A survivor's account of escape from the Nazis


July 24, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WILDE LAKE resident Alfred Feldman has written a book describing his escape from the Nazis across Europe during World War II. Published in November, the book, One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler's Europe, won Feldman second place in the biography category of ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year competition.

Feldman lives in the neighborhood of Running Brook with his wife of 48 years, Frances Feldman. The couple have two grown children - Philip Feldman of Catonsville and Suzanne Feldman, of Frederick.

Feldman, 78, did not begin the book until after he retired. It might never have been written if not for encouragement from Susan Zuccotti, a professor at Columbia University.

Zuccotti became familiar with Feldman's story while writing a foreword for another book that included details of Feldman's experiences in the Alps during the war.

"I had not intended to write my book at all," Feldman said. "I was aware that a great many Jews were in concentration camps. I really didn't think what I had experienced was worthwhile in comparison. She said to me, `You owe it to history.' What could I do?"

In 1940, Feldman lived in Belgium with his parents, Joachim and Paula and three sisters, Jenny, Rachel and Edith, until the Germans attacked. The family fled to Montignac, France, where they worked in the vineyards.

"Our biggest problem was that there was very little food there," Feldman said. "We could not afford black-market prices, so we only got what was available from ration coupons. I remember we were all hungry at the time."

Eventually, Feldman and his father were ordered to report to work camps. His father became ill and was not required to return. Feldman continued to ride his bike to camp every day until the morning he spotted French police, wearing helmets and toting guns, guarding the camp.

"I got so scared that I turned around the bike and went back to Montignac," Feldman said. "I realized that suddenly I was an outlaw. We needed a piece of paper to allow us to travel. I was afraid of being arrested so I went through the vineyards to our home."

For weeks, the Feldmans hid in their home. They heard reports that French police were raiding homes during the night, taking Jews to work camps.

"We were totally unaware of the concentration camps," Feldman said. "All we knew was work camps."

Believing that his mother and sisters would not be taken by the police and were safe at home, Feldman and his father spent nights hiding in a neighbor's stable and on top of a wine vat.

"We didn't think they were in any danger. Why would they take kids like that?" Feldman said.

After a couple of weeks, Feldman returned home to find that his mother and sisters had been taken.

"I did not know what their fate would be," Feldman said. "We thought they would be taken to a work camp in Poland. They ended up in Auschwitz."

From 1943 through 1945, Feldman and his father sought refuge in the Italian Alps. They had to rely on the kindness of strangers to survive, even though the Germans had posted signs threatening to shoot anyone who aided Jewish refugees.

"I owe my life to those people in France and Italy who were safe and took great risks at hiding me or helping me and my father or other Jewish refugees," Feldman said.

On Nov. 2 and 3, Feldman will sign copies of his book at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The book, Feldman says, is a tribute to the people who helped him and a memorial to his mother and sisters.

Music for children

Nada Brahma will perform in an interactive program called "The World of Music" at 10 a.m. Aug. 6 at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center.

Using a variety of ethnic instruments, the group will lead the audience on an exploration of the role of music in other cultures.

Tickets cost $4 a person and should be purchased in advance.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Pool party

The Wilde Lake Community Association will sponsor a pool party for Wilde Lake residents at the Running Brook pool from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 1. Plans include a raffle, food, entertainment and children's games.

Tickets are $2 a person and must be purchased in advance at Slayton House.

Information: 410-730-3987.

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