by Jerrold L. Sobel

Growing up in the Bronx during the mid-fifties it was quite common for Jewish kids in my neighborhood to see Mr. Leader the butcher, or Mr. Feinberg the appetizer man, or many of our own relatives with numbers tattooed on their arms. Just sitting around the dinner table or visiting family on Sundays, my friends and I often heard first hand, unimaginable accounts of life in concentration camps from survivors of the Holocaust. Early on we became aware of the personal impact the Shoah had on real people, people we knew and loved. A casualty of time, the human impact of the Holocaust no longer exists. Fortunately, thanks to private and governmental agencies throughout the world Holocaust museums, the most famous of which, Yad Vashem in Israel have been created to keep the memory alive since most Jews that survived this mass carnage are now either too old and infirm or deceased along with their personal tales of horror. At times like this it's important to keep alive and remember real life, first hand accounts from heroic people such as, Luba Tryszynskas, the "Angel of Bergen-Belsen."

For saving the lives of 54 abandoned children at a Nazi concentration camp, Luba Tryszynskas Fredrick earned the name Angel of Bergen-Belsen. I found out about this woman serendipitously googling an old Yiddish song my parents used to sing, "Tell Me Where Can I Go." My search led me to a husband and wife musician team, Curtis and Loretta that had just completed a beautiful, CD, "Just My Heart for You," a compendium of Irish folk type music, recorded in Minnesota. Hearing my interest in this Yiddish song, Loretta graciously sent me a copy of their CD and told me of this remarkable woman who had recorded a short English version of the song I was looking for. Along with the CD she also enclosed a newspaper interview Luba had given to the Oregonian on October 18, 2000 at age 79. This is the story of a true heroine.

Luba came from Kamenitz-Litovsk, a small town in Eastern Poland, home to 10,000 Jews. Late in 1941, at age 20, she remembered the Germans storming the town and herding the women and children onto wagons forcing the men to walk, destined for a ghetto just outside Warsaw. Her father, suffering from an infected leg, Luba begged a soldier to allow him to ride in the wagon. Pointing out which one he was, the soldier unceremoniously shot and killed him instead. Following 15 months of living in the ghetto, along with her husband and son, the family was packed into cattle cars and shipped off to a labor camp. The horror of what happened next is un-imaginable.

Arriving at the camp she was thrown off the train and separated from her husband. Her son was immediately wrested from her hands, screaming "mama, mama" he was dragged away from her never to be seen again. With tears rolling down her face she lamented the look on the child's face as he faded from view, only later to find out his destination was the gas chamber. In a similar vein, Luba expressed to the interviewer that although five decades had passed she still mourned the death of her first husband who like their son was also murdered at the camp.

Luba went on to recall the physical and mental rigors of the camp and the unbearable stench of death which permeated the air. Anguished by the death of her child and her beloved family and on the verge of physical exhaustion she finally received what under the circumstances was considered good fortune, she was transferred to Bergen-Belsen as a nurse in December 1944.

There she continued, while resting in her bunk voices kept echoing in her ears late one night. At first she thought it was an hallucination, hearing the voice of her son but eventually ventured outside the barracks and found 54 feral Dutch children ranging in age from babies to teens. Having lost their parents to the gas chamber, they were just tossed outside in the freezing cold awaiting their own death by one means or another.

Due to the death of her son and husband, and no longer caring If found out, Luba risked instant death and took the children in. She went on to say, her state of mind was, "If I die, I die." In fact, she almost did. An elderly German guard once caught her hiding them but she pleaded with him to let her keep them by appealing to him as a grandfather. He finally relented but not before giving her a severe beating for having the impertinence of touching his sleeve during her entreat.

As a nurse, Luba was driven with one obsession, to save the children. She recalled being "a thief," and went on to say how she once smuggled 15 pounds of horse meat into the barracks to feed the kids and along with vermin the children would catch, she would boil the meat from melted snow they would gather. In like manner, she would also sneak medicines from the commissary attending to the sick ones. Having not been able to save her own son Luba related that she felt God had given her a chance to save someone else's child.

By the time the allies entered the camp on April 15, 1945 many of the children were deathly ill, but fortunately, only 2 of the original 54 tragically succumbed to their illnesses. For her heroic efforts, 50 years later at the behest of Queen Beatrix, the Dutch awarded her, "The Silver Medal of Honor for Humanitarian Services." This however paled in comparison to the joy she felt re-uniting with 69 year old Jack Cohen Rodriguez, one of the children she saved.

Rodriguez stated in a year 2000 interview, "The only thing I knew was that Luba knew how to behave and she knew the way"....."I never questioned in my mind that as long as I was with her, that things were going to turn out ok."

When discussing the Holocaust people have referenced the death of 6,000,000 Jews for for so long, the number itself is often thought of as a singular unit. It's often difficult to fathom each one of these people were unique individuals. Like Luba they had families, loved ones, each with life stories all their own. Regrettably, their lives being cut short, they never had a chance to tell them. Today in a twisted sense of political correctness there are school systems in both the United States and Europe, out of fear of offending Muslims, have stricken the teaching of the Holocaust from their curricula altogether. Even worse are pseudo academic college professors which sheath their anti-Semitism by denying the Holocaust ever occurred at all. It's to this backdrop that first hand accounts such as Luba's must be chronicled for posterity and not lost to the dust bin of history.

After the war, Luba and her second husband Sol Fredrick, likewise a Holocaust survivor moved to Sweden and finally to Washington D.C. where they opened a small jewelry store. He passed away in 1975 as did she in 2007.


For more information or to purchase the CD with Luba's voice on it you can visit Curtis and Loretta's web site: or email them at There is also an excellent book I found on entitled: Luba-The Angel of Bergen-Belsen/As Told to Michelle R. McCann by Luba Tryszynskas-Fredrick.


This article was submitted August 29, 2011.

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