The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

John Freund

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Born
June 06, 1930 České Budějovice, Czechoslovakia

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1948 Toronto, Ontario

A young boy who loved soccer as much as he loved to write, John Freund found his joyful childhood shattered by the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. John’s family suffered through the systematic erosion of their rights only to be deported to Theresienstadt – en route to the Auschwitz death camp.

About John

John Freund was born in 1930 in České Budějovice, a town located south of Prague, in Czechoslovakia. He was liberated by American troops in 1945 and in March 1948, John immigrated to Toronto. He and his wife, Nora, live in Toronto.

Photos and Artifacts

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    John as a baby, mother Erna, and older brother, Karel. České Budějovice, 1930.

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    Erna Jung Freund, John’s mother, at 19 years old. Pisek, Czechoslovakia, 1917.

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    From left to right: Uncle Leopold Jung, brother of John’s mother, Erna, with his wife, Manja, and their children, Eva and Hannah. Prague, 1938.

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    John, about 10 years old (in front), with other Jewish children. Aside from John, the only survivor is the boy in the black shirt, whose mother was not Jewish. České Budějovice, 1940.

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    John at ten years old. České Budějovice, 1941.

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    Jewish children from John’s hometown. Self-named Solelim (The Builders). John (far right) and boy second from left were the only survivors. České Budějovice, 1941.

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    An illustration featuring John and his favourite childhood pastime. From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original individual copies are held at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

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    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine featuring John’s brother, Karel, and Susan Kopperl, the girl he liked. The text on the illustration reads, “You are the only one on the entire globe.” The magazine was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original individual copies are held at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

  • John Freund larger image and caption

    From the original Klepy (Gossip) magazine, which was hand-drawn and typed by John and his friends over the summers of 1940 and 1941. Original copies are at the Jewish Museum in Prague/Židovské museum v Praze. The magazine’s mission was “[...] to prove that a healthy spirit and sense of humour is within us and that we are not diminished by the difficulties of our days. We are capable, in moments of rest from our labour, to occupy our minds with worthwhile thoughts and humour.”

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    John’s father, Gustav, and mother, Erna. June 1941.

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    John (left), 11 years old, with his parents, Erna and Gustav, and older brother, Karel, circa 1941.

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    John, 15 years old, at a swimming area. České Budějovice, 1945.

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    Aunt Anna (Anda) from Austria, the sister of John's mother, Erna. Prague, 1946.

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    En route to Canada aboard SS Aquitania. John is on the right, with his travel companions Tom and Miriam. 1948.

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    John, 18 years old (right), and friend Tomy Newman (left), aboard SS Aquitania, en route to Canada. March 1948. Tomy and John are still good friends.

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    John at his first job in front of Downy-Flake Doughnut shop on Sunnyside. Toronto, 1948.

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    John, 20 years old. Toronto, near Bathurst and College, 1950.

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    The building where John lived from birth until 1942. Photo taken by a friend. České Budějovice, 1950.

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    John and Aunt Anna, John’s father’s sister. Canada, 1959.

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    John (right) with grandchildren Jonah, Karly, Jack, Orlee, Michayla, Shira, Arielle, Gideon, Emily and Amanda, and Daniel Bell (left), John’s son-in-law. Canada, 2006.

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    John and his wife, Nora. Toronto, 2007.

The Book

Cover of Spring's End
2008 Independent Book Publisher Award Gold Medal Winner

Spring's End

Into a new world I was brought by a dream
Never to see blood spilled again
But can I really throw away
The dreams that soiled my youth?

Explore more of John’s story in Re:Collection

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Spring's End

Departure

In April 1942, the population of our town fell by nearly a thousand. We had been notified that we were to appear with our luggage at a large warehouse near the railway station. The Jews of Budějovice were a civilized lot – we did not fuss much. We were used to doing what we were told, so we checked into the warehouse, presented our documents, were assigned numbers and prepared for the night. A few children whimpered and some of the older boys started to fool around.

The next day, we were told to board a passenger train that would take us to a gathering place. Our main worry was whether this new place would be in Czechoslovakia. Somehow there seemed less to worry about as long as we stayed in our own country. As the train began to move, we got our first glimpses of the cruel SS men (Schutzstaffel) – the Nazi elite troops who guarded the concentration camps. They were dressed in perfectly ironed uniforms and had animal-like expressions on their faces. One such beast – a high official with many stars on his uniform – inspected the train. Shouting orders in German, he kicked and slapped several people who got in his way.

The train sped north toward Prague, then west. At the end of the day we were unloaded at the gathering place, Terezín. Terezín was an old town that had many soldiers’ barracks, massive three-storey brick buildings and several large yards. The town had a moat all around it, making escape impossible.

That first night in Terezín we slept in a large warehouse, body to body, with just enough room to move around on our tiptoes. The next day, all the families were separated. Women were moved to one of the large barracks, and men to another. There was not much time to say goodbye as we had to line up quickly. Food was distributed from large barrels into small pots that were assigned to all the inmates in Terezín. Bread, potatoes and gravy comprised our main daily meal.

We stayed in Terezín from April 1942 until November 1943. The town grew more and more crowded from the incoming transports of Jews from other parts of Czechoslovakia. Old people and sick people started dying quickly. Every morning, bodies covered with white sheets were seen piled up in wagons, waiting to be moved to the crematorium.

At first, we all lived in the barracks, many to a room, sleeping on the floor. Somehow, amidst all this, children were allowed a little fun. We were permitted to play in the yard, to sing and play word games. One of my memories is of a teacher who would sing his and my favourite song, “Spring Will Come Again, May Is Not Far Away.”