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Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust

A survivor’s account of Auschwitz

By Hédi Fried
16-minute read
Audio available
Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust by Hédi Fried

Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust (2019) is a survivor’s account of the darkest moment in recent European history. Hédi Fried has spent her life educating young people about the Holocaust and answering their questions. In this book, she considers those questions one by one, and paints a picture of her nightmarish experience that should act as a warning from history.

  • Anyone worried about the rise of racism and nationalism today
  • Those with relatives affected by the Holocaust
  • People interested in modern European history

Hédi Fried is an author and psychologist. She was transported from Sighet in Romania to Auschwitz in 1944, then worked in several labor camps, before ending up in Bergen-Belsen. Following liberation, she went to live in Sweden with her sister, where they have lived ever since. She is the author of The Road to Auschwitz: Fragments of a Life. For her work, she was made Officer of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and Honorary Doctor at Stockholm University.

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Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust

A survivor’s account of Auschwitz

By Hédi Fried
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust by Hédi Fried
Synopsis

Questions I Am Asked About The Holocaust (2019) is a survivor’s account of the darkest moment in recent European history. Hédi Fried has spent her life educating young people about the Holocaust and answering their questions. In this book, she considers those questions one by one, and paints a picture of her nightmarish experience that should act as a warning from history.

Key idea 1 of 10

Injustice must be stamped out at the very beginning.

Hédi Fried was born in 1924, in the Romanian town of Sighet. 

Her early childhood was happy, surrounded by a large and close-knit family, and a community who looked out for one another. Sighet was a diverse place — with Romanians and Hungarians, and Jews and Christians living side by side.

Gradually, though, she began to notice things change. As a Hungarian Jew, she found herself running into prejudice more and more.

The key message here is: Injustice must be stamped out at the very beginning.

The first signs of this prejudice built up almost imperceptibly, like the first silky strands of a spider’s web. In the 1930s, these strands began to multiply.

One day, as war was brewing, Hédi’s school asked the students which sort of service they’d like to provide, in case conflict broke out. She opted for the postal service and was excited about a new challenge. As the students were sent to meet their instructor, he began his training by asking if everyone present was Romanian. When Hédi didn’t raise her hand, she found that she wasn’t allowed to continue — she was sent home, in angry tears.

Then, not long after this, after war had begun, the Hungarian army marched into Romania and brought with them Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws. First, Jewish public servants were dismissed. Then, Jewish doctors and lawyers were only allowed to treat and represent other Jews. Jewish stores were closed to non-Jews. Then, crushingly for Hédi, schools were closed to Jewish children.

And as each of these terrible laws were implemented, Hédi and her family adjusted themselves to the new reality. Even as the web tightened around them, they were confident that it would pass. The war would soon be over; Germany would be defeated.

But each of these steps was the precursor to something worse. Soon, the Fried family were forced to stitch yellow stars to their clothes. Soon, they were banned from the streets, parks, and cinemas. Still, they grew accustomed to it. 

Then, they were forced from their home and into Sighet’s Jewish ghetto. Even then, as Hédi hugged her dog Bodri goodbye and said farewell to her childhood bedroom, piano, and diaries, she believed this too would pass. That she and her family would soon return.

Much later, she realized that this terrible process should never have been allowed past the first stage — that day when she was sent home from school for being Jewish. Her lesson to us now is: never, ever, get used to injustice.

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