Born in 1929 in what was then the Weimar Republic of Berlin, Germany, Fred Heyman has vivid memories of being a child during the rise and fall of Nazism and its effects on his intermarried family and daily life. He recalls the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in 1933, the subsequent beginning of the Holocaust, and the suicide of Hitler in the underground bunker at the Reich’s Chancellery. Within the twelve-year period that saw the height of Nazism, Heyman remembers the pogrom of “The Night of Broken Glass”; he notes, “literally walking across broken glass on the sidewalk to school. Nine years old and in third grade, arriving at school, I saw my school and the adjacent synagogue in flames. My education practically came to a halt on that day.” Heyman remembers the effect of anti-Semitic Nuremburg Laws on his life and enduring the Allied bombings on the city. After a particular air raid, he awoke under rubble and debris.
Regarding the Rosenstrasse Protest, Heyman recalls in 1943 the events that transpired: “I was there with my mother and when the SS came by with machine guns mounted on a truck, my underwear got stained.” At the time, Gestapo attempted to arrest him for transport to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. “Luckily, the arrest was averted”. He and his family lived in hiding throughout the rest of the war and saw the liberation of Berlin by the Soviet armed forces. They resided in the city until 1946, when they were able to immigrate to the United States.
Heyman and his family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While finishing his secondary education, the Korean conflict interrupted. Heyman was drafted and served with the U.S. 45th Infantry; and he completed his high school education through a self-study course while in combat overseas. After being discharged from military service, he attended the University of Wisconsin to study electrical engineering, which eventually led to employment with AT&T. Heyman went on to become a manager there and worked over 40 years before retiring in 1996. He and his wife, Elouise, had two children, Renee and Gareth, and have four grandchildren to date.
In 2004, Heyman’s wife passed away and his work with the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West in Whippany, New Jersey began. He is a member of its Executive Committee and serves on the Holocaust Advisory Committee of the Jewish Family Service. He has delivered 451 speech engagements about the Holocaust and firsthand experiences to more than 48,000 listeners. Additionally, he was nominated by The New Jersey State Commission on Holocaust Education and received the Hela Young Award in 2017. As a member of the Morris Rubell Holocaust Remembrance Journeys, he accompanied students visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. a total of 105 times. Producer Howard Goldberg made a documentary, directed by Joe Schreiber, entitled: “Be an Upstander, The Fred Heyman Story.” Similarly, Golda Och Academy created a documentary about survivors entitled “Names, Not Numbers” in which Heyman, with other survivors, shared his experience. He is the official photographer for the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West and is involved with a “Twin with a Survivor Mitzvah Program”. To date, he has 58 “twins” who became certified by sharing their bar/bat mitzvahs with a Holocaust Survivor.
Regarding the Holocaust and life afterwards, Heyman notes, “The question that I find to be most important when regarding the Holocaust is why didn’t someone do anything about the atrocities that were occurring? The world stood by as more than 11 million humans were murdered… In my work and my life, I chose not to be a bystander, but instead an UPSTANDER! And to me, an upstander takes action and initiative. They are a person who embraces and helps another human being when there are in trouble. I do my best to inspire others to be an upstander as well.”