Henry Friedman was born in 1928 to a Jewish family in Brody, Poland. He recalls the discrimination he faced at the onset of the war when, at ten years old, a classmate told him to “wait until Hitler comes, he’ll take care of you!” In 1939 when the Russians occupied Brody, his family lost their business and many of their private possessions. After the Nazis invaded Brody in 1941, they swiftly deprived Jews of their basic rights, forbidding Jews to attend school or teach and forcing them to wear armbands bearing the Star of David. Henry recalls the police once catching his mother without her armband and beating her so badly that she could not raise her arms for a month.
One day in February 1942, a young Ukrainian woman named Julia Symchuck, ran to the Friedman’s house and warned Henry's father that the Gestapo was coming for him. Henry’s father was thus able to flee in time. Jews not forewarned were sent to camps to be put to work or were murdered. These round-ups, called “aktions,” sent 4,500 Jews to the Belzec death camp.
The final order came in the fall of 1942, when the remaining 6,500 Jews in the area were to move into a small ghetto in Brody. In October, 1942, the Friedmans were ordered to move into the ghetto. As a result, they went into hiding in the village of Suchowola where two different Ukrainian families helped them. Henry, his younger brother, their mother, and their female teacher hid in a barn owned by Julia Symchuck's parents. Their hiding space was tiny - about the size of a queen-size bed.
Henry’s father went to a separate hiding place half a mile from the Symchucks’ barn. They learned that from May to June of 1943, the Nazis were liquefying the ghetto in Brody. Most of the Jews in the ghetto were sent directly to Majdanek death camp.
For eighteen months, the Friedmans remained in hiding, freezing cold and slowly starving as food became scarce. Finally, in March 1944 the Russians liberated the village of Suchowola and the Friedmans.
Later, Julia Symchuck was recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and was reunited with Henry Friedman in Seattle in 1989. Henry is a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Speakers Bureau.
Video 1 – “The Rescuers”
Transcript 1 [PDF]
Video 2 – “The Hiding Place”
Transcript 2 [PDF]
Video 3 – “Starvation”
Transcript 3 [PDF]
Video 4 – “Reunion with Rescuer - 1988”
Transcript 4 [PDF]