Discussion Forums - Judaism Book Recommendations

Topic: The Wedding Gown That Made History

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: The Wedding Gown That Made History
Date Posted: 6/8/2009 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2007
Posts: 5,062
Back To Top

Lilly Friedman doesn't remember the last name of the woman who designed

and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60

years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her

fiance Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown

he realized he had his work cut out for him.

For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this

was a different kind of challenge.  How was he ever going to find such a dress in the

Bergen Belsen Displaced Person's camp where they felt grateful for the clothes

on their backs?

Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food 

distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless

parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of

cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.

For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow

DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown

with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the

dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the


A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal

environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life

she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness.

Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town

of Zarica , Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed, respected and well liked

 by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva.

 He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at

Auschwitz. For Lilly and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of

persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross Rosen and finally Bergen

Belsen .




Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January

 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig's wedding. The town synagogue, damaged

and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager

 materials available to them. When Sefer Toraharrived from England they

converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.

 "My sisters and I lost everything - our parents, our two brothers, our homes.

The most important thing was to build a new home." Six months later, Lilly's

sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin

Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly's dress? "I stopped counting after 17."   With the

camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly's gown was in great


In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who

had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the

 gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America . Unable to part with her

dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, "not even

good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home."

Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C. When Lily's

niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt's dress, they immediately

recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed

 showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years.

 But Lilly Friedman's dress had one more journey to make.
Bergen Belsen ,

the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government

invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. They

 initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their

children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit

created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.

Lilly's family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in

Celle , were eager to visit the synagogue.

They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized

But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find

that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a

testament to the profound faith of the survivors.

As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah.  "It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot."

Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter.

The three Lax sisters - Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen - have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction.

As young brides, they had stood underneath the chuppah and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.

Subject: the wedding ghown that made history
Date Posted: 6/11/2009 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2007
Posts: 38
Back To Top

what a beautiful story and a tribute to all the survivors and the deceased.