‘What a fighter, what a hero, what a fantastic man!’

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‘What a fighter, what a hero, what a fantastic man!’

Beloved war-time Jewish resistance fighter Freddie Knoller, who survived Auschwitz, celebrates his 100th birthday.

Freddie with his card from the Queen to celebrate turning 100 on Saturday
Freddie with his card from the Queen to celebrate turning 100 on Saturday

Legendary war-time Jewish resistance fighter Freddie Knoller has celebrated his 100th birthday. 

Holocaust survivor Freddie, born 17 April 1921, enjoyed the special occasion in the garden with music and a cello-themed cake, in recognition of his cello playing skills alongside close family members.

The occasion is a momentous milestone in a long and eventful life, which has seen Freddie join the French resistance, survive Auschwitz, and be awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to Holocaust education.

To mark the occasion, family members have created a ‘Celebrate with Jewish Care’ page to raise funds for the charity’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre, which Freddie has been a member for 25 years and whose members also wished him a happy birthday.

23.02.2016 Image from the visit of HRH Camilla Duchess of Cornwall to the Holocaust Survivors Centre in north London.
© Blake Ezra Photography 2016

The milestone was also celebrated with a pre-recorded event on Sunday organised by JW3 and a range of Holocaust chairties called ‘Freddie Knoller BEM: A Life Worth Celebrating’.

Speaking after the event, Freddie said: “Thank you to everyone for your good wishes on my birthday and for a very special get together with my family and friends.”

His daughter, Susie Knoller, added: “Dad certainly deserves to be spoiled and honoured, what a fighter, what a fantastic man!

“He was overjoyed to see so many familiar faces on the Zoom with Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre. 

“The Centre has been a lifeline to my parents after everything that’s happened and after everything the Centre has done for them over the years. 

“Freddie was very touched by kind words shared at the birthday event organised by JW3 with all the Holocaust charities which are so important to him. 

“Freddie would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and he hopes to see them soon in person.”

17.03.2014 Images from the Holocaust Survivor’s Centre Annual Dinner, held at the Marriott Grosvenor Square. © Blake Ezra Photography 2014

Freddie was born in Vienna, Austria, and escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Belgium but was interned in a Belgian refugee camp until 1940. 

After attempting to leave he was arrested on the French-Belgium border and then escaped prison and obtained false ID papers as a Frenchman.

He worked in Paris and fought with the French Resistance –  before being betrayed by a French girlfriend and arrested again.

Refusing to reveal information about the resistance, Freddie admitted to being Jewish and was sent to the Drancy Transit Camp near Paris. 

He was deported to Auschwitz where he carried 25kg cement bags at a run and survived due to his friendship with a French doctor imprisoned at the camp, who helped him by sharing extra food with him.  

He went on the Death March and was finally taken by cattle truck to Bergen Belsen before being liberated by the British Army in March 1945. 

From there he made his way as a refugee to meet his family in America, where he met and married wife Freda on New Year’s Eve, 1950 at a rabbi’s house in Maryland.

The couple moved back to England in 1952 after two years of marriage, as Freda, who is from the UK, was homesick. 

They have two children, Marcia, born in 1953 and Susie, born in 1956 whose son Nadav, 24, who was born in Israel.

Donations to Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre for Freddie’s birthday can be given here.

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