Midwood

Midwood Holocaust survivor shares her story with Staten Island students

May 18, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Holocaust survivor Sally Frishberg emphasizes talks with English class students at the College of Staten Island. Eagle photos by Arthur De Gaeta

Sally Frishberg is a true survivor, having escaped from Germany during WWII, and lived to tell her inspiring story to generations of students at a recent lecture at the College of Staten Island.

Frishberg was born in Poland in 1934 and had to flee the country due to the German occupation. She was just 8 years old in 1942, when she and her family were forced to pack up their belongings and escape in the night from the Nazis. They slept in fields and had to keep moving so that no one would spot them, she said.  

Frishberg and her family hid in a friend’s attic for two years. There were 11 people living in the attic in close quarters and subsisting on meals of beans and potatoes.

But her family was among the lucky ones who somehow managed to endure long enough to be liberated by the Russian Army in 1944. When they returned home, they found that most of their friends and neighbors had not been so lucky.

Frishberg and her family eventually immigrated to America, where she was determined to become a teacher to impart the lessons she had learned.

The family settled in Midwood, where she graduated from Brooklyn College and ultimately became a teacher at Fort Hamilton High School. And it was at Fort Hamilton that a bond was formed between a student and her instructor.

On Monday, Frishberg was invited to speak to her former student Jessica Amato’s college English class. Amato is a teacher at McKinley Intermediate School and an adjunct professor at the College of Staten Island.

“I have known Sally Frishberg for almost 40 years,” said Amato, “first as my teacher and now, my friend. My mother said if I wanted to attend college, I should learn to type. So, I took typing, and received a 99 from Mrs. Frishberg. I was a fast typist. Then, I saw that she was teaching a new elective, ‘Literature of the Holocaust,’ which piqued my curiosity. I signed up for the course, and got to know Sally, her family history, her horrific ordeal and how she came to overcome her obstacles to become the smiling-faced woman we saw in the classroom today.”

In fact, Frishberg prefers to smile as she tells her story. She wants people to learn from her experience, but does not want to be perceived as a victim. Instead, she views what she does as a mission to enlighten people about the Holocaust.

Frishberg spoke to a diverse class made up of all nationalities and religions. There were Christians, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Asians and African-Americans among the 25 students attending her lecture. Her message was that persecution still exists today and that we must learn from the lessons of the past.

Frishberg told the students to keep their eyes and ears open, stressing that what happened during her lifetime should never happen to anyone ever again.

“This is her mission, to remind us to be good people, and that we should help others as best as we can, even when that choice is a difficult choice,” Amato said.