The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 24 March 2007 / 5 Nisan 5767

A Special Holocaust Survivor

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Yosef Friedenson, one of the last surviving students of the famed Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, was recently interviewed by telephone in connection with the ceremony celebrating the restoration of that yeshiva. This 84-year old editor of the New York-based Yiddish-language monthly "Dos Yiddische Vort" sentimentally told a reporter of the Jerusalem Post that in his hometown of Lodz in central Poland every young man dreamt of going to this Yeshiva.

The Yeshiva was founded in 1930 by the rabbi of Lublin, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, who is also remembered as the founder of the Daf Yomi learning program. The Nazis occupied the building when they invaded Poland in 1939, stripped the interior and burned the vast library in the city square. After the war it was used by a medical school but was returned to the Jewish community in 2004. The above-mentioned ceremony took place when renovations on the building were completed and a synagogue was made available for the small local Jewish community and Jewish visitors passing through.

For Friedenson this was another milestone in his personal triumph over the Nazis who killed so many of his Yeshiva colleagues. Many survivors will never forget how the young Friedenson entertained them in the liberated concentration camp with a brilliant imitation of the dead Feuhrer whose demagogic speeches were constantly broadcast in the camp.

Hitler is dead but Chachmei Lublin and this special survivor live on.

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