the arc of fate leads to Minnesota
Upon arriving in Auschwitz, a fellow Austrian, non- Jewish kapo warned Fred and his fellow inmates, “You have arrived at hell on earth... don’t trust anybody. Don’t trust your best friend. Look out for yourself. Be selfish to the point of obscenity. Try to stay alive from one minute to the other one. Don’t let down for one second. Always try and find out where the nearest guards are and what they are doing. Don’t volunteer for anything. And don’t get sick, or you will be a goner in no time.”
These words guided Fred through imprisonment in Auschwitz, numerous forced labor camps and finally to Bergen Belsen. By the time the British arrived, Fred was near death. The Red Cross provided each inmate with a can of condensed milk and hard toast. “I didn’t have the strength to open a can of milk. That was the first time in my life that I started to cry.” A British medic carried Fred to a field hospital where he was treated and finally transported to an emergency hospital in Sweden.
Although Judy Baron began the war in Hungary, Fred’s and Judy’s lives followed similar arcs. Judy, along with her mother and two sisters, were also sent to Auschwitz and from there they worked in slave labor camps where both her mother and one sister died. Judy and her sister were finally transported to Bergen Belsen.
When British and Canadian troops entered in 1945 they found thousands of bodies unburied and approximately 55,000 inmates just barely alive. Typhus and starvation were so pervasive that about one third of the inmates died after liberation. Among those was Judy’s sister who died just one week after the British entered the camp. Judy was in such critical condition that she was transported to an emergency hospital in Sweden. It was during their recovery in Sweden that Fred Baron met Judy and they began to live again.
“In 1947 some friends helped me come to the United States. I stayed on the East Coast for about half a year and was on the verge of going back to Sweden when somebody told me, ‘What you see here is not really the United States.’ I found out there are Scandinavians in Minnesota, and I figured if they could stand the cold, maybe I could too!”