to the memory of all the people lost during the Holocaust. Fritzie also believes it represents a teaching tool - “Only through education can we prevent these horrors from happening again.”