David P. Boder Interviews Baruch Friedman; September 2, 1946; Tradate, Italy



Zionist fundamentalism inspired suspicions of non-Jews that complicated Jewish-Gentile relations in normal times but served Jews well during the Holocaust. Baruch Friedman's Zionist convictions caused him to disbelieve official stories about relocating the Slovakian Jews in 1942 and instead to flee to the forest with his younger brother. Their parents, merchants and farmers in Kurima, either believed Slovakian and German lies or acquiesced in their fate, as did most Slovakian Jews. The brothers hid with the aid of a Gentile acquaintance and, after the deportations stopped, reported voluntarily to one of several work camps for Jews set up by the Slovaks. It turned out to be agreeable as such camps went in those years, but the brothers' suspicions were hardly allayed. They made contact with anti-German partisans in the forests and armed themselves against a renewal of anti-Jewish measures.

These preparations paid off during the Slovak National Uprising against the Tiso regime, August 28 to October 27,1944. Friedman and his brother were freed along with the other Jewish inmates of work camps. Although they helped fight German and Slovakian forces in the liberated zone, and Friedman’s brother died in combat, Friedman himself was deeply ambivalent about both the uprising's prospects of success and the attitudes toward Jews of even anti-Nazi Slovaks. Following the suppression of the uprising, he again took to the forest, this time with a sizable band of partisans made up of Jews and Gentiles. In February 1945 they broke through to the Russian side. He then returned to his village only to find his family gone, their home looted, and the fields taken over by neighbors. All this confirmed him in his determination to leave for Palestine. Boder found him living at Tradate, the home in northern Italy for young displaced Jews who had formed a kibbutz. (Boder noted the Friedman had a number of aliases, including "Abram Perl," which he used at the time of, but not during, the interview.)

From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu