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Freda Teitelbaum

May 6, 1924 - February 11, 2023

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Freda Teitelbaum, born in Vienna, Austria, was the first child of Bernard and Regina Ulman. Her sister Susi was born four years later.  Freda enjoyed a secure childhood with a close family, summers at country resorts, winter skiing, weekend visits to the Vienna Woods, and immersion in the rich cultural life of Vienna.  Bright and studious, with eight years of private French lessons, she hoped to study at the Sorbonne in Paris.  This dream was shattered by the Anschluss, Hitler’s annexation of Austria in March 1938, when Freda was 13 and forced to leave school.  After more than eighteen months under Nazi rule, the family was fortunate to secure visas and come to the United States late in 1939.

Life as refugees was a struggle, and when a distant cousin in Chicago offered her father a job, the family moved.  While living in Chicago, Freda worked to help support the family, and she met her future husband, Irving Teitelbaum, on a blind date.  Not yet a US citizen himself, having come from Poland in 1939, Irv joined the army in 1942, and the two corresponded during his service.  After the war ended, Freda and Irv married in May 1945.  A year later, they traveled to Los Angeles and decided to settle there for a fresh, independent start.  Three children were born in rapid succession, two daughters and a son.  While busy raising her family, Freda, an expert seamstress, made clothes for herself and her daughters and did alterations and dressmaking to bring in extra money.  Freda and Irving built a close circle of friends, and their house was filled with library books, classical music, and lively social gatherings.

Freda never gave up her dream of a university education and began taking classes at Santa Monica College once her children were grown.  Soon she had her AA degree and was admitted to UCLA.  With Irv, her mother, her three children, two young grandchildren, and many friends looking on, she graduated in 1982 with a degree in English.  Although she had vowed never to go back to Vienna, Freda summoned the courage to confront her past and went to Europe with her older daughter in 1983.  As they made their way to Vienna, Freda started a journal as memories flooded back.  On her return, Freda continued writing with a new sense of peace, and in 1995 her memoir “Vienna Revisited” was published, detailing her childhood and life as a refugee in the United States.  Her book has been widely read and appreciated.

Over the years, Freda worked as a paralegal, did volunteer work, and traveled extensively with Irv. She also went to China and hiked the John Muir Trail with women friends.  Freda and Irving enjoyed theater together, and Freda loved art, music, intimate gatherings with close friends, and time with her children and grandchildren.  She was a quiet, modest intellectual with an infectious laugh, a voracious reader, and expressed her creative side in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint.

Freda died peacefully at home surrounded by loving family.  She was predeceased by her beloved husband Irv who died fourteen years earlier after their 64 years of marriage.  She is survived by her children Marcia Ruben, and husband Steve; Ruth Koch, and husband Jay; and Martin Teitelbaum, and wife Joy.  She is also survived by four grandchildren, Andrew Koch, and wife Brennan; Amy Koch, and husband Aaron Kahn; Daniel Teitelbaum, and wife Elana; and Elana Teitelbaum Cinnamon, and husband Ian; and four great-grandchildren, Grace and Lulu Koch and Elliott and Owen Kahn.

If you wish to honor Freda’s life, please make donations in her memory to:

USC Shoah Foundation

1150 Olive Street, 25th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90015

sfi.usc.edu/donate