Tribune photo by Chris Walker
April 13, 2009
Holocaust survivor Fritzie Fritzshall of Buffalo Grove stands by the antique German rail car exhibited at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. Fritzshall's family was celebrating the last day of Passover in 1944 when they were forced to leave their home in Czechoslovakia.
Taken by cattle car to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the family encountered Jewish prisoners who were assigned to board the train and remove the detainees and bodies of those who did not survive the dank, brutal ride. One man, skinny with a shaven head and wearing a striped uniform, brushed by the children, whispering in Yiddish, "You are 15. Remember, you are 15." "This was the first man who made a difference," said Fritzshall, who at 13 quickly learned the significance of her age. By pretending to be older, she was spared certain death and allowed to work in a factory.
Her aunt offered her the second saving gracesheltering her in the barracks where "she held me every night and said things will be better," Fritzshall said who was eventually reunited with her father in the United States. Fritzshall's mother, two brothers and grandparents did not make it.