The Power Of Love And Faith: The Story of Ann And Isak Federman
October 2, 2014 | 10:16 AM
From Poland to America, and the atrocities of the Shoah (Holocaust) to a beautiful life in Kansas City, Ann and Isak Federman’s story is a testament to the power of love and faith.
Isak and Ann Federman (Photo courtesy of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education)
Ann Warszawski Federman grew up in Bendzin, Poland, and was sent at the young age of 17, along with her two sisters, to the Czechoslovakian labor camp Parschnitz. There, Ann was tasked with 12-hour work shifts every day and went to bed starving every night. After three years of suffering and indefinite hope for freedom, she was liberated by the Russian army in 1945.
Isak Federman, the sole survivor of his family, was also 17 years old at the time of the German occupation in Wolbrom, Poland. He was captured by the SS and sent to the first of many labor and concentration camps he would later endure. During the war, Isak was imprisoned in 17 different concentration camps – including Dachau.
Sick with typhus and weighing a mere 80 pounds at the age of 23, Isak wound up in a British hospital after the war ended. A Jewish doctor in the British army had saved Isak and treated him until he was healthy enough to go home. But home was no longer such a concrete place to go, especially without his family to return to. Isak was sent to the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp where he met a friend, who happened to be Ann’s brother, Chaim (John). Through Chaim, Isak met Ann, and so their love story began.
While waiting at Bergen-Belsen, Ann and Isak heard on the radio that President Truman had opened America’s gates to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
“Immediately we registered when we got to Frankfurt. He got on the list and I didn’t,” Ann said. “So you imagine, we were going to get married.”
Ann and Isak were in love and wanted to come to America together. However, Ann’s name was at the bottom of the list and Isak’s was at the top. Ann said that since all documents were handwritten at the time and computerized systems did not yet exist, the two figured out a way to get around the situation.
“My brother and Isak opened up a window and they found my name [on the list] and put it right on top,” Ann said. “That’s how we came to this country.”
Once Ann and Isak got to New York, they were given spending money and directed to move to Kansas City by the Jewish Federation and the Joint Distribution Committee. Soon after their arrival in Kansas City, Isak got to know the rabbi of Kehilath Israel Synagogue, who suggested that Isak propose to Ann.
Ann and Isak were married on September 22, 1946, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Because they were the first Holocaust survivors to marry in Kansas City, a wedding announcement was published in the Jewish Chronicle and more than 500 people attended the ceremony.
Federman wedding, 1946 (Photo courtesy of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education)
In the 67 years since then, Ann and Isak have lived a wonderful life in Kansas City and have been leaders in the Jewish community. They had three children, and now have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “They all have wonderful educations, which they never would have had in Europe,” Ann said.
Isak co-founded the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in 1993. Both Ann and Isak are devoted members of Kehilath Israel Synagogue and the Jewish Federation.
Ann and Isak feel it is vital to inform future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust. Ann said she believes that everyone needs to know about the existence of Nazis and their propaganda, that there is proof that those horrors took place, and that it is important to tell future generations that such inhumanity can happen anywhere.
Written by Lauren Katz during a marketing internship in the summer of 2014. Lauren is currrently a strategic communications student at the University of Kansas, and digital marketing and communications intern at the KU Hillel.