LOVE IN THE MIDST OF THE HOLOCAUST

They say that love is a very powerful emotion, perhaps, the most powerful of all. People in love will do virtually anything, suffer any pain, surmount any obstacles to be together. Many of you are familiar with the popular saying “love conquers all.” The following is an apt example of that. It is an account of two individuals whose love survived and, indeed, flourished amid the horror of the Holocaust.

Julian Noga was born on July 31, 1921 in a small village near Tarnow, Poland. His family was Catholic. His parents had emigrated to the US before WWI, but his mother had returned to Poland before Julian was born. They settled in Skrzynka, a small, nondescript village in southern Poland near Krakow. At the age of 16 Julian witnessed the shocking mass murder of some 27 Jews in the village, most of whom Julian knew and many of whom were his friends. The Nazis forced them to dig their own graves and then summarily shot them. Horrified, Julian took an abandoned rifle, fled into the woods, and joined a resistance group. Eventually, he was caught and deported to Austria to labor for a family that owned a large farm and was short of workers. By happenstance, the farm was owned by the family of Frieda Greinegger.

The two fell in love, but that presented a seemingly insurmountable problem. According to Nazi dogma Germans were “forbidden to be “friendly” toward Poles. I’m not sure of the extent of the Nazis’ definition of “friendly,” but it certainly included love and marriage. Frieda’s father forbid them to have any relationship. In an effort to separate them Julian was reassigned to work at another farm, but that didn’t stop them. Finally, they were betrayed to the Gestapo, which arrested them. Frieda was sent to Ravensbrueck; Julian was sent to Flossenburg, to labor in a quarry.

That should have been the end of the story, but not so fast. In 1942 Frieda was freed and sent home. She continued to try to ascertain Julian’s fate. Finally, she learned where he was being imprisoned from another Polish laborer. She bribed the laborer to mail a letter and box of fruit to Julian. “It was a big chance to take,” she later admitted,. We all know what would have been her fate if the Nazis had found out, but she did not hesitate to take the risk.

In April, 1945 fate again intervened in their favor. Julian was on a “death march” to Dachau when he was liberated by some US soldiers. Shortly after Germany’s surrender he traveled to Frieda’s home by bicycle to search for her. When he found her he simply said, “Frieda, I’m still alive, and I still love you.”

CONCLUSION

And, now the happy ending. With the Nazis defeated Frieda’s father gave his blessing. Frieda and Julian were married and emigrated to the US, settling in the Utica, NY area. Julian became a successful businessman. They were married for 68 years until Frieda’s death in 2012. Julian passed away in 2014.

Julian and Frieda got the best revenge against the Nazis. They survived, raised a big family, and enjoyed a long, happy life. Mazel Tov!

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