Auschwitz survivor Frances Fabri dies at 76

Frances Sarah Fabri was an “unsung hero” of the Holocaust Center of Northern California, according to its past president Michael Thaler of San Francisco.

Fabri, of San Francisco, died Monday, Jan. 9. She was 76.

Fabri was born Sárika Ladányi in Bekes, Hungary, on Sept. 22, 1929. She was deported to Auschwitz with her family when she was 14. She and her mother were immediately separated from her father, but even when she was transferred to a labor camp later, her mother was still with her.

“She always said that was a lifesaver, being with her mother,” said Sylvie Braitman, a friend of Fabri’s.

The two women survived and returned to their hometown after they were liberated. Fabri’s father never returned.

She married Emery Fabri — whom she later divorced — and they left Hungary in 1956. They arrived in New York in 1957.

Fabri had begun university before they left Hungary, and completed her studies at Hofstra University in New York, studying history and literature.

They moved to San Francisco in 1972.

According to Thaler, Fabri was among the first in the country to think of compiling oral histories of Holocaust survivors. Through a German professor she knew at San Francisco State University, Fabri asked for some college students to volunteer to assist her.

“She devised a very standardized form, and taught them how to interview survivors so it would be a standardized process,” said Thaler. “She was thinking of it as a historical record.”

With the help of her students, Fabri interviewed some 50 survivors, and then transcribed them into 50 records that are now in the archive of the Holocaust Center.

Thaler, who was president of the Holocaust Center from 1982 to 1993, said that Fabri was among the initial group of survivors who founded the center, but she stopped her association with it after some time.

“She was a very shy person who always felt marginal there because she was Hungarian, and there were very few Hungarians around,” said Thaler. “She was a very passive person, though she was very intellectual, too.”

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Headshot of Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."