Holocaust survivor talks to Beloit middle school students - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Holocaust survivor talks to Beloit middle school students

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BELOIT (WKOW) -- Phil Freund, one of only two speakers left at the Holocaust Speakers Bureau in Milwaukee, spoke to students at Beloit Turner Middle School Thursday morning about his experiences in 1930s Germany.

Freund told students about his father, a decorated German veteran of World War One. He had tried to smuggle money out of Germany to start a business in Holland. When the Nazis found out, they killed him.

Freund was only eight years old on Crystal Nacht, November 9, 1938, when the Nazis destroyed Jewish synagogues and homes around Germany. He was playing with his toy trains in his house when the Gestopo showed up at the door.

"There stood a gestopo man and he said where is your father. I said my father is dead. He proceded to beat me up," Freund remembered.

His mother rushed into the room and got the death certificate to prove it. The Gestopo were rounding up all the Jewish men over the age of 16 and sending them to concentration camps.

Freunds mother decided to get him, his sister and herself out of Germany. On May 13, 1939 they boarded a ship in Hamburg, bound for Havana. When they got there, the ship was turned around back to Europe. Freund and his family were able to find safety in England. Eventually they wound up in New York.

Freund started to give talks about his experiences only a few years ago. He says there is a lot of demand, especially with so few survivors still around.

"We're dying off. I mean I don't know how much time I have here and it's absolutely necessary that this not be forgotten, because if it's forgotten, history has a tendency to repeat itself," he said.

Freund is afraid for when there are no Holocaust survivors left to tell their stories.

"It becomes depersonalized. There's no longer that personal contact that these people had and how they felt at the time it was happening," he remarked.

Freund's wife, Belle Anne Freund, is helping him write a book about his experiences. She laughed how they've been working on it for twenty years. She said after her husband's gone, their children want to pick up the torch and give talks about their father's life.

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