Roman Frister, Holocaust Survivor and Veteran Haaretz Journalist, Dies at 87

After surviving both Plaszow and Auschwitz, Frister moved to Israel and worked at Haaretz for almost 30 years.

Ofer Aderet
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Roman Frister with his dog Kora.
Roman Frister with his dog Kora.Credit: Tali Shani
Ofer Aderet

Roman Frister, who wrote and edited for Haaretz for decades, died in Poland on Monday at the age of 87.

Frister, a Holocaust survivor, was born in the Polish town of Bielsko in 1928, the only child of a well-off family that later moved to Krakow. During World War II, his family fled the Krakow ghetto by means of forged Christian identity documents. His mother, a fluent German speaker, subsequently worked at a club for German officers, while he himself served as a gofer, delivering packages and drinks to the Nazis. His father, who had a “Jewish face,” remained at home.

But in 1943, a Jewish informant outed Frister to the Nazis as a Jew. He spent time in both the Plaszow and Auschwitz concentration camps, but survived. However, neither of his parents did. His mother was killed by a Nazi officer, and his father died of typhus.

After the war, Frister remained in Poland and began his lifelong career in journalism. He married several times, usually to Polish Christians.

In 1957, he moved to Israel with his wife Mira, whom he later divorced, and their son Avigdor. He began working at Haaretz in 1965, holding a variety of posts, including editor of the weekend magazine. He wrote hundreds of articles on numerous topics, but especially about the decades of Communist rule in Poland.

In 1990, Frister returned to Poland on behalf of the business mogul Robert Maxwell with instructions to buy up Polish newspapers and other media outlets. That job ended when Maxwell committed suicide in 1991, and Frister returned to Israel to become head of the Koteret School of Journalism and Communications.

Over the years, he also published several books, including a tell-all autobiography.

Frister is survived by three children from his various marriages and several grandchildren. He will be buried in Warsaw’s Jewish cemetery on Wednesday.