Elli’s Story: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

As they were taken out of Muehldorf, the men and women were placed on different parts of the train. Elli and her mother lost Armin, but knew that he was somewhere among the other thousands of prisoners being evacuated. After three days of traveling, the train doors suddenly opened in the middle of the road and the prisoners fell out in confusion. Many raced into the fields to find food, but soon were caught in the crossfire between the German soldiers and the Allies.

American military police inspecting train cars upon liberation, Dachau, 1945.

American military police inspecting train cars upon liberation, Dachau, 1945.

In the midst of the fighting, Elli and her mother found Armin and placed a rag on his head to hide him among them as a woman before they were ordered back on the train. Away from the barrage of bullets, they were once again locked behind closed doors, safe for the moment. The next day, however, the train was attacked by the Allies once again. Machine-gun fire penetrated the walls of the train car wounding many of the prisoners, including Armin. As the night fell, the train grew colder and men and women wept and howled with fear and pain.

Finally, on April 30, 1945 the train cars opened one last time, and the prisoners were met by the American liberators.

Testimony: “How Old Are You?”

He asked us, “Are you men or women?”

—Elli Friedman

Elli with her mother and brother, one-and-a-half years after the war.

Elli with her mother and brother, one-and-a-half years after the war.

With the end of the war, the Friedmanns decided to return home to look for relatives. They were among thousands of Displaced Persons (DPs) wandering across Europe. Getting rides with U.S. military vehicles, hiding on freight trains, and even riding on a horse drawn carriage, they were finally able to make their way back to their hometown of Samorin. Tragically, they found their home stripped of all belongings. They also discovered that Mr. Friedmann had died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and that none of their other relatives could be found. They decided to leave as soon as they could, to find a better and safer home, where their memories would not constantly haunt them.

Testimony: “We Survived Together”

He asked us,“The three of us survived, the three of us want to remain together.”

—Elli Friedman

The family applied for visas, and Armin was able to leave for America on student papers. Elli and her mother were not able to leave until April 7, 1951.

Elli was 20 years old when she came to New York. She entered college as soon as she arrived, and eventually became a history professor. She has written several books about her experiences during and after the Holocaust. As an adult, she came to divide her time between living in the U.S. and in Israel. Her dual citizenship became a symbol of personal triumph. Finally, she was able to fulfill her dream of living a free life as a proud Jewish woman.

Elli (front, second from the right), her husband, and their children and grandchildren, in the United States.

Elli (front, second from the right), her husband, and their children and grandchildren, in the United States.

Elli (front, center), her husband, and their children and grandchildren, in Israel.

Elli (front, center), her husband, and their children and grandchildren, in Israel.

Chapter 5



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