Who Was This Woman?
First page of the Fragebogen (personal data information sheet) for Dr. Lucja Frey-Gottesman. The document was used by German authorities during World War II to gather personal data for the purpose of issuing work permits in occupied Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Todd Singer
Second page of the Fragebogen (personal data information sheet) for Dr. Lucja Frey-Gottesman. The document was used by German authorities during World War II to gather personal data for the purpose of issuing work permits in occupied Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Third page of the Fragebogen (personal data information sheet) for Dr. Lucja Frey-Gottesman. The document was used by German authorities during World War II to gather personal data for the purpose of issuing work permits in occupied Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Last page of the Fragebogen (personal data information sheet) for Dr. Lucja Frey-Gottesman. The document was used by German authorities during World War II to gather personal data for the purpose of issuing work permits in occupied Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
A birthday gift
Woman and doctor
On January 27, 2000, Todd Singer of Tulsa, Oklahoma, purchased a Nazi-generated wartime medical personnel questionnaire as a birthday gift for his wife. One of many official forms called a Fragebogen, the document was used by German authorities during World War II to gather personal data for the purpose of issuing work permits in occupied Poland. Pictured on this document is a slight, frail-looking Jewish woman. Singer did not know the yellowed, four-page questionnaire would set into motion a research effort involving himself, his friends, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to reconstruct the life and death of the woman described and depicted on the artifact.
Singer discovered that the woman, Lucja Frey Gottesman, was not simply a doctor, but a renowned scientist and the researcher of a medical condition that bears her name. The investigation into Frey’s life and fate began after the Singers shared the news of their purchase with a Tulsa-based, Jewish-Christian interfaith group. Their initial discussions spurred an 18-month research effort involving people from around the globe, linking the Tulsa group to a medical research team based at the University of Florida, to scholars at Yad Vashem (the official Israeli Holocaust memorial and research center), and to others who translated related documents and articles that helped the group put together the pieces of the Frey puzzle—to determine her fate. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum became an active partner in this research effort as the investigation broadened and in March 2002 the Singers donated the document to the Museum.
According to the document, Frey’s last place of residence was the disease-infested ghetto of Lvov (today L’viv), in German-occupied Poland, the starting point for the historical investigation.
Dr. Lucja Frey
Renowned scientist and researcher into a medical condition that bears her name.
Lucja Frey was born in Lvov on November 3, 1889. After finishing high school, she studied at the University of Lvov, and graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the philosophy department. Frey received her medical degree in 1913. According to her colleagues, Frey was shy and very industrious. It is not known where she received her specialist training as a neurologist. On June 3, 1923, she passed her medical boards in Warsaw. Two months later she received world recognition through the publication in Revue Neurologique of her research into a rare condition, though she was not yet licensed to practice as a neurologist.
The syndrome that Frey described involves an injury to the parotid gland in the face. The injury results in the rerouting of fibers affecting the sweat glands. When afflicted individuals are exposed to either the smell or taste of food, they sweat rather than salivate. Although Frey called the phenomenon “auriculotemporal nerve syndrome” or “facial gustatory sweating,” the medical community now refers to the condition as “Frey’s syndrome.”
Frey published her findings while serving as the Senior Assistant in the Neurology Clinic at the University of Warsaw. She worked there from 1921 to 1928 under Dr. Kazimierz Orzechowski, who died during the Holocaust. During this period, Frey published important works on the mapping of the human brain, degenerative diseases of the joints, and brain aneurysms. Little is known of her medical career from 1928 to 1935; however, by 1936 Frey was working at the prestigious Jewish Hospital on Rappaporta Street in Lvov.
At some point, Frey met and married a lawyer named Mordechai (Marek) Gottesman. In 1930 they had a daughter, Danuta. By 1938 Lucja Frey and Marek Gottesman had achieved a degree of success sufficient to make their home on Syktuska Street, just north of the most affluent section of the city. How long they lived there together is unknown as Frey, in answering question 7 of the Fragebogen which asked for marital status, responded: “Married, husband arrested by the N.K.V.D. [the Soviet secret police] as a counter revolutionary.”
The occupation of Lvov, Frey’s hometown
The arrest and disappearance of Lucja’s husband under Soviet occupation after World War II began; plunder, brutality, pogroms, isolation, ghettoization following the German invasion.
The N.K.V.D. was the internal security branch of the Soviet occupation authorities. Marek Gottesman was arrested by the Soviets sometime between 1939 and 1941 and, like many of Lvov’s affluent citizens, he disappeared, never to be heard from again. Frey was conscripted into service as a neurologist by the Soviets and was paid the flat doctor’s rate of 200 rubles biweekly. She served in this capacity until June 30, 1941, when the Soviets abandoned the city ahead of the advancing German forces. The Germans incited violence against both Jews and Communists almost as soon as they occupied the city.
Like most other Jews, Frey and her daughter probably survived this period by staying off the streets or in hiding until the violence passed. To establish order and compliance with German directives, the German authorities appointed several Jewish community leaders to form a Judenrat, or Jewish Council.
Ostensibly a leadership appointed to administer the needs of ghetto residents, the officials of the Jewish Council were responsible for ensuring the implementation of German policy toward the Jews, a responsibility that they accepted with varying degrees of reluctance. Their charge included facilitating the deportation of Jews to killing centers. The Jewish Council passed and enforced decrees that established Jewish public services (housing, health care, a police force, and so on) within the framework of catastrophic shortages imposed by the German authorities. On question 30 of her Fragebogen, when asked to identify her employer, Frey responded “Jewish Community”, which effectively meant the Jewish Council. Like so many others, Frey had little choice but to work for the same organization that would, ultimately, facilitate the deportation of most Jewish residents of Lvov. Nonetheless, she could not have foreseen this when she filled out her Fragebogen.
A physician in the ghetto
Overcrowded living conditions, conscription for labor, rampant infectious disease, deportations to Belzec.
At the time of the German invasion, Frey was living on Syktuska Street, in a fashionable district of the city. The Germans divided Lvov into three districts: a German district, a district for non-German "Aryans" (Poles and Ukrainians) where Frey was for a time permitted to reside, and a Jewish district. Until August 1942, even Jews in the "Aryan" section were allowed to stay in their homes. Beginning in August, however, a German officer coveting any home in the city could obtain approval from his superiors to appropriate the dwelling for his own use by ordering its owner to vacate. This probably happened to Frey. Her permanent address appears on her Fragebogen (dated September 25, 1941) as number 6 Balonowa Street, room 12, almost a year before the mass, forcible enclosure of Jews into the ghetto...
It was in the middle of what would become the official ghetto. The room was, at best, three square meters in total area. If the apartment was typical of others on Balonowa Street, she and Danuta shared it with at least eight other people. It seems unlikely that Frey voluntarily abandoned the luxurious Syktuska Street for the apartment on Balonowa Street.
Shortly after the German occupation of Lvov, Frey was again conscripted into service as a physician. The Germans occupied the hospital on Rappaporta Street and seized all equipment and medical supplies. The evicted Jewish staff set up hospitals (with scant money and inadequate equipment) on Alembekow Street, Kuszewicza Street, and Zamarstynowska Street. An outpatient clinic was established on Misjonarski Square. On question 4 of her Fragebogen when Frey was asked for the place of her employment, she answered “II Jewish Clinic,” specifically using the Polish word for “clinic,” not “hospital.” Many other medical personnel responded to the same question with the Polish or German word for “hospital.” It is possible that Frey was employed at this outpatient clinic. Diseases such as typhus were rampant due to the lack of medicines and to the inadequate sanitary conditions.
The odds for survival of a woman in Frey’s situation were not favorable. From the photo on the Fragebogen, Frey appears to be a slightly built female. She was nearly 52 years old when she filled out the document. It seems unlikely that she would have been selected for hard labor. Her best chance at survival lay in the possibility of a need for her medical skills.
On question 10a of her Fragebogen when Frey was asked "What was your citizenship from 1 Oct. 1939 to 1 July 1941?" she answered “occupied Soviet.” Technically, this answer is the most accurate response she could have provided. Those formerly Polish citizens of Galicia became Soviet citizens without necessarily giving their consent after the Soviet occupation. It is possible that this seemingly innocuous answer could have led the Germans to associate Frey with the detested Bolshevist regime. On other Fragebogen, medical professionals responded to the same question with “Polish,” or left the line blank. This notation made in November 1941, does not seem to have adversely affected her chances at survival at least until April 1942.
The fate of Lucja Frey Gottesman
Only a small number were spared...
Work offered the best opportunity for survival. Many Jews went to the Jewish Council offices seeking a life-preserving work permit, yet having a trade did not guarantee receipt of a document. The labor needs of the German-occupied General Government dictated how many passes were issued and who received them. Specialized surgeons and lawyers were passed over in favor of general practitioners, electricians, or plumbers. By April 1, 1942, the Germans had issued approximately 70,000 exemption papers; of these, 20,000 were issued to women. Frey was one of the lucky few, receiving hers on April 1, 1942, the first evening of Passover. The status of her daughter Danuta is unknown.
The April 1, 1942, exemption is the last known evidence proving Frey was still alive. From that date until the eventual destruction of the ghetto in June 1943, any number of fates could have befallen her. It is possible, though very unlikely, that she escaped or went into hiding and survived the war. Had Frey and her daughter attempted to escape and been caught, they probably would have been shot.
It is possible that Frey herself died of typhus. As a physician working in the clinic, she would have been continually exposed to the disease with little means of protecting herself from infection. Those who died of the disease were buried in mass graves. Frey could also have been the victim of a random street killing. Many ghetto residents died in this way and their bodies were also thrown into the mass graves next to the Jewish cemetery.
Finally, Frey may have died following the second set of mass deportations begun in August 1942. At this time, German SS, police, and their auxiliaries shot or deported to Belzec roughly 50,000 Lvov Jews. The SS conducted house to house searches inspecting work papers. As the result of a rift that had developed between the SS and the civil administrators of the General Government over which agency was in ultimate control of the ghetto, members of the SS were searching for the red seals on the work permits issued by the civil administration. Claiming these were no longer valid, the SS required that the black seals of the SS be present for a worker to be spared. Individuals without papers bearing the black seal were rounded up. Those capable of work were sent to the Janowska forced labor camp. The rest were deported to Belzec where they were murdered. Storming into the medical facilities in August, the SS and police rounded up medical staff and patients alike, and deported most of them to Belzec. Those who could not walk or move were shot on the spot. Only a small number were spared.
Later, in November 1942, the German authorities decreed that only 12,000 of the remaining 25,000 Jews in the ghetto would be given new work permits. Since the Germans had decided to close Belzec, those who did not receive permits were taken to the sand pits at Gora Piaski, stripped, and shot in mass graves.
At the beginning of 1943 only several thousand of Lvov’s 150,000 Jews remained in the ghetto. There is no evidence to indicate that Frey and her daughter were among them. By the end of July 1943, the SS and German police had murdered the last ghetto residents of Lvov. A handful of Jews survived by hiding in the homes of Gentiles, in the sewers, or in the forests near Lvov until the end of the war.
We will never know with certainty what happened to Frey.
A window into a forgotten life.
A window into a forgotten life.
Todd and Kelley Singer’s donation of Dr. Lucja Frey Gottesman’s Fragebogen and their search give us a glimpse into the life, and possible fate, of one of the Holocaust’s many victims. As with most who died in the Holocaust, we will probably never know the exact circumstances of Frey’s death. This seemingly silent document, a bureaucratic form written in a foreign language, offered the window into an otherwise forgotten life and medical talent cut short by the Holocaust. Due to the generous donation by Todd and Kelley Singer we are able to reconstruct, with some confidence, at least a segment of Frey’s story. The discovery and investigation of artifacts like the Frey Fragebogen is precisely what makes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s mission of Holocaust remembrance, education, and conscience a reality.