Austria releases archive of unique wedding in Auschwitz

i24NEWS - AFP

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A reproduction made on September 12, 2022, from the exhibition catalog by the Vienna City Hall Library, Austria, shows Austrian prisoner Rudolf Friemel (R) and Spaniard Margarita Ferrer Rey.
JOE KLAMAR / Wienbibliothek im Rathaus / AFPA reproduction made on September 12, 2022, from the exhibition catalog by the Vienna City Hall Library, Austria, shows Austrian prisoner Rudolf Friemel (R) and Spaniard Margarita Ferrer Rey.

'We see through them that there was love in the midst of horror'

A yellowed photograph of Austrian resistance fighter Rudolf Friemel and his Spanish wife Margarita Ferrer Rey is the centerpiece of "The Wedding of Auschwitz" exhibition that opened in Austria’s capital city of Vienna.

Friemel met Ferrer Rey in Spain after going there to fight with the International Brigades in 1936 against General Franco's fascists during the Spanish Civil War. They had a son together shortly before Friemel was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. 

The archive was donated by the couple's grandson and will be exhibited until September 30. This union was the only one celebrated within the very walls of Auschwitz, which became the symbol of the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against European Jews. 

Their marriage, authorized by the Nazis, was registered on March 18, 1944, by the civil status service of the camp.

"Assigned to the maintenance of SS vehicles, Rudolf Friemel had better conditions of detention than other prisoners," Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig said while presenting the exhibition catalog.

"But the unique privilege of being able to marry remains unexplained to this day," he stressed. 

JOE KLAMAR / Wienbibliothek im Rathaus / AFP
JOE KLAMAR / Wienbibliothek im Rathaus / AFPA reproduction made on September 12, 2022, from the exhibition catalog by the Vienna City Hall Library, Austria, shows a card related to the wedding of Austrian prisoner Rudolf Friemel and Spaniard Margarita Ferrer Rey, which took place on March 18, 1944, at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Margarita Ferrer Rey, who resided in Austria with her fiancé's father, brother, and their three-year-old son, was notified by telegram that she was authorized to make the trip to the camp in occupied Poland. 

Friemel was allowed to let his hair grow and to wear a civilian costume for the occasion. A cell was also made available to the couple for their wedding night in the camp brothel.

But their happiness was very short-lived: Friemel was hanged later in December for helping to organize an escape attempt. His wife and child left to live in France after the war, where Margarita died in 1987. 

The couple’s letters, pictures, and other documents of great historical value were recovered in 2017 from their grandson, Rodolphe Friemel, 48, who bears his grandfather's first name and lives in the south of France.

"What I find most interesting", he told AFP, "is that we see through them that there was love in the midst of horror." 

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