WRITER, VOLUNTEER AND HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR.
As Eva Friedlander was growing up, she faced horrors most can only imagine— living through the Holocaust. Now, at 94, the Buckhead resident shares WWII stories with today’s generation both in person and through her writing.
Friedlander was living in Budapest, Hungary, when the Nazi Party took over. She was 16 at the time. As friends and colleagues were seized, she realized the situation was not getting any better. Eva’s father had left her mother for another woman so it was just the two of them, and they knew they needed to leave. “We didn’t feel safe,” she says. “A young attorney friend called me one afternoon and told me I needed to get away. ‘It is inevitable—they are going to pick you up,’ he said.” She didn’t have any money and didn’t know where to go, so the attorney volunteered to get her and her mother false ID papers. “My name was changed and I had to dye my hair and wear glasses,” she recalls. “I rented a little room in a boarding house and worked for various people.”
Her mother worked as a nanny and the two met once a week, discreetly. Eventually the Allied forces landed and started pushing the Nazis out.
After the war, Eva met George Friedlander, a scientist who was part of a team that perfected penicillin for public use. They moved to Italy in 1948 and married a year later. She studied at Rome’s Fine Art Academy, and antiques and paintings became a passion. She and her husband moved to Atlanta in 1950. While he worked at Emory, she had a position with Rich’s downtown store as a buyer. Later she worked at ADAC and at her own antiques shop in Vinings.
Articulate and charismatic, Friedlander has been a volunteer with the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum for the last three years, where she gets to interact with children and tell her story. It’s something she enjoys tremendously. “These are the people that are not infected with hate, or not indoctrinated with bad ideas,” she says. “It’s very rewarding to talk to them.” She was thrown a bit when some of the children first asked why the Nazis didn’t like the Jews. “That is a difficult question; how do you answer that? I improvised quickly.” Her explanation was that for leaders of states or countries wanting to explain economical or financial problems affecting the citizens, it was convenient to blame Jewish people. She has also told her stories in a few local documentaries.
Her husband passed away in 2001. She has two children: a son, Lewis, and a daughter, Lynne. Although she is almost blind due to macular degeneration, she’s as active as she can be. In 2010, she co-wrote and published a memoir titled Nine Lives of a Marriage: A Curious Journey, with Simply Buckhead writer Mickey Goodman, dealing with the Friedlanders’ wartime experiences and George’s 45-year love affair with another woman. She contributes to The Jewish Georgian newspaper as well.
When her husband died, she moved from their old residence to her current one in Buckhead. She has an amazing patio where she likes to relax and garden. It’s a welcome home to her. “I feel comfortable here—and safe,” she says.
STORY: Jim Farmer PHOTOS: Sara Hanna