Recha Freier (Hebrew: רחה פריאר) (October 29, 1892 in Norden, Ostfriesland – April 2, 1984 in Jerusalem) founded the Youth Aliyah organization in 1933. The organization saved the lives of 22,000 Jewish children by helping them to leave Nazi Germany for Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Youth Aliyah activities
In 1933, when the Nazis began firing Jews from their jobs because of their Jewish origins, Freier conceived the idea of Youth Aliyah. "The utter senselessness of Jewish life in the Diaspora stood palpably before my eyes," she wrote. She devoted the rest of her life to the rescue of Jewish children and arranging for their transport to Palestine. At that point in time Henrietta Szold had refused to take part being as she had no idea of the building danger to the Jews in Germany, and thought it a pity to interfere with their education. However, Hitler's rise to power and the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 persuaded Szold that there was indeed a pressing need for the program.
The man who was Freier's pioneer emissary and agent in rescuing thousands of Jewish youngsters was Solomon Dzubas. Dzubas was married to Rivkah Suesskind, the daughter of Rabbi Freier's assistant, Rabbi Mordechai Suesskind. Dzubas was arrested by the Gestapo in 1938 and sent to Auschwitz where he died. His wife who was also arrested by the Gestapo, died in the Terezin concentration camp. Her parents, the Suesskinds, were shot to death during the arrest. Their two daughters Dvorah and Judith were on the last train he sent off. After Dzubas's capture Recha had to take over the campaign single handed.
Youth Aliyah used controversial and gray zone methods, even illegal methods, to get as many as possible children out alive. Though Youth Aliyah succeeded in saving more than 7,600 children from Nazi Germany, Freier suffered great sorrow all her life for not having saved more.
In 1940 Freier was betrayed by some colleagues. Having been forewarned, she managed to flee Germany alive, taking with her another 40 teenagers. Before immigrating to Palestine, she helped smuggle an additional 90 Jewish children out of Yugoslavia.
In 1957, Freier founded the Israel Composers Fund and sponsored the Israel Testimonium, a music event that took place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She wrote poetry and prose, and some of her poems were set to music by German Jewish composers.
Recha Freier died in 1984 in Jerusalem.
Let the Children Come!
Kikar Recha Freier, a square in the Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood, is named after her.
- Libretto for the opera Amnon und Tamar by Josef Tal
- A Letter to a Friend No. 16, May 1984, Youth Aliyah, the Jewish Agency for Israel
- "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1981 (in Hebrew)".
- The personal papers of Recha Freier are kept at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. The notation of the record group is A256.
- Biography on Berlin-Judentum website - http://www.berlin-judentum.de/englisch/freier.htm