Freddy Diament, a Holocaust survivor and prominent figure in the movement to commemorate the Holocaust, died of complications from pneumonia in Los Angeles on November 13. He was 81.
Diament dedicated his life to what he called “finding meaning and purpose in his survival,” working tirelessly with Jewish organizations and schools of all types so that others could find that same meaning. He appeared as a witness at the Nuremberg and Auschwitz trials of Nazi war criminals, served on the content committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was instrumental in establishing the annual Los Angeles Holocaust Memorial Day.
Diament was born in the coal-mining town of Gelsen Kirschen, Germany, in 1923. Along with his father and one of his four brothers, Diament was among the first imprisoned at Sachsenhausen and then Auschwitz between 1939 and 1945. His father was beaten to death in October 1942 by the Nazis. His mother and youngest brother died in other camps.
Another brother was hanged in front of the entire camp for resistance activities, as depicted in a scene from Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” “Where is God now?” Wiesel wrote. “Here He is hanging on the gallows.”
Diament was on the death marches that left Auschwitz on January 18, 1945. After seven weeks he escaped, hiding underground until the end of the war.
After the war, Diament helped establish kibbutzim for Holocaust survivors in Israel. After locating his sister and one surviving brother, he followed them to Los Angeles, where he eventually became CEO of Ernst Strauss, a women’s clothing business.
He is survived by his wife, Ilse; four children, Elana, Steve, Amalia and Jeff, and seven grandchildren.