FIRST PERSON PROGRAM - GIDEON FRIEDERThe Museum's First Person program enables visitors to hear Holocaust survivors tell their life stories in their own words, uniting personal experience with history in a way that is extraordinary in its immediacy and power. Each hour-long program features a live interview between journalist Bill Benson and a survivor, followed by a question-and-answer session. The First Person on Wednesday, May 16, will be Gideon Frieder.
Gideon was born on September 30, 1937, in Zvolen, Slovakia. His family moved to Nove Mesto, Slovakia, at the beginning of the war because his father, a rabbi, was offered a position there. Gideon's grandparents were deported early in the war and perished. His father was part of the underground “Working Group” of the Slovak Jewry, and was responsible for communications with the Slovak authorities. The life of his father, and Gideon's story, are partially documented in the book To Deliver Their Souls, available in the Museum's Library and in the Museum shop.
In 1944, during the Slovak uprising against the Nazis, Gideon, his mother, and his sister fled from Nove Mesto. In October they made their way to Banska Bystrica, which served as the center of the uprising. Gideon's father fled separately from his wife and children, as it was clear to him that if he was caught, anyone close to him would be killed.
As the Nazis were nearing Banska Bystrica, the family fled to the mountains, where they were caught in a massacre at Stare Hory. Gideon's mother and sister were killed during this massacre. Gideon survived, but was injured. He was taken from the site by a Jewish partisan, Henry Herzog, who eventually took him to the village of Bully. There he was placed in the family of Paulina and Jozef Strycharszyk. The story of Adam Herzog, including his meeting with the Frieder family and his saving of Gideon, are detailed in the book And Heaven Shed No Tears.
Gideon remained in Bully until 1945, when the area was liberated by Romanian troops that fought as part of the Red Army. He was later found by his father, who survived the war. His father remarried but died shortly after the war in 1946.
After the war, Gideon and his stepmother came to Israel by an illegal Aliyah. He remained there until 1975, when he emigrated to the United States. Today he holds the A. James Clark Chair of Engineering and Applied Science at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.