It was the 1930s in Nazi Germany, and Elfriede "Friedel" Lambert’s father could see what was coming for Jewish people.
He managed to send his 15-year-old daughter to Luxembourg to live with relatives. The rest of the family could not escape. They all eventually perished in the concentration camps.
Now 101 years old and living at the Bristal assisted living facility in North Hills, Lambert on Monday was honored for her courage and perseverance with a special pre-Passover seder she helped prepare.
It was a moment of both joy and sorrow for Lambert, who is happy she can celebrate another Passover and has lived a long life, but still haunted by what happened some eight decades ago.
“I lost my whole family: my parents, my grandparents, my two sisters,” said Lambert, who is known as Friedel. “I lost them all.”
The weeklong Passover commemoration of the Jews' historic exodus from slavery in Egypt 3,300 years ago carries with it a message of faith, freedom, defiance and hope, according to Jewish leaders.
On Wednesday and Thursday, many Jews will mark the start of the major holiday with festive seders, which generally take place the first and second nights of Passover. Children will ask four questions about the Passover ritual, and their parents will respond by retelling the Exodus story.
Lambert has her own Exodus story. Born in 1922, she was living in a small village in Germany as the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, said her son, Steve Lambert of New City.
After she spent a few years in Luxembourg, she boarded a ship in Spain that took her to Cuba. She lived on the Caribbean island for about five years, doing odd jobs. She worked as a diamond cutter and cared for the children of wealthy people.
She came to the United States when an uncle here sponsored her. She settled in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, where she became something of an unofficial “mayor” among the sizable Jewish population, her daughter, Sue Fredericks of Westbury, said.
One day Lambert went on a blind date with the man who would become her husband, Alfred Lambert. They went to Radio City Music Hall and walked in Central Park.
“I liked him” right away, she recalled Monday.
He, too, had lost his immediate family in the Holocaust. He somehow had made it to Shanghai, where he lived for nine years before immigrating to the United States.
She and her late husband didn’t talk much about the Holocaust — it was too painful, and they didn’t want their children to feel the sadness either, Steve Lambert said.
She was able to survive the nightmare simply by being “tough,” he said.
Today, Fredericks said, “I feel so proud of her … to be able to know that she has impacted the world in such a positive way.”
Rabbi Yaakov Reiter of Chabad of Roslyn, who oversaw the seder, said Lambert “is an inspiration to the Jewish people.”
That she is carrying on the Jewish traditions “is the best testament of the survival and the continuation of the Jewish people,” he said.
Friedel Lambert, a 101-year-old who lives in the Bristal assisted living facility in North Hills, was honored on Monday with a special pre-Passover meal she helped prepare.
Lambert, who is Jewish, grew up in Nazi Germany, but her family was able to send her out of the country when she was 15.
Her family could not escape, and all were killed in the concentration camps: both parents and her two younger sisters.