Buffalo Grove Remembers Fritzie Fritzshall
In 1944, when Fritzie Weiss Fritzshall was just 13 years old, Nazis forcibly took her, her mother, and her two brothers from their home in Czechoslovakia, and transported them to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.
Upon arrival, a prisoner told Fritzie that when she was asked, she should say she was 15 years old. Heeding his advice, she lined up with the 15-year-olds, and credited the man’s act of kindness with saving her life that day. Fritzie worked as a slave laborer in the camp, witnessing and experiencing her captors’ unimaginable acts of hatred. She never saw her mother and brothers again; they were murdered at Auschwitz.
Through determination of will, Fritzie escaped into the forest during a death march in 1945 and ran from the captors who had taken so much from her—her childhood, her family, her freedom. After being rescued by Soviet forces, she made her way to Chicago and was reunited with her father, who had immigrated to the States prior to the family’s detention. She became a hairdresser, and met and married Norman Fritzshall, a World War II veteran and Japanese POW survivor. She later made Buffalo Grove her home, bringing her generous, selfless, and kind spirit to our community.
The hardship Fritzie experienced at such a young age propelled her into action. She embraced her difficult past and used her story for good, bravely and openly sharing her experiences. She fought tirelessly against hatred and intolerance while also advocating for social justice, working to end the United States refugee crisis, and quelling rising anti-Semitism.
Fritzie founded the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, serving as its president from its opening in 2009 until her death in 2021. For her lifelong efforts to combat prejudice and hatred, she was awarded the Bertha Honoré Palmer Making History Award for Distinction in Civic Leadership from the Chicago History Museum, the Global Citizenship Hero award from the Chicago Red Cross, and the 2021 Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance.
While Fritzie’s story contains great pain, it is ultimately a story of resilience. She lived her life in service to others, spreading a message of kindness, generosity, and tolerance. Fritzie was an inspiration to many and will be dearly missed by the Buffalo Grove community. Fritzie was commemorated with a Proclamation at the July 19th board meeting.
Fritzie Fritzshall commemorated at the July 19th Board Meeting