In an interview with Doran Ben-Atar, Ph.D., professor of history, Fordham’s oldest student, 101-year-old Mathilde Freund, quoted from enlightenment philosopher Baruch Spinoza and cited Goethe as she discussed living life as a survivor of the Holocaust.

The event was held before a live audience on April 11, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and was sponsored by Fordham’s Jewish Student Organization.

Freund answered Ben-Atar’s questions with unfettered swiftness. But while she was up for answering questions about the horrors of the war, she also insisted on underscoring the beauty of life and the importance of hope. Following the interview, she took questions from several students.

In her responses, Freund’s near photographic recall of events was both harrowing and inspiring. In instance after instance she quietly balanced the bad with good. There was the Christmas Night hunting party where the Nazis went out to kill escaped Jews in the woods, where Freund and her family were hiding. Then there was the German woman named Maria who helped Freund and her mother escape from a Gestapo prison run by the famous Klaus Barbie, known as the “Butcher of Lyon.”

“She opened the door and took pity on us,” said Freund.

Freund has been a student in Fordham’s College at 60 program for more than 40 years. She remembers most of her professors by name—in particular John Adams, S.J., former provincial of the Hungarian Province of the Society of Jesus and an associate professor of philosophy.

“I’m very curious, I write a little bit, I read lots of books, and I am very, very happy,” she said. “I can only recommend going to school and continue learning—really that’s the best medicine in the world.”


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.