Fred Feran of New Orleans and La Crosse died Feb. 25, 2010, at St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center in La Crosse.
He was born Fred Feuermann to Johana Politzerova (Pulitzer) Feuer-
mannova and Herman Feuermann on March 25, 1917, in Zakopcie, Slovakia, later part of Czechoslovakia. The family moved to the village of Cadca a year later after their home was set on fire in a pogrom (an organized action against Jewish people). They later moved to Zilina, Czechoslovakia, in 1928.
As the Second World War in Europe developed, Fred realized his best chance for survival was to get to Palestine, then controlled by the British. He dropped out of his engineering studies at the University of Brno shortly before graduation in 1939. Three days later, the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. Four of his siblings later died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and Sobibor, as did dozens of other family members in the Treblinka concentration camp.
Fred and his brother, Erwin, were among 698 Jews who took a chance they could reach Palestine on an illegal Greek ship, Agios Nicholas. They spent four months on the sea, trying to get the necessary permission from the British to enter.
After landing in Haifa, Palestine, Fred and his brother anglicized their last name to Feran. Fred joined the illegal Palestine Police Railroad and later was employed by the British at Anglo-Iraq Oil, Anglo-Iranian Co. and the Pakistan Oil Co. He was assigned to the Island of Sumatra in the Dutch West Indies, where he stayed until the Japanese surrendered India, and was awarded British colonial citizenship while in their employ.
In 1945, Fred joined the Czechoslovakian Overseas Army in Jerusalem, later training in Dover, England, and serving in Britain. After he was demobilized at the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, he returned to Europe to search for family, discovering so many had perished. Disheartened, he went back to England and then to New York on the Swedish ship Gripsholm.
Fred met his future wife, Jirina (Jean) Zelezna, who was born in the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. They married on Sept. 27, 1947, and then emigrated to the United States, where they had two children.
His extended Pulitzer family in New Orleans welcomed him to the U.S.A., and for 50 years, Fred worked for the cousin who sponsored his entry to the United States, Leah Pulitzer Antin, co-owner of Antin’s Jewelry in New Orleans. At night, he did clock repair and was so skilled that clocks — particularly grandfather clocks — were shipped to him from all over the country. His clock work was featured in the New Orleans Times-Picayune Sunday Dixie Magazine in 1977. He seldom had time for leisure; his work ethic was extraordinary. In his early years in America, he saw his beloved U.S.A. in his Chevrolet on summer family trips. Later, he traveled often to Europe and Israel, where a sister had emigrated.
One highlight of Feran’s life came in 2001 when he was selected from 250,000 nominations to carry the Olympic torch through the French Quarter of New Orleans on its way to the games in Salt Lake City. As he grew to adulthood, Fred had been a runner with hopes of running the 1,500-meter race on the Czechoslovakian Olympic team in 1936. The games were held in Berlin, Germany, then under Nazi influence. Fred did not realize his dream, a reason that the December 2001 opportunity was so meaningful.
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in 2005, Fred and Jean were evacuated to Texas and then moved to La Crosse to be near their daughter, Maureen, and her family.
Fred is survived by his wife, Jean; son, Russell (Phyllis) and their daughter, Leslie (Gary) Cohen; and daughter, Maureen (Robert) Freedland and their children, Benjamin, Celia and Leah Freedland.
Services will be held today at Temple Sinai in New Orleans, with burial in Hebrew Rest Cemetery No. 3.
Memorials are preferred to Maureen and Robert Freedland Fund for Studies of the Shoah of the La Crosse Public Education Foundation, P.O. Box 1811, La Crosse, WI 54602-1811, a nonprofit endowment that Fred and Jean Feran helped establish, or to the charity of your choice.