After the war, the name of Fredy Hirsch was all but forgotten until historian and biographer Wendy Holden decided to give voice to a man who so inspired the children he sacrificed everything for. For Fredy: The Teacher of Auschwitz will be a work of fiction, based on assiduous research and survivor accounts.
World rights were acquired at auction from Wendy Holden by Sarah Benton, managing director of the Zaffre Publishing Group, for publication in January 2025. Italian rights have just been pre-empted by Piemme.
In the heart of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, there stood a building whose walls were brightly painted with murals. It was a place where hundreds of Jewish children escaped to from their overcrowded barracks each day to sing, dance, and play. This little piece of heaven in hell was the work of Fredy Hirsch, a respected Jewish youth leader and gay prisoner, who had persuaded the Nazis to let him shield the ‘kinder’ from the worst horrors of the camp. Every day, they filed to Block 31 to be taught everything from history to self-hypnosis in his makeshift school. Even senior SS officers were drawn to the calm haven that reminded them of a life before Hitler. ‘Fredy built a wall against suffering in our hearts,’ one survivor said. ‘He taught us lessons that served us throughout life.’
Previous books by Holden include Born Survivors, the bestselling story of three young mothers who hid their pregnancies from the Nazis and gave birth at the camps, now published in 24 countries, and One Hundred Miracles with Zuzana Růžičková, Holocaust survivor and world-famous harpsichordist.
Publisher Sarah Benton said: ‘From the moment Wendy pitched this project to me, I knew I had to publish it. It is a huge honour to work with her to bring Fredy’s incredible story to life, to do justice to his legacy and that of the children he inspired through their darkest days. I know Zaffre is the very perfect home to take this out to the whole world.’
Wendy Holden said: ‘Ever since I heard about Fredy Hirsch six years ago, I knew that one day I would tell his story. Condemned for his sexuality after the war, Fredy was overlooked by everyone but the children he saved, none of whom ever forgot him. For Fredy will, I hope, ensure that many more people remember his name.’
For Fredy: The Teacher of Auschwitz by Wendy Holden will be published by Zaffre in January 2025 in HB, TPB, ebook and audiobook as a lead publication.