06/16/12

Story by way of Gaby Rinzler

From Gaby Rinzler

This incident took place in Bergen-Belsen immediately after the war
under the jurisdiction of the Allies. The surviving inmates were now
free to create new lives for themselves but many had no place to go.
These remained in the camps awaiting a solution to their problem.

An amazing story.

The Wedding Gown That Made History

Lilly Friedman doesn’t
remember the last name of
the woman who designed and
sewed the wedding gown she
wore when she walked down
the aisle over 60 years
ago . But the grandmother
of seven does recall that
when she first told her
fiancé Ludwig that she had
always dreamed of being
married in a white
gown he realized he had
his work cut out for
him …..

For the tall, lanky
21-year-old who had
survived hunger, disease
and torture this was a
different kind of
challenge . How was he
ever going to find such a
dress in the Bergen-Belsen
Displaced Person’s camp
where they felt grateful
for the clothes on their
backs?

Fate would intervene in
the guise of a former
German pilot who walked
into the food distribution
center where Ludwig
worked, eager to make a
trade for his worthless
parachute . In exchange
for two pounds of coffee
beans and a couple of
packs of cigarettes Lilly
would have her wedding
gown .

For two weeks Miriam the
seamstress worked under
the curious eyes of her
fellow DPs, carefully
fashioning the six
parachute panels into a
simple, long sleeved gown
with a rolled collar and a
fitted waist that tied in
the back with a bow . When
the dress was completed
she sewed the leftover
material into a matching
shirt for the groom .

A white wedding gown may
have seemed like a
frivolous request in the
surreal environment of the
camps, but for Lilly the
dress symbolized the
innocent, normal life she
and her family had once
led before the world
descended into madness .

Lilly and her siblings
were raised in a Torah
observant home in the
small town of Zarica ,
Czechoslovakia where her
father was a teacher,
respected and well liked
by the young yeshiva
students he taught in
nearby Irsheva . He and
his two sons were marked
for extermination
immediately upon arriving
at Auschwitz . For Lilly
and her sisters it was
only their first stop on
their long journey of
persecution, which
included Plashof,
Neustadt, Gross Rosen and
finally Bergen-Belsen ..

Lilly Friedman and her
parachute dress on display
in the Bergen-Belsen
Museum

Four hundred people
marched 15 miles in the
snow to the town of Celle
on January 27, 1946 to
attend Lilly and Ludwig’s
wedding. The town
synagogue, damaged and
desecrated, had been
lovingly renovated by the
DPs with the
meager materials available
to them. When a Sefer
Torah arrived from England
they converted an old
kitchen cabinet into a
makeshift Aron Kodesh.

“My sisters and I lost
everything – our parents,
our two brothers, our
homes. The most important
thing was to build a new
home.” Six months later,
Lilly’s sister Ilona wore
the dress when she married
Max Traeger .. After that
came Cousin Rosie. How
many brides wore Lilly’s
dress? “I stopped counting
after 17.” With the camps
experiencing the highest
marriage rate in the
world, Lilly’s gown was in
great demand.

In 1948 when President
Harry Truman finally
permitted the 100,000 Jews
who had been languishing
in DP camps since the end
of the war to emigrate,
the gown accompanied Lilly
across the ocean to
America . Unable to part
with her dress, it lay at
the bottom of her bedroom
closet for the next 50
years, “not even good
enough for a garage sale,
I was happy when it found
such a good
home.”

Home was the U . S .
Holocaust Memorial Museum
in Washington, D. C. When
Lily’s niece, a volunteer,
told museum officials
about her aunt’s dress,
they immediately
recognized its historical
significance and displayed
the gown in a specially
designed showcase,
guaranteed to preserve it
for 500 years ..

But Lilly Friedman’s dress
had one more journey to
make. The museum at
Bergen-Belsen opened its
doors on October 28, 2007.
The German government
invited Lilly and her
sisters to be their guests
for the grand opening
They initially declined,
but finally traveled to
Hanover the following year
with their children, their
grandchildren and extended
families to view the
extraordinary
exhibit created for the
wedding dress made from a
parachute.

Lilly’s family, who were
all familiar with the
stories about the wedding
in Celle , were eager to
visit the synagogue . They
found the building had
been completely renovated
and modernized . But when
they pulled aside the
handsome curtain they were
astounded to find that the
Aron Kodesh, made from a
kitchen cabinet, had
remained untouched as a
testament to the profound
faith of the survivors.
As Lilly stood on the
bimah once again she
beckoned to her
granddaughter, Jackie, to
stand beside her where she
was once a kallah . “It
was an emotional trip . We
cried a lot. ”

Two weeks later, the woman
who had once stood
trembling before the
selective eyes of the
infamous Dr. Josef Mengele
returned home and attended
the marriage of her
granddaughter.

The three Lax sisters -
Lilly, Ilona and Eva – who
together survived
Auschwitz, a forced labor
camp, a death march and
Bergen-Belsen – have
remained close and today
live within walking
distance of each other in
Brooklyn. As mere
teenagers, they managed to
outwit and outlive a
monstrous killing machine,
then went on to marry,
have children,
grandchildren and
great-grandchildren and
were ultimately honored by
the country that had
earmarked them for
extinction.

As young brides, they had
stood underneath the
chuppah and recited the
blessings that their
ancestors had been saying
for thousands of years. In
doing so, they chose to
honor the legacy of those
who had perished by
choosing life ..

IN MEMORIAM – 63 YEARS
LATER

It is now more than 60
years after the Second
World War inEurope ended.
This e-mail is being sent
as a memorial chain, in
memory of the six million
Jews, 20 million Russians,
10 million Christians and
1,900 Catholic priests who
were humiliated, starved,
murdered, massacred, raped
and burned, with the
German and other peoples
looking the other way…

Now, more than ever, with
Iraq , Iran , and others,
claiming the Holocaust to
be ‘a myth,’ it is
imperative that the world
never forgets, because
there are others who would
like to do it again …

Please pass this on .. . . . lest we forget!