John Freund

* 1930

  • “Fred Hirsch was a great personality, and Olympian personality, I would say. He came from Germany and he was a brave and beautiful person. He was actually a leader of the youth in Auschwitz as well. And then he committed suicide rather than to go to the gas chamber. He would have gone to the gas chamber together with the children and he would not have been able to watch the children suffer, and so he rather committed suicide.”

  • “Americans then let us get into a truck and they drove us away. We passed through Nuremberg. I felt great joy, for the city was totally destroyed and nothing has been left standing there. It was the only joy I had. They have deserved this. Then we arrived to the Czech border and people gave us a welcome there. It was the beginning of May, the radio played loudly, and the President Beneš then arrived there.”

  • “We, the Jewish children, were publishing a magazine in Budějovice. It’s been turned into a book now. The magazine was called Klepy (‘Rumours’), it had beautiful illustrations, and there were short-stories written by us, the children. Many photographs and drawings. If you are interested in it, a book called The Underground Reporters has been published about it, but it has not yet been translated to Czech.”

  • “One of us lived in Holland and he remembered the selection of those ninety boys. He was searching whether some of them have survived. Later he was psychically ill, he was one of the people who were not able to bear it. He already died. He began with the search, and I and the others received a letter from him. I then followed up the creation of the book instead of him. In this way we found almost everybody; about half of them – forty-five – have survived it. Some of them were here, some in America, some in Israel. We thus began exchanging letters, and the book came into being as a result. And we also had a reunion here in Prague.”

  • “When I returned from the village at the end of the summer vacation, one of my relatives told me that I had to go to school. He led me there, and when we came and he introduced me, the principal – I still feel sick even now as I am speaking about it – the principal told me that he had received an order not to admit any Jewish children. That this order has never been repealed and that he was thus not allowed to admit me to the school, imagine that!”

  • “We were scared. He asked me: ‘How old are you?’ I told him: ‘Fourteen years and one month,’ because it was a month after my birthday. We were scared when we knew that it was either death or life. I was almost trembling. But you could not show that you were afraid, that would not help you at all.”

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    Praha, 28.05.2014

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I began to call our group Birkenau Boys

dobová fotka.jpg (historic)
John Freund
zdroj: Dobová: archiv pamětníka, současná: Vilém Faltýnek

  John Freund was born as Hanuš Jan Freund on June 6, 1930 in České Budějovice in the family of paediatrician Gustav Freund. At the time before the outbreak of WWII he could have become one of the ‘Winton‘s children,‘ but the family did not use the opportunity. In April 1942 the Freund family boarded a transport and they spent the following year and a half in the ghetto in Terezín, where John‘s father worked as a doctor and John lived in the facility for young people which was led by Arne Ehrlich. The family was transported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz in December 1943. They lived together in the so-called family camp until April of the following year. After the liquidation of this family camp and the subsequent selections, John got included in a group of boys who were to be sent for work in spite of their young age, and who later became called ‘Birkenau Boys‘ by John himself in publications he wrote. His mother died in a gas chamber, and his father and brother were shot during an evacuation march under unknown circumstances. In January 1945 John was included among prisoners who were marched inland from the abolished concentration camp. He survived the death march, then he spent two months in the camp Flossenbürg and he was eventually liberated by the American army during another death march. After the end of the war he returned to České Budějovice, but since there was nobody with whom he could stay, he went to the countryside to help with agricultural work. After the summer vacation he began studying grammar school in Prague and he lived with his aunt Anna Weissová who became his guardian. After February 1948 he accepted an offer from a Canadian Jewish organization and he went to Canada, where he has been living since then. In the 1980s he co-authored the book After Those Fifty Years: Memoirs of Birkenau Boys. He funded its publication by himself and it was published for the first time in 1992. He is also the author of memoirs Through the Valley of the Shadows of Death.