By Sabina Mollot
On March 3, Peter Cooper Village lost a World War II hero when longtime resident Jacob Friedman died.
Friedman, who fought the Nazis with the partisans, groups of resistance fighters in Europe, died two weeks after collapsing from a stroke two weeks earlier. He had also been dealing with macular degeneration for several years. He was 95.
According to his daughter, Sheryl Safran, Friedman, who was Jewish and born in Czechoslovakia in 1921, was able to avoid being rounded up by the Nazis during the early 1940s by joining the partisans. He ended up fighting his way through Europe, Safran said, evading capture until shortly before the end of the war, in 1944. He ended up in Mauthausen, a concentration camp in Austria, but got out when the camp was liberated along with other death camps. Then came a stint in a displacement camp for former concentration camp prisoners.
Later, Friedman settled in Palestine, and after fighting in the Israeli War for Independence, remained in Israel. It was there when he’d meet the woman he would later marry, an American citizen named Bernice whose last name was also Friedman.
They’d met by chance with Jacob having delivered something to a place where Bernice was having dinner. They married in Israel, but Bernice soon grew homesick.
In late 1956, the couple moved to New York’s Stuyvesant Town where Bernice had some relatives. They would later (in 1979) move to Peter Cooper.
Jacob started a business manufacturing high pressure steam machinery that was used in the garment industry. He worked in the city’s Garment District, which at the time was within walking distance of his home.
“This area meant a lot to him,” said Safran, who helped care for her father in the past couple of years as his eyesight deteriorated.
Friedman was buried in Cedarpark Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey. Bernice died over four years ago. Sheryl is their only child.