Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 04:47 am est

Deutsches Haus hosts Holocaust survivor

Posted on April 8, 2014 | by Julianne McShane

Daniel Cole/WSN

Margot Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor, visited a packed NYU’s Deutsches Haus on April 7. Friedlander — dressed entirely in black with an amber necklace that once belonged to her mother — read an excerpt from her memoir, “Try to Make Your Life.”

The event also featured a screening of a documentary about Friedlander’s life, directed by noted German filmmaker Thomas Halaczinsky.

Friedlander was 21 years old when she returned home to find out that the Gestapo had taken her family. Her mother left behind her handbag with the amber necklace inside, as well as a message for her daughter, repeated by a neighbor whom she had never met before — “try to make your life.”

“They were the last words from my mother, delivered by a stranger,” Friedlander read aloud from her book at the event. She told the audience that she started writing the book by hand in English and later switched to German.

Friedlander spent 13 months in hiding, moving around with the aid of 16 different people from an underground network. She was confronted by the Gestapo three times and was eventually sent to a labor camp in former Czechoslovakia, where she met and married her husband. They immigrated to New York in 1947, swearing they would never return to Germany. But just four years ago, Friedlander moved back to Berlin permanently.

After her husband passed away in 1997, Friedlander began taking a writing class at the 92nd Street Y, where her husband had formerly worked. There, she met Halaczinsky, who overheard her read an excerpt of her soon-to-be book and eventually approached her about producing a documentary on her life.

“It’s a story of awakening,” Halaczinsky said at the event, adding that Friedlander was initially shy because it was the first time she spoke about her past. “It took her a while to open up.”

His first film on Friedlander, “Don’t Call it Heimweh,” premiered in 2004, and his follow-up film, “A Long Way Home,” — which followed Friedlander on her move back to Berlin — premiered in 2010. The latter was shown at the event.

Petrina Engelke, the New York-based German journalist who led the discussion, said Friedlander was a great subject to interview because she was willing to answer any question.

“Talking to her was very interesting for me,” Engelke said.

Friedlander will stay in the United States for about three weeks. She said she plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to read in two schools and sign books at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and then return to New York to celebrate Passover with friends.

Friedlander said although she is keeping busy in the United States, it was still difficult to return and she is looking forward to returning to Berlin.

“I’m very busy and it’s very exciting, but its very hard for me and very emotional,” she said.

Julianne McShane is a staff writer. Email her at

*Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Friedlander’s husband passed away in 2003. He passed away in 1997. Additionally, Friedlander will sign books at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, not the Jewish Museum.

WSN regrets the errors.


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.