Frieda Feldman, refugee of World War II, dies at 84

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Frieda Feldman "never thought of herself as anything but a simple plain housewife and never really thought she personally had accomplished much," said her son, Fred Feldman of Lansdale, Pa.

But her four surviving children thought of their mother differently.

"As a young woman in her early 20s, she had the courage and resolve to lead herself, her mother, her sister and future brother-in-law, and her then-fiancé out of the jaws of the Nazis," said her daughter Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs of Potomac, Md.

Frieda Feldman of Palo Alto died on June 3 of Alzheimer's disease. She was 84.

Feldman, née Altman, was born in Warsaw, Poland, on May 17, 1917. Her father died when she was 2, and her mother moved the family to Sokolow, a small town near Warsaw.

When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Feldman was attacked by Nazi soldiers and decided to flee to Russia. She convinced other family members and her fiancé, Mendel Feldman, to join her.

In 1940, Frieda Feldman and Mendel Feldman, who had then become her husband, were sent to a labor camp in the Ural Mountains, where their first son, Avraham, was born. In 1941 they returned to White Russia, and then went to Crimea. After the Germans invaded Russia, they fled eastward.

During 1942, Mendel Feldman spent time in jail, and Avraham died. Between 1942 and 1944, the couple were refugees in Azerbaijan. Fred Feldman was born in 1942; his brother Irving Feldman — who now lives in Orleans, Ontario — was born in 1945.

The Feldmans spent three years in a displaced persons camp in Austria and in 1949, Frieda Feldman's uncle sponsored their move to the United States. They settled in South Bend, Ind., and they had two more children.

In 1990, the Feldmans moved to Rockville, Md., to be near Feldman-Jacobs. In 2000, they moved to Palo Alto, to be near their son Boris Feldman.

She never learned how to drive, never completed high school and was embarrassed about her English, yet Frieda Feldman was described by Feldman-Jacobs as an eshet chayal, a woman of valor.

"She never thought she was anything special," said Fred Feldman. "But she and her generation that endured and prevailed turned out to be among the giants of the earth."

Frieda Feldman was a life member of Hadassah, and, while she lived here, a member of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, where Boris Feldman is a member.

In addition to her husband and four children, Feldman is survived by 11 grandchildren.

Donations can be made to the library fund at the Mid-Peninsula Jewish Community Day School, 655 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306, where three of her grandchildren attend school.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."