Skokie, Ill., June 20, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – As a Holocaust survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Fritzie Fritzshall dedicated her life to fighting the hatred and prejudice, inspiring people to become Upstanders rather than spectators and talking to make our world a better place.
He relentlessly fought hatred, telling his harrowing survival story and articulating his ideas on current issues, including the rise of anti-Semitism and the refugee crisis.
The Nazis occupied the hometown of Fritzie, Klucharky, Czechoslovakia, and deported Fritzie, his mother and two brothers, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp when Fritzie was just a young teenager. His mother, two younger brothers and other family members were killed.
“There’s no way to describe what it was like to be in the wagon hungry, cold, without food, without water, watching pregnant women begging for water, watching different people die in front of you for lack of food, air and water,” Fritzie said. “My own grandfather died in this car going to Auschwitz.”
To survive, he pretended to be older than her. Fritzie endured a torturous year in Auschwitz and in a related Nazi labor camp, where he worked as a slave in a factory. In 1945, she was finally liberated by the Soviet army after escaping to a nearby forest during a death march.
After the war, in 1946, Fritzie arrived in Skokie, Illinois, and reunited with his father, who worked for Vienna Beef and had come to America before the Holocaust to provide his family with money. abroad. Fritzie married a World War II American veteran who had been a prisoner of war in the Pacific and made a living in Chicagoland as a hairdresser, becoming an avid fan of puppies.
Fritzie’s call for activism began in the late 1970s when neo-Nazis threatened to march through the streets of Skokie. The terror and outrage of seeing swastikas in their community prompted a group of survivors to establish the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation in 1981 to fight fanaticism with education. The Foundation was a small but passionate operation located in a modest shop window on Skokie Main Street.
“We said we were coming to a free country and we don’t need to be afraid to say we are Jewish,” he recalled. “We do not need to be afraid to go out and be identified. We no longer wear yellow bracelets. “
Fritzie along with 20 Holocaust survivors from Chicagoland, who gathered in a Survivors basement, had the dream of one day opening an educational institution that would preserve the stories of Survivors and teach Holocaust lessons to current and future generations.
In 1990, Fritzie, along with other survivors, persuaded Gov. James Thompson to sign the first Holocaust education mandate, making Illinois the first state in the country to require Holocaust education in all schools. public primary and secondary. “I want to encourage teacher training and student learning about man’s continued inhumanity toward man,” Fritzie said.
In 2009, Chicagoland Survivors ’long-held vision of opening a world-class educational institution became a reality with the opening of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center on Woods Drive in Skokie. It is the third largest Holocaust museum in the world and, since 2010, Fritzie has been its president.
Under Fritzie’s direction, the museum grew to inspire more than 285,000 people each year, teaching them to stand up for what is right, transforming powerful history lessons today into positive actions. The museum has also received national accolades, including recognition as the winner of the 2017 National Medal of the Institute of Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest award for a museum.
“Fritzie was the heart and soul of our museum,” said Susan Abrams, general manager of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. “He played an important role in the museum, transforming from a regional actor to a world leader, sharing his survival story and his lessons through cutting-edge technology, including interactive holograms and virtual reality films. He regularly watched in awe as Fritzie fascinated the audience with his story and lessons. Everyone who was touched by her will never forget. It was an inspiration for me and for so many others. “
Fritzie, in a 2019 interview: “I want the world to remember and never forget, never, ever, the Holocaust. We say ‘never again,’ but we often don’t mean ‘never again.’ to be “never again.” He has to stop. ”
During Fritzie’s presidency, the Illinois Holocaust Museum conceived and developed interactive 3D holograms of Survivors as a way to preserve Survivor stories in the most impactful way for future generations. Studies show that listening to Survivor’s testimony has a profound impact on an individual’s relationship with the history of the Holocaust.
Making its world debut in 2017, the Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories experience it was named one of the 12 must-see exhibitions around the world Smithsonian Magazine and appeared in 60 minutes. The theatrical experience allows museum visitors to participate in holograms of Holocaust survivors. It uses Dimensions in Testimony, developed by the USC Shoah Foundation in partnership with the Illinios Holocaust Museum, and allows people to ask questions that generate real-time answers from previously recorded video interviews with Holocaust Survivors . Fritzie is one of the holographic recordings.
Fritzie endured five grueling days of answering thousands of questions about her experience before, during, and after the Holocaust to share her story for future generations, a truly selfless act. Fritzie understood the value of his testimony for future generations and embraced the process, knowing that he was taking Holocaust education to a new level and securing his legacy.
Later in his life, Fritzie worried that the world would not remember the horrors of Auschwitz. What could happen to these sacred and horrible lands in the years to come? Would they stay? Or allow for decay, decimating the proof of what happened to her and millions of others.
The Museum will open in 2021 A promise kept, a virtual reality experience where visitors can stay with Fritzie when she returns to Auschwitz and tells the story of the promise she made to 599 women who, with each loaf of bread, kept her alive during the Holocaust.
Once again, demonstrating Fritzie’s commitment to innovation in support of Holocaust education, this is the first time that virtual reality technology will be used to archive, preserve, and produce the Holocaust Survivor testimony. in Auschwitz.
John Rowe, a longtime friend and former chairman of the Museum Board, noted that “his fellow prisoners asked Fritzie to be his messenger. He fulfilled that hope in the ultimate way through this museum. But Fritzie was much more than a messenger, much more than a survivor. His life has been a blessing to his family and to all of us who loved him. She was a really great lady. “
Governor JB Pritzker, the first president of the Museum Board, comments: “Fritzie wanted us to know that there are good people everywhere. Even in the most difficult, threatening, and horrible circumstances, goodness might be present. He spent much of his life teaching children and adults that we should all be like the stranger who saved his life on the train to Auschwitz that day. He always said, “A person can make a difference.” He continued, “Fritzie was the person who made the difference for many. She embodied the decency and kindness she implored from others. She was strong, faithful and affectionate. A fundamentally good person has disappeared today. I already miss her and I will never forget it ”.
Fritzie, who enjoyed a special friendship with Cardinal Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, returned to Auschwitz in July 2019 to record his story in A promise kept, the virtual reality experience in development of the Museum. With the cardinal as a companion, this trip became the subject of a four-part program that aired on ABC7 Chicago entitled Return to Auschwitz. The series explored the history and lessons of the Holocaust and was presented by news anchor Alan Krashesky, which attracted record audiences.
Fritzie often spoke publicly about his experience and current issues. Again, demonstrating his willingness to embrace technology and all forms of storytelling, Fritzie appeared to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel Chicago Stories podcast in April 2018, recorded live at the museum of the 75th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. On February 2, 2017, Fritzie joined other Holocaust survivors at a press conference to speak out against the Executive Order on Immigration, which discriminated on the grounds of religion, national origin, and ethnicity. The statements of Fritzie and his fellow survivors received wide media coverage from major media outlets, including NBC, ABC, WGN, Chicago Tribune, i Huffington Post, among others.
Recipient of the award
Fritzie has received numerous awards throughout her tenure as Museum President, including the Bertha Honoré Palmer Making History for Distinction in Civic Leadership Award given by the Chicago History Museum in 2016, the Chicago American Red Cross Global Citizenship Award and the northern Illinois in 2020, and in 2021, the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance.
Mother, grandmother, matriarch
Fritzie inspired countless people with his powerful message of hope and resilience after the darkness of the Holocaust. However, her most proud success was the family she built with her late husband, World War II veteran Norman Fritzshall. Fritzie and Norm loved their son, Steve, their daughter-in-law, Hinda, and their grandchildren, Scott and Andy. He also had a special relationship with his nieces and other family members.
“To know Fritzie and understand Fritzie’s life journey is to know a true humanitarian, a true hero in many ways, a person with immense compassion, full of humility and a desire for a better world,” said Jordan Lamm, president of the Museum. Board of Directors.
Fritzie was a Holocaust survivor who made an extraordinary difference in the world. She exuded openness and warmth and was always willing to start a conversation with a stranger, in an elevator, hallway, or on the sidewalk. Visitors to the Illinois Holocaust Museum will continue to see his vital work in action as the institution he led continues to carry out its mission: Remember the past, transform the future.
About the Illinois Holocaust Museum
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center pays tribute to Holocaust survivors and victims and transforms history into current, relevant, and universal lessons for humanity. Through world-class exhibitions and programs, the Museum inspires people and organizations and offers a call to universal action: Take history to heart. Take a stand for humanity. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 with the last entry at 4:00. For more information, visit www.ilholocaustmuseum.org or call 847-967-4800.