Survivor Profiles: Fritzie Fritzshall
Words fail me because I am overwhelmed by the generosity and caring that has taken place in the building of this museum. It’s a dream that has come true. The opening is truly a bittersweet moment for me and the survivors who have worked so hard for it. The dream becomes reality with the support and participation of our community. The Museum brings a wonderful opportunity forward to teach about the past, to learn about the legacy and to show the younger generation a better future.
In 1929, Fritzie was born Fritzie Weiss in Klucharky, Czechoslovakia. She lived with her mother and two brothers, as her father had immigrated to the United States in order to provide a better life for his family. In 1944, the Germans invaded Fritzie’s hometown and she and her family were forced into a ghetto. Shortly after, she and her family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, where her mother and two brothers were murdered. She was only fourteen years old. Close to the end of the war, Fritzie was moved to a sub-camp of Auschwitz, where she worked as a slave laborer in a factory. In 1945, she was finally liberated by Soviet forces while on a death march to Germany. In 1946, after the war, Fritzie came to the United States and was reunited with her father. She eventually settled in Chicago, became a hairdresser, and married a World War II veteran and Japanese POW survivor, Norman Fritzshall. They had one son.
Fritzie was an active member of the community, serving as President of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. She spoke extensively on the local and state level about her experiences and lessons of the Holocaust. In 2015, Fritzie was awarded the Bertha Honoré Palmer Making History Award for Distinction in Civic Leadership from the Chicago History Museum, and in 2020, the Global Citizenship Hero award from the Chicago Red Cross.
Fritzie’s virtual reality film, A Promise Kept, allows visitors to Illinois Holocaust Museum to journey alongside Fritzie as she recalls her childhood memories and surviving Auschwitz. Her hologram also tells her story in the Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience.