Resistance fighter, Holocaust survivor, Freddie Knoller BEM is 100

15 Apr 2021

The whole community, together with Freddie Knoller’s family and friends, marked the 100th birthday of resistance fighter, Holocaust survivor and educator, Freddie Knoller BEM.

Born 17th April 1921, and well-loved for his warmth and charismatic presence, Freddie was awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to Holocaust education in 2016.

Freddie has shared his experiences of the Holocaust through his talks in nearly 400 schools since 2002 and his books and films continue to help to educate thousands of people.

For his centennial birthday, Freddie enjoyed celebrating in the garden with music and a cello-shaped cake, in recognition of his incredible cello playing. Freddie had a l’chaim with his wife Freda, with whom he recently celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary, and with their two daughters, Marcia and Susie and grandson, Nadav.

The family created a Celebrate with Jewish Care page to raise funds for Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre, where Freddie has been a member for 25 years. The Centre, which is very close to his heart, supports Holocaust survivors and refugees through a specific programme of social, cultural and therapeutic activities.

It was there, Freddie began his celebrations with members, staff and volunteers on a Zoom with Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre. On the Zoom, Harry Olmer BEM, wished a very happy birthday to Freddie, saying “please G-d by us all to 120," and Helen Aronson BEM added, "happy birthday Freddie, you have done wonderful work for Holocaust education." 

The Holocaust survivor community and charities supporting survivors, celebrated Freddie’s 100th with a pre-recorded event on Sunday 18 April, Freddie Knoller BEM: A Life Worth Celebrating. Organised by JW3 in partnership with Holocaust charities including Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre, Holocaust Education Trust, HET, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Association of Jewish Refugees, Jewish Care, HSC, March of the Living and the National Holocaust Centre & Museum. It was followed with the BBC2 documentary 'Freddie Knoller's War',

Freddie said afterwards, “Thank you to everyone for your good wishes on my birthday and for a very special get together with my family and friends.

Freddie’s daughter, Susie Knoller, says, “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 them 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

“We had a fantastic celebration on Saturday. It was a fun and musical afternoon,” continues Susie. “The weather was on our side and the sun shone down on us all making this birthday a very special one.”

In his message to Freddie, Jewish Care chief executive, Daniel Carmel-Brown, wished him, “A very happy birthday, until 120!”

Freddie was born in Vienna, Austria in 1921, escaped the Nazi’s 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 identification papers as a Frenchman from Alsace. He worked in Paris and joined the French Resistance before being betrayed by a French girlfriend and arrested again.

Refusing to reveal the name of the resistance group, 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 prisoner, a doctor, who helped him by sharing extra food with him. He went on the Death March and was finally taken to 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.

Freddie and Freda were married on 31st December 1950, in the Rabbi's house in Baltimore, Maryland. They met after the war on a blind date. Freda, at that time was visiting her aunt and uncle in Baltimore, and Freddie, after being liberated from Bergen Belsen, was sent as a refugee to America, where his two brothers, Otto and Eric were living and happily married. Mum and Dad met on a blind date, after one month they were engaged and were married after 2 months. It was love at first sight!”

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 who has Nadav, 24, who was born in Israel.

You can donate to Freddie’s Celebrate with Jewish Care page at

https://www.jewishcare.org/donate-to-a-celebration/1593-freddies-100th-birthday