Holocaust survivor "love is stronger than hate"
This gay holocaust survivor is now the oldest member of Sydney’s Jewish LGBTI community, and on Sunday he’ll share his remarkable story in public for the first time.
Pictured above in his teens, 82-year-old Frederick Weisinger will take his audience on an emotional journey through extraordinary wartime memories of bravery, resilience and courage.
Recently Matt Akersten met with Weisinger in the Surry Hills home he shares with his partner, and he kindly practised telling his story with us. Since he’s not used to public speaking, he was a little nervous, but the memories soon flooded out, stirring strong emotions in him as he recalled his parents and their fates.
Weisinger’s childhood was spent with his shrinking family running from the Nazi’s around central Europe. “It was very bad. The atmosphere was very right wing, with fascist reactionaries everywhere. When the war started, I was about 8 or 9. There was nowhere for us to go. All the democratic, freedom-loving countries closed their doors immediately. We were trapped.
“People lived in fear,” he continues. “There was a daily experience of fear. I couldn’t go out to play. I couldn’t go to school, there weren’t any schools for Jewish people. If I went to the school down the road, I would get beaten up. There was no law to protect you.
“One morning, they came to collect us and drove us to a makeshift ghetto. There wasn’t much food, so people were dying in their droves. Women used to lost their ears and fingers as their gold jewellery was taken off.
“Luckily, there were some Christian people who helped us. You’ve heard of Schindler’s List? This was a similar situation. One of them told me I’d go to Heaven if I believed in God. I said I’d already seen Hell, so their Hell couldn’t be worse than that.”
Though they’d never held a shovel before, Weisinger’s brothers were taken away to toil in the mines, where many people were worked to death. “I didn’t see my brothers again until 1967,” he says.
“One night they collected my father. I ran from militia to militia to look for him. When he returned, I didn’t recognise him. He was a bundle of nerves, and from then on, only spoke in whispers.”
Surviving against all the odds, when Weisinger arrived in 1950s Sydney, he eventually discovered he was gay. He soon met a fellow immigrant named Herbie, who happened to be German, and the pair ended up in a happy 38-year relationship. Weisinger still lives in the Surry Hills house they shared together.
82 year-old Fred Weisinger is arguably one of the oldest members of Sydney's LGBTI community. He is also a survivor of the Holocaust in his native Romania where he was forced to live in a Jewish ghetto as a child and witnessed much suffering including that of friends and family. After the war he started to explore his sexuality. Here he discusses his memories of his teenage experiences in Bucharest and Vienna as well as his life after he moved to Australia in the early 1950s and met his German-born partner Herbie with whom he remained for 38 years.
Matt Akerstenis the editor of Same-Same in Sydney.