Fryda Fleish

"Stay with your family, your family is a treasure."

Name at birth
Fryda Bester
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Chrzanow, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Yosef Bester, Owner of a fish delicatessen. We had a family fish delicatessen, something that doesn’t exist in this country, called a “Sladziarnia”. We sold herrings, sardines, smoked fish, cheeses.
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Esther Gross, Owner of a fish delicatessen called a “Sladziarnia” in Polish.
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Yosef and Esther; me and my younger sister Malka (Molly)
How many in entire extended family?
We had a large family, about 50-60. My grandmother came from a family of 12 children. The whole city was one family.
Who survived the Holocaust?
Two aunts, a cousin, and myself.
The Germans came to Chrzanow in 1939; I was 12 years old at the time. My family fled to Cracow (Krakow), Poland; my parents, my sister, my grandmother, two aunts and their children. After two days, we decided to come back home. On the way home, there was a town, Trzebinia, where the Germans had taken Jewish people and shot them into a mass grave; we were lucky to pass by. When we arrived home, Chrzanow was now a Ghetto. The times were very bad.  
Our home was located approximately 12 km from Auschwitz where we could see the smoke rising from the chimney stacks. The trains to Auschwitz were visible and we could hear people screaming from the trains as they passed by our city or stood still waiting for entry to Auschwitz. 
At the start of the German occupation, we didn’t know exactly what was taking place in Auschwitz or on the trains. By 1941, when construction of the Birkenau camp began, it was clear that Auschwitz and the trains were a death sentence. Young men from our city were taken and forced to build the main camp at Auschwitz. These men would return home only on the weekends and then after a few weeks, we never saw them again. 
In February 1942, there was a large Selection. At dawn, people (whole families) were taken for a Selection. Some were sent to Auschwitz, some to a labor camp, some back to their homes (but not for a long time). Those of us who were selected for a labor camp were taken to the Jewish Center in Chrzanow where we waited for a transport to an unknown location.
The next day at the Jewish Center, while I was waiting for my transport, someone came up to me and said look out the window and you will see your mother and sister. I saw them looking up at me from across the street and this was the very last time I saw my mother and sister. As we were leaving the Jewish Center to be transported by trucks to the Sosnowiec Stalag, I saw my father in an upstairs window. This was the last time I saw my father. 
From Sosnowiec we were then transported by train to the Gabersdorf concentration camp in the Sudeten, Czechoslovakia. I was there for three years. We spun cotton to make yarn for German army clothes. Gabersdorf was horrible; we didn’t have enough to eat and we didn't have clothing, only what we came with and what we could mend.  
On February 18, 1943, about one year after I arrived in Gabersdorf, the city of Chrzanow was liquidated of all Jewish people. My mother had paid a large amount of money to a Polish family to take my sister and two nephews into hiding. Somebody informed the Germans and my mother and the children were brought back to Chrzanow for the final transport to Auschwitz from Chrzanow. Days later, the last group of women arrived to the Gabersdorf camp. Within this group, there was a woman (nurse) from Chrzanow that told me how she told my mother to save herself from Auschwitz and go to her daughter’s camp instead with a transport to Gabersdorf Camp. She just needed to leave the three children behind. My mother would not part from the children and was sent to her death in Auschwitz; together with my sister and the two nephews who were 7 and 8 years old.
I recall a selection in Gabersdorf in February, 1944. We were woken in the middle of the night and taken outside naked. We stood there in the freezing cold all night. They played music, sang, and danced around us till morning. Then they had a Selection and took several women to a death camp, Kractau. We never saw them again.
In 1945, the Russians came; we were scared of them because they were wild, they looked for women. There was a local underground militia organization that protected us from them.  
After the war, I learned that my father died in the Markstadt concentration camp in February or March, 1945 before the end of the war. Once liberated, I traveled back to Chrzanow, with my aunt who had been in a nearby camp, to see if anyone was still alive. I didn’t find anybody. In my city, I met a previous Polish schoolmate who asked me if I was still alive. I left upset and never came back.  
What DP Camp were you after the war?
I left Poland with a small group of friends to a DP camp in Austria with the intent to get to Israel. In route from Austria to Italy, crossing the Alps, I met my future husband, Avrum Fleish. We married in Arona, Italy on Chanukah 1947. We came to Israel on June 20,1948 after the State was established aboard the "Altalena" that sailed from Port-de-Bouc, France to Israel. We lived in Israel for 11 years and then came to the United States.
Where did you go after being liberated?
First traveled back home to Chrzanow, Poland to see if any family survived.
When did you come to the United States?
1959 to Detroit, we had a good life in Israel, but my husband had family in Detroit.
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
Husband had family in Detroit, Michigan.
Occupation after the war
Sales Associate at J.L. Hudson
When and where were you married?
We married in Arona, Italy on Chanukah 1947.
Avrum Fleish (passed away in 2006), In Israel: Tel Aviv-Yafo Police Officer and then an electrician Etz Lavud in Petach Tikva. In United States: Kasle Steel Corporation in Dearborn.
Joseph Fleish and Esther Gold (maiden name Fleish)
Rachel Fleish Asher, David Fleish (children of Joseph); Dayna Gold Elrom, and Allison Gold Klein (children of Esther). Great grandchildren: Ezra Abe Elrom, Eli Gold Elrom, Alexis Izzy Klein.
What do you think helped you to survive?
Luck, just plain luck. I was lucky to survive, I was hungry, I was working, some survived, some did not, I was lucky to survive.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Stay with your family, your family is a treasure.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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