Introducing the 2020 Red Cross Class of Heroes: Fritzie Fritzshall, Global Citizenship Hero

Fritzie Red Cross Hero

There are few people more inspiring than Auschwitz Holocaust Survivor Fritzie Fritzshall—the Red Cross of Illinois 2020 “Everyday Extraordinary” Global Citizenship Hero and President of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.

At age 13, Fritzshall and her family were arrested at gunpoint and shipped via train to the horrific death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was separated from the mother and brothers that she never saw again. Fritzshall pretended to be 15, in order to be assigned to a grueling female labor camp for two years. She promised the 599 older prisoners that if she survived, she would tell their story, as well as the one million others who died at Auschwitz and eleven million who died in the holocaust. Eventually, Fritzshall escaped into a forest during a death march, was liberated by the Russian Army, and reunited with her father in America.

B&W photograph featuring Fritzie Fritzshall and her mother, Sara Davidovich Weiss dated circa 1935, Czechoslovakia. / Illinois Holocaust Museum: courtesy of Fritzie Fritzshall

They settled in Chicago, where she’s worked relentlessly to honor her promise, pay forward the blessings of her life and fight against hatred and bigotry. This includes founding and championing our world-class holocaust museum, returning to Auschwitz with Cardinal Blasé Cupich, and enduring five grueling days answering probing questions about her holocaust experience so that her 3-D holographic image would make it possible for everyone to meet and be inspired by her for perpetuity, through the museum’s “Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience,” which was recently featured on 60 Minutes.

Fritzie Weiss Fritzshall at around age 17/18; Chicago, Illinois dated circa 1946 / Illinois Holocaust Museum: courtesy of Fritzie Fritzshall

Sadly, Covid-19 caused the cancellation of the Red Cross’ annual Heroes Breakfast fundraiser, where Fritzshall was to receive her award. Fortunately though, by celebrating this amazing woman online instead, a far broader audience will be reminded just how much humans can endure and be inspired to be resilient and helpful too.

Since Covid-19, Fritzie has worked to inspire others creatively and virtually to get the positive message of the Illinois Holocaust Museum out to the public amid its closure. “Our work continues and this shows us that education does not stop, and the mission of the museum is education,” she told the Red Cross.

Better is honored to be a sponsor and collaborator in support of this Red Cross initiative. We hope you also will be inspired by Fritzshall’s story.

Please also consider a gift to the Red Cross too: redcross.org/ChicagoHero.


More from Better: