Saturday, March 28, Holocaust survivor and former UT professor Henry A. Fribourg, spoke to a group of teachers as a part of the “Teaching Diversity through Content, Context, and Complexity of the Holocaust,” workshop.
His presentation, “Escape to Freedom: A Story of Survival, Dreams, Betrayals, and Accomplishments,” was inspired by his book, which details his life through the journeys and struggles he faced when escaping Europe and how all of his struggles shaped him into the person he is today.
Fribourg stated that while he was in elementary school, other young boys were being inducted into Hitler’s army. Trouble started to unfold all around him.
Fribourg’s father was drafted into a French Militia in 1940. At this time Fribourg, his mother and sister set out by car to the border of Spain in plans to escape to safety.
One the hardest moments of the journey, Fribourg claimed, was when he was spotted by a German Messerschmitt pilot. The pilot shot at them with machine guns, but Fribourg was able to escape by throwing himself into a ditch.
Later that year the family was reunited after their father’s 10-day journey on foot.
Things did not get easier for the family after being reunited. That same year Fribourg was expelled from school solely for being Jewish.
The family lived in North Africa and Cuba before finally arriving in Miami in 1945, where they became legal immigrants.
“It was not easy,” Fribourg said about the families trek to America.
Fribourg attended the University of Wisconsin and later received his Ph.D. from Iowa State. Fribourg said that his family was honored by his success.
The move to Knoxville in 1956 allowed for Fribourg to become a professor at the University of Tennessee where he retired after 43 years of teaching, with his wife Claudia.
One viewer of Fribourg’s presentation said that, “he was a teacher for almost 50 years, his experiences allowed him to be superior in that department.”
Fribourg claimed that he and his wife Claudia, who collaborated with him on the book, were not survivors.
“I refer to us as escapees, not survivors,” Fribourg said, “’Survivors’ is a word reserved for someone who was strong enough to live and pull through the brutal treatment.”
Fribourg plans to continue to share his story as long as he is able and educate others on what happened during that time.
To hear more about Henry A. Fribourg’s experiences check out his book, Escape to Freedom: A Story of Survival, Dreams, Betrayals, and Accomplishments.
Edited by Courtney Anderson