SKOKIE, Ill. – Fritzie Fritzshall, survivor of an Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, died Saturday at the age of 91.
Fritzshall was just a girl when she was sent by rail car to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her grandfather died on the train. Her mom and brothers were murdered in the camp. Sharing her story with WGN in 2015, Fritzshall survived by pretending she was older than she was.
“She had made a promise when she was working as a slave laborer in a subcamp of Auschwitz. She made a promise to 599 women who each night gave her a crumb of their bread because she was the youngest and they hoped that one amongst them might survive to tell all of their stories. And so she carried this burden, this sacred responsibility, all these years,” said Susan Abrams, CEO of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
Fritzshall dedicated her life to that responsibility – educating future generations about the horrors she and millions of others experienced. She became a founding survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center in Skokie.
Fritzshall tells her own story throughout the museum. Visitors may even ask her questions in an interactive hologram exhibit.
“I think it gave her some measure of peace that she had paid that and kept her promise,” Adams said.
Fellow Holocaust survivor Rodi Glass says she knew Fritzshall for years.
“When I saw the news on my phone yesterday afternoon, I literally fell apart because I had not expected this,” Glass said. “She will always be remembered by us as one of the major leaders of this museum and being instrumental. We will never forget her.”
Her story and her message carries on: “Stand up and speak out.”
“It’s such a loss for all who have known her and for the entire world, but I have to say we are a bit sustained by the incredible legacy that Friztie Fritzshall has left for all of us,” Adams added.
Fritzshall is survived by a son and two grandchildren. Her funeral is schedule for Wednesday.