On June 3rd, Loretta attended the Chicago Historical Society’s 21st Annual “Making History Awards” at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. Of all the events Loretta goes to, this consistently stands out as one of her favorites, partly due to the profound and compassionate individuals that surround the event every year. This year, five distinguished leaders with deep ties in their communities were honored for their accomplishments.
Of the five award winners, one really stuck out in Loretta’s mind. Fritzie Fritzshall, a holocaust survivor, received “The Bertha Honoré Palmer Making History Award” for distinction in Civic Leadership. Fritzshall, along with other survivors, worked to found the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center located in Skokie, IL. While most acceptance speeches thank those who supported them along the way, Fritzshall’s was vastly different. She thanked the man who saved her life many years ago when she arrived at Auschwitz at 13 years old.
In her speech, she explained a horrifying anecdote about when she was taken to Auschwitz. As her train pulled up, a prisoner came aboard to pick out the strong to go to labor. He came up to her and said “Say you are 15, you hear me? Say you are 15.” As she was ushered off the train, she did as the man said and reported her age as 15. While she was directed to one line into the camp, she watched as her mother and brothers were taken to the gas chamber. It was at that moment when Fritzshall realized that the man who whispered those fateful words into her ear had saved her life.
Fritzie Fritzall went on to talk about when she moved to Skokie, IL. While she thought she had escaped the dark times of her past, she was sadly mistaken. In the 1960’s, a group of Nazi’s chose to organize marches throughout Skokie, which had a large Jewish population. The audience was awed by Fritzshall’s message about her time at Auschwitz and having to view the very group that put her there march in the streets of Skokie.
Upon hearing Fritzshall’s story, Loretta recalled some of her own memories of those marches. Having worked at a Montessori school near Skokie, Loretta remembers the pain and hurt these demonstrations brought throughout the Jewish community. While everyone was disgusted with this group’s audacity to march with such a hateful message, the police had to protect them. The first amendment gave them every right to peacefully march. To support their neighbors, many wore stickers of the Star of David, which Loretta still keeps to this day.