For the Love of Lou Frydman, July 1, 1930 – January 24, 2012: Everyday Magic, Day 489

Jane and Lou

All last night I thought about Lou, waking between my dreams to wonder if he was still alive, feeling that sense of Lou-ness surrounding me. His voice is vivid to me (especially his laughter), and no wonder since I have dozens of hours of interviews with him and many years of hearing his stories of surviving and making a new life after all his family members, except for his brother, were killed in the holocaust that put him through six concentration camps and three death marches. I know Lou from the vantage point of being his friend, but also his biographer (for the book Needle in the Bone about the Lou and his dear friend, Jarek, who was a Polish resistance fighter during the war).

Jarek & Maura

All last night, I also thought of Jarek’s wife, Maura, who died on this precise day one year ago. Maura was so full of spirit and sass, laughter and outrageously entertaining stories that it’s still astonishing to comprehend that she simply stopped being alive a year ago today.

I awondered if Lou would die on this anniversary, especially after I saw him Sunday, lying so still on the hospital bed in the living room, only opening one eye in understanding when I kissed him goodbye. It turns out he did: at 3:30 this morning, peacefully at home with Jane by his side.

There are those who might say Lou lived a long life, with a notable second act supreme after surviving Budzyn, one of the most brutal concentration camps; the selection process at Auschwitz; and many near-death, nothing-left-to-lose experiences. But none of those rationales mean anything to me or those of us who love him: Lou is dead, and when someone you love dies, it is always too soon, and it always breaks your heart into a million pieces.

Driving to and from Topeka where I had dental work (a good diversion actually because the physical pain distracts from the broken heart), sometimes crying so hard that I kept taking wrong turns, I thought about Lou and his family. Although there was no way he wanted to die, at least he died the way he chose: at home, in the peace that befits such a gentle man, and with Jane beside him after many family members from Lawrence to Paris, San Antonio to Northampton, called and visited, told him how much he was and still is loved.

But what speaks to me most is how he lived. He found the strength to go on after his father was shot, mother was gassed, and extended family members were

Lou shortly after the war

killed. He survived starvation, illness, oceans of loss, greedy foster families, having to learn multiple languages on a dime, and moreover, the world in which he grew up being utterly destroyed beyond recognition. He and Jane, who was able to flee Europe with her parents before being sent to the camps, made a life here that rippled out into two more generations.

What Lou gave me — the gift of hearing his story, threaded with laughter that took the edge off the unimaginable horrors of it, and the gift of trusting me to convey his story to others — is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

8 thoughts on “For the Love of Lou Frydman, July 1, 1930 – January 24, 2012: Everyday Magic, Day 489

  1. What a moving story you have shared, Caryn. Thank you for keeping the suffering of our Jewish friends front and center in our hearts.
    Although I am not Jewish, one of the most impactful persons in my young life as an eighth grader was a Holocaust survivor, Richart Fischoff. He escaped six concentration campus in Germany during World War II. His wife was incarcerated in another camp and died during that time. Their three children scattered and eventually escaped to Brazil. Many years later, Mr. Fischoff was able to communicate with them by letter, but he never saw them again.
    Mr. Fischoff used to sit me down and tell me about the war. He had a need to talk about it, and I had deep desire to learn. Guards in a concentration camp kicked out his front teeth, necessitating brass replacements. He wore long sleeves to hide the branded numbers on his arm. Before the nightmare was over, with six concentrations behind him, he escaped to Italy where Italian Christians hid him in their basement.
    Eventually, they boarded him on a ship headed for New York City. There he married a Lutheran woman, Johanna, who lost her husband in the war.
    The Fischoffs took me with them to New York City when I was a young 13. I fell in love with them and credit them to this day with my passion for tolerance, pacifism, justice, and international understanding.
    I tried to locate Richart’s name at the Holocaust Museum, but, sadly, his name was not on their records. Still, he and Johanna live in me and others whose lives they affected profoundly. They cared about me, a 13-year-old when I was young and lonely.
    Like your dear friends, Jarek, Maura, and Lou, I, too, will never forget them.

  2. Oh, Caryn, I am so sorry. Thank you for letting us know in such a lovely way. I am thinking of Jane and the whole family. I am thinking of Jarek and missing Maura more than ever. Lou and Maura, wherever they are, are filling the place with their particular and profound laughter.
    Love,
    Sandy

  3. What a dear and eloquent way to share your Lou with us, Caryn. I will always remember sitting next to him at one of your many raucous Passover meals, him smiling and laughing in that wonderfully gentle way. What a powerful testament to strength, love, and overcoming mind numbing adversity he was and still is. Thank you Caryn. And, thank you Lou.

  4. Lou had that rare combination of intelligence, acceptance and the ability to laugh with everyone and at himself. He was a man who enriched whatever space he shared with the rest of us. He and Jane raised fine children who have grown up to show that same sense of giving to their community with clarity, tolerance and a never ending sense of humor. The best legacy of all! Thanks, Caryn, for bringing us to his bedside so we can say goodbye. See you later, Lou!

  5. Thank you for such wonderful stories and comments! I wanted to share with you that Jane (Lou’s wife) said I should thank you too. Your words meant a lot to her (and me).

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post on Lou and his family.
    We too miss Lou.
    His smile and laughter will always be with us.
    Lou’s son Rick performed a wonderful and moving version of the folks song “Joe Hill” at the funeral of my father, Norm Forer.

    In the same spirit, I post another version of that classic song.

    “Lou went on to Organize”
    Sung to the tune of “Joe Hill”

    I dreamed I saw dear Lou last night,
    Alive as you or me
    Says I, “But Lou, You’ve left this life”
    “I never died,” says he.
    “I never died,” says he.

    “In Europe, Joe,” says I to him,
    Him standing by my bed,
    “They tried to kill the best in us”
    Says Lou, “But we ain’t dead,”
    Says Lou, “But we ain’t dead.”

    “The fascist bastards shot your dad”
    “They shot at you” says I.
    “Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
    Says Lou, “I didn’t die,”
    Says Lou, “I didn’t die.”

    And standing there as big as life
    And smiling with his eyes
    Says Lou, “What they forgot to kill
    Went on to organize,
    Went on to organize.”

    Lou Frydman Lives in all of us
    Lou Frydman never died.
    Where good folk fight for human rights
    Lou is always at their side,
    Lou is at their side.

    From wartime Europe to the States,
    In every heart he touched –
    Lou showed the worth of every life
    Lou fought for civil rights.
    Lou fought for human rights.

    I dreamed I saw Lou Frydman Here,
    Alive as you or me
    Says I, “But Lou, your heart’s at rest”,
    “My heart lives on” says he
    “My heart lives on in thee”

  7. Beautifully put, Pat.
    Lou was unforgettable as a teacher. I remember. As man he
    was priceless. He lived his conscience and kindness was the manner in
    which he treated everyone. I so respect him. Bet there was a big bash in heaven when he passed over, with all those who preceeded him there wishing to greet him and ease his way. Norm and Ed were there for sure.

  8. I knew the story of Lou & his bro, through the tales of his brother-in law, George D.Bruner (Jane’s younger bro) . What a wodefully kind & giving family.
    i am homebound with metastasized cancer & dear George faithfully visits me every week bringing food, reading material, & an origami animal that he constructs. ( I have a full zoo now!) Often he told me of Lou & what a lovely uncomplaining kind giving person. I am uplifted & heartened by that blessed family. (Thank G-d I lived long enough to know them!)
    85 year young Milton Luchan

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