Fred Findling

"Remember the three E’s: Education, Education, Education.  In the Jewish tradition and the Torah (Bible); learning, studying and education, helps us become more enlightened.  Education is the greatest opportunity for success in life no matter what you do.  In this country, you can become whatever you choose to be.  Get an education and you will succeed in life. "

Name at birth
Siegfried Findling
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Cologne, Germany
Name of father, occupation
David, Itinerant worker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Etla Gotesdiener, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and five children: Joseph, Fanny, Fred, Martin and Regina
How many in entire extended family?
Less than ten
Who survived the Holocaust?
Joseph, Martin, Fanny, Regina, my uncle Chaskiel, my cousin Joseph and myself
  My uncle Charles (Chaskiel) who lived with the family moved to London, changed his name to Charles Gordon later joined the British army.  My cousin, Joseph Kirchenstein survived in Brussels, Belgium.  He was rounded up by the Nazis in 1943, sent to Maligne for deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but survived because he was a tailor and useful.
I came from a very religious family. My father had difficulties finding work in Cologne.  Our family was very poor and lived in the inner city.  As the Nazis came to power, I remember at the age of 6 running away from other kids who threw rocks at me because he was Jewish. Jews were not allowed to go to the public park.  When we did go, several Nazis tried to drown my father.  
On October 16, 1938, my father and uncle were rounded up and deported back to Poland, because they were Polish nationals.  This was the first ethnic cleansing of Jews in Germany.  16,000 Jews were shipped back to Poland.  On the way to the police station to be deported, my father told his 10 year oldest son Joseph, “You are now in charge of the family”.  
On Kristallnacht (the night of the Broken Glass), November 9, 1938, I remember coming home from school. I passed by a synagogue in which all of the Torah (Bible) scrolls were being burned in a large bonfire. A Nazi shot the Mogen David (Star of David) off the roof of the building.
During Kristallnacht, the Nazis went door to door to round up Jews.  They pounded on the door of our apartment. All five children hid under the bed.  After a while, the knocking stopped, and they went away.  My mother made plans to have the family leave Germany.  By pre-arrangement, a cousin living in Brussels, Belgium arranged to come on the train carrying me, Joseph, Martin, and Fanny on our way to Belgium.  The cousin talked the conductor in allowing the children through.  My mother and my 18 month old sister, Regina stayed behind in Germany, and several months later were smuggled across as well.  A Jewish organization helped us find a children’s settlement.  My father, now living in his home village, Frysztag, Poland, was never able to be reunited with the family. In 1941, he was later shot with a group of 5000 Jews that were rounded up in the area.
In 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium. My brothers and I were now living in a Jewish children’s home for boys, joined up with a girls’ home, and were able to get out of Brussels by jumping onto a freight train of boxcars. After three days of traveling without food and water, we ended in southern France, in a village, named Seyre near Toulouse and Marseilles.  A year later, when the Nazis started rounding up Jews in France, The director, Alex Frank, found an abandoned castle where 50 boys and 50 girls stayed. It was named Chateaux de La Hille, further south, near the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. We became known as the Children of La Hille, (pronounced “La EE” in French).  
Through Eleanor Roosevelt’s (President Roosevelt’s wife) program of “Save the Children”, some children were able to come to the United States without a visa if they were able secure written permission from their parents.  My brother Joseph was able to write to our parents and secure their written permission to come to America. On September 24, 1941, Joseph, me, and Martin arrived in New York.
My mother and two sisters stayed in Belgium. In 1943, the Nazis started rounding up the Jews in Belgium to ship them to Auschwitz for extermination. My mother and two sisters went into hiding (like Anne Frank). My mother was discovered by the Gestapo and shipped to Auschwitz, where on August 3, 1943; she was gassed upon her arrival. My two sisters were then sent into hiding in a convent in Brussels. They both survived the war and were reunited with us brothers in the US in 1948.
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Where were you in hiding?
France, by Pyrenees Mountains in castle Chateaux de La Hille
How is it that you came to Michigan?
A Jewish family, Max and Techla Adler, in Detroit agreed to take us and sponsor us. I became independent at 16, worked my way through college until I became a lawyer.
Occupation after the war
Lawyer, civil rights activist. I went to Central High School then earen my BA degree at Wayne State and in 1956, a law degree. While attending Wayne State University I was befriended by an African-American World War II veteran. We were refused service and thrown out of many bars around school, which refused to serve blacks. My friend enrolled in law school and encouraged me to do the same. We have remained lifelong friends. Because of my own experience with discrimination against Jews, I became active in Civil Rights, and represented many people in Detroit who were falsely arrested. In 1963, I went to Danville, Virginia, and represented 365 people who were arrested for demonstrating. I filed a Habeas Corpus Proceeding in the Virginia Supreme Court, my life was threatened and I was told to get out of the State. I have been in practice for over 53 years and work full-time.
David, lawyer; Debbie, assistant director of a charitable foundation; Daniel, lawyer; Darren, lawyer; Tamara, in college; Tim; in college
What do you think helped you to survive?
I never had a childhood; I had to grow up very fast. I suppose the desire to live, the will to live. Don’t we all want to live? I was able to not be emotionally scarred by what I had been through. I was able to have the memories without the emotions. I’ve learned to put the past in a proper perspective so that I could go on with life.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Remember the three E’s: Education, Education, Education.  In the Jewish tradition and the Torah (Bible); learning, studying and education, helps us become more enlightened.  Education is the greatest opportunity for success in life no matter what you do.  In this country, you can become whatever you choose to be.  Get an education and you will succeed in life. 
Charles Silow
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