This is Fredzia Marmur, a Polish Jew born in Lodz. She and her family was Born in Lodz and incarcerated in The Lodz Ghetto and later the Ravensbrück Concentration camp. She and her mother survived and were rescued from Ravensbrück by the Swedish Red Cross in the final weeks of the War. Here she is landing at Malmö, the Swedish port near Copenhagen (April 28, 1945). Malmö became known as the Harbor of Hope. Fredzia was a rare child survivor of Lodz. The comment "Oh, that was me!" was what Fredzia exclaimed when she first saw this press footage years later. Then she immediately said, Where is my mother?" She explained that throughout their ordeal she was never far from her mother, except when she was committed to the camp hospital for Scarrlet fever. Most of the hospital patients were cartered away and murdered, but somehow Fredzia survived.
All we know about Fredzia's childhood is that she was born in Łódź, Poland (1935). Łódź was a major Polish city with a large Jewish population. Before World War II it was the home of Poland's second largest Jewish community, second only to Warsaw. About 230,000 Jews lived in Łódź.
The Germans only 7 days after invading Poland seized Łódź. Within days after seizing the city, attacks on Jews Began. Jews were beaten and their property stolen and seized. The first official anti-Jewish measure occurred on Rosh Hashanah (September 14, 1939). Fighting was still underway around Warsaw. German authorities ordered Jewish shops to remain open, but closed the synagogues to close, making it impossible for Jews to celebrate their holiday. The military situation deteriorated rapidly. The Soviets invaded (September 17) and Warsaw surendered (September 27). after which resistance collapsed. The Germans annexed areas of eastern Poland including Łódź into the Reich and changed the city's name to Litzmannstadt. Litzmann was a German general who was killed during World War I while trying to take Lodz. For several months the Germans carried out daily round-ups of Jews for forced labor. There were also indescriminate beatings and killings on the city streets. To simplify the task of identifying Jews, authorities issued regulations requiring Jews to wear a yellow star armband (November 16, 1939). A month later the regulation was changed to the yellow Star of David badge (December 12, 1939).
Friedrich Übelhör, NAZI governor of the Kalisz-Lodz District, drafted a secret memorandum explaining the need for a ghetto in Lodz (December 10, 1939). The NAZIs confined more than 160,000 Polish Jews to the Łódź ghetto (May 1940). Large numbers of Jews from the ghetto were sent to Chelmno and gassed to death, some of the earliest mass killings (January 1942). The Getto was particularly notorious because the Camp Commandant ordered all the children (non-workers) toi be rounded up and murdered at the Chelmo Death Camp--the Allgemeine Gehsperre (September 1942). Somehow Fredzia survived. That is almost certinly due to her parents. Unfoirtunstely we do not hsve the detils. Fredzia and her mother were some of the last people being sent from the Łódź ghetto (1943). It is at this time the men, including Fredzia’s father, was separated from the women. Frdzia remembers a 'terrible cry'. They were transported to the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp rather than the Chelmo Death Camp which was still operating. Fredzia writes, "I didn’t understand what was happening, but everyone thought it would be the last time we saw each other." We suspect that Fredzia was not told, but most of the adults understood that the Germns were killing most of the people being transported from the Ghetto. The Lodz Ghetto was finally completely liquidated as the Red Army was moving east through Poland. The remaining 70,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau (September 1944).
Ravensbrück was a concentration camp for women some 90 miles north of Berlin. Fredzia recalls arriving at Ravensbrück, "In the camp, we had to stand in the freezing cold every morning at 4am to be counted, then we could go in and have a cup of “coffee” – I don’t know what it was really, but it was a hot drink." She describes life at the Camp. "We had bunk beds, but because it was cold my mother put the two thin mattresses on the top bunk and we slept there together. We put a handkerchief over the bare wood of the bottom bunk to serve as a tablecloth, making it our lounge. Before lights out, friends would come in and sit around, talking about better times."
She recalls tht her mother wore her dress inside out, because with the seams exposed it was easier to see and pick out the lice. Ravensbrück was a work camp. She Fredzia recalls that she and her mother was forced to work at a Siemens factory near the camp. They put "together little wires for aeroplanes or trucks. I don’t know whether she volunteered because she thought it was a way of surviving or if we were taken to do it. A German man who worked in the same part of the factory smuggled me bread rolls, when he could." Small hands may have been an advantage in the work whivh may be why she was not killed. Children who could not work were routinely murdered. She says about the German bringing her bread 'when he could' because anyone caught giving food to Jews could be severely punished. After a while she caught scarlet fever and was transferred to the infirmary. Concentration camps did not have hospitals. There were no medications available or mediacal pricedures offered. She recalls, "Every night people were taken away and never seen again. My mother would come each morning in terror, hoping I was still there." Every morning when Fredzia’s mother would come to visit her she feared that Fredzia had been disposed of, like many other ill prisoners. She was still very weak when the Swedish Red Cross with their famned White Busses arrived.
The Swedish Red Cross White Buses rescued concentration camp inmates from many countries safely to Swedem during the last months of the War. These people were in terrible condition and many required extensive medical care. This was a humanitarian operation organized by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government (stll occupied by the Germans). The Danes were involved because the busses had to travel through Denmark to get to Sweden. The goal was to rescue camp inmates in the remaining German concentration camps and transport them to neutral Sweden. Although the operation was initially designed to save inmates from Scandinavian countries, it soon was expanded to include other nationalities. Hitler never would have permitted tis if he had known. It was only possible because the organizers go permission from of all people SS-Reich Führer Heinrich Himmler. The arch war crinimnal and mass murderer at the time was thinking about his post-War future. Camp inmates through rumours knew that the war was ending. The guards at the camp began separating out some of thev prisoners who ere not told why. They were marched to the draft block. This was a facility for people about to be killed. This is what the women thought.
Fredzia recalls, "I remember being on my mother’s knee, and her saying: 'I’m sure we’re being liberated,' but really she thought we were going to be killed." Than the guards ordered them, "Out!." To their surprise they found a line of buses--the Swedish Red Cross Buses. Fredzia writes., "There was a line of Red Cross buses. We were given a parcel; it was quite heavy and I wasn’t very strong after the scarlet fever. I asked my mother if I could leave it. She said: 'No, there’ll be food in there!' My arms ached, but there were delicious things inside. We ate powdered milk by the spoonful – some people died because they overate after being hungry for so long."
The Danish Government was involved because the busses had to travel through Denmark to get to Sweden. Denmark was still occupied by the Germans. Danish ports were not gthe closest, but presumably the Swedish Red Cross was hesitant to try to move Jews out of the collapsing Reich through a German port. Thus the busses headed for Denmark. Fredzia recalls, "The buses took us to Denmark, which was wonderful. We slept in tents with paper blankets; everybody was so diseased they were going to be destroyed afterwards, but they were very nice to lie on."
From Denmark they boarded boats which took them to Malmö, a major Swedish port near Coenhagen. They arrived on the morning of April 28, 1945. In the archive film from this day she is handed sweets from a Red Cross aid worker. Fredzia recalls arriving in Malmö, "I arrived with my mother (third from right, with her back to the camera) on the morning of 28 April 1945. After what we’d been through, we couldn’t believe we were received with so much warmth. I remember there were photographers. The first thing to do was shower and get new clothes (ours were full of lice) but there weren’t any in my size. [This reflcts the degree to which the NAZIs targeted Jewish childen.] One of the volunteers ran home and brought me her daughter’s summer dresses with puffed sleeves and a white dress with polka dots. I wore them in the middle of winter because they were so beautiful. My schoolmates thought I was crazy."
The Marmur Family was arare Polish family to survive the War. Fredzia’s father also survived. He went to Sweden to be reunited with his family. They stayed and lived in Stockholm for many years. Here Fredzia met her husband, rabbi Dow Marmur. They moved to England (1956) and from there to Toronto, Canada. They lived in Canada for many years. Today Fredzia and her husband live in Israel. It was in Israel that Fredzia recognized herself and her mother in newreel footage part of the 'Harbor of Hope documentary. She recalled her coat.
Marmur, Fredzia. "Fredzia Marmur, aged nine, arrives at Malmö Harbour, Sweden, 28 April 1945," The Guardian (October 13?, 2015).
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