Łucja Frey-Gottesman (1889-1942?)

Autor: Krystyna Makowska
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Łucja Frey-Gottesman (1889-1942?),

Łucja Frey portrait. Published for first time in: Herman: Neuolodzy polscy Warszawa 1958, without any copyright notice (photograph taken in 1919, photographer unknown).

Łucja Frey-Gottesman was born in a Jewish family on November 3, 1889 in lamberg which at that time was part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire (from 1918 to 1939 Lwów belonged to Second Polish Republic, now Lviv in Ukraine). She was the daughter of Szymon Symcha Frey, a construction supplier, and Dina Weinreb[1]. The Frey family belonged to the assimilated Jews of Lviv; Łucja indicated Polish as her native language[1,2,3,4].

In the years 1896–1900 she attended a Catholic primary school at the Benedictine monastery, then the Goldblatt-Kammerling Jewish junior high school for girls (from 1900 to 1907). On November 10, 1907, she passed her secondary school exams as an external student at the Franz Józefa Junior High School [4]. Her parents' connections enabled her to continue her education despite the difficulties that at that time limited women's rights to study. In 1908 she began studying philosophy at the University of Lviv, but eventually she changed her major to mathematics. After passing her license teaching exams in 1913 she took a position as a secondary school teacher in mathematics [4].

Four years later, at the age of 28 she began medical studies in Lviv. Unfortunately, after four semeters of studies in Lviv, the Polish-Ukrainian war interrupted her medical education for one academic year between 1918/1919. She resumed her medical education in Warsaw and before graduating, she was employed as a junior assistant at the neurological clinic of Kazimierz Orzechowski, the first director of the Department of Nervous Diseases of the University of Warsaw [5]. She graduated on February 20, 1921. From June 1922 to May 1923 she passed a number of final exams, including an exam in neurology with prof. Orzechowski receiving an excellent grade[1]. She received her diploma at the age of 34, on June 23, 1923 with special recognition for her outstanding expertise in neurology, pathology, and anatomy [4].

In the years 1923–28 she was a senior assistant at the neurological clinic in Warsaw. She probably defended her Ph.D. dissertation in 1924 since her further publications were designated with the Ph.D. degree. However, this is only a speculation since no doctoral dissertation is to be found among Łucja Frey's works and no information about such work is provided in the lists of pre-war dissertations at the University of Warsaw[6]. Therefore, it seems likely that the title "Dr med." used by Herman[7] means "doctor of general medical sciences", i.e. a doctor, and not the academic title of "doctor of medicine"[4].

During her stay in Warsaw, she lived in the clinic building at ul. Nowogrodzka 59. In 1929 she returned to Lviv to work as a neurologist at the Jewish Community Hospital and married a lawyer Marek (Mordechaj) Gottesman, the father of her children Jakub and Danuta [4].


Jewish hospital in Lwów in 1930s, in which Łucja Frey worked from 1929


In 1930, she gave birth to a daughter, Danuta [1]. In 1932, the Frey family moved to a new apartment at ul. Sykstuska 35. Information about the second child, Jakub, born in 1919, comes from only one source - the testimony of Łucja Frey's sister-in-law, Hedwa Balat née Gottesman, submitted to the Yad Vashem institute in 1955[4].

In 1940 her husband was arrested by Soviet intelligence agencies (NKVD), charged with counterrevolutionary activity and he was never seen again. After the Germans occupied the city, Łucja Frey was forced to live in the ghetto [1]. There she worked at the Second Clinic (II. Ghettopoliklinik) at ul. Zamarstynowska 112[2,4]. The last evidence that Łucja Frey was alive comes from April 1, 1942. It is a completed personal questionnaire for a work permit card (Fragebogen zur erstmaligen Meldung der Heilberufe) with serial number 144, issued by the German authorities. At that time she lived at Balonowa 6 m. 12. On August 20, 1942, almost all patients and medical staff of the clinic in the ghetto (at least 400 people) were murdered[1]. The circumstances of Łucja's death in 1942 or 1943 remain unclear [8,9]. It is uncertain whether Łucja Frey died or was deported between August 10 and 22 to the German extermination camp in Bełżec and then died there in 1944 [1,6]. Probably, if she survived longer, her life would have ended with the liquidation of the Lwów ghetto by departing Schutzstaffel units in June 1943. Moreover, nothing is known about the fate of Łucja Frey's family, her daughter Danuta, alleged son Jakub, husband, parents and parents-in-law[4].