The Holocaust swept away not only six million Jews, but the culture that they shared. And nowhere was the devastation greater than in Poland, as about 90% of the roughly 3.2 million Jews who lived there in 1939 perished. One of the communities that was destroyed was the small city of Brody. As of 1900, Brody was a center of Jewish learning and culture, and almost 90% of the residents were Jews. By the close of the Holocaust, no Jews were to be found there. Almost all had been murdered in town or deported to death camps.
Among the few who survived were Henry Friedman and his immediate family. With the assistance of Julia Symchuck, a young Ukrainian woman, they were able to find sanctuary only a few months before the Nazis liquidated the ghetto in Brody. For more than a year, Henry, who was then in his early teens, endured near starvation. So did his mother and younger brother, and hunger, combined with a constant fear of betrayal and seizure, tore away at family relations. Finally, in 1944, the town where he and his family were hiding was liberated by the Russians. After four years in a displaced persons camp, the Friedmans were allowed to move on to the United States. Henry settled in Seattle, where he still lives. He has been very active in speaking out about the Holocaust, and his interest in education has extended to playing a leading part in the creation of a Holocaust museum in Seattle. He was also instrumental in causing Julia Symchuck and her parents to be recognized as “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
Henry Friedman’s memoir, I’m No Hero: Journeys of a Holocaust Survivor, will be available for purchase after his talk.
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