Knoxville Holocaust escapee shares pain in seeing anti-Semitic message on UT’s Rock


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – An anti-Semitic message painted on The Rock on UT’s campus continues to stir hurt among many in East Tennessee this week.

More: University of Tennessee condemns anti-Semitic message painted on the rock

The Rock has since been repainted, the new design imploring people to ‘Love Thy Brother.’

We sat down with Dr. Henry Fribourg, whose family escaped the Holocaust, about the anti-Semitic message.

“At the age of 12, I was able to escape from France one week before the borders were closed and my immediate family and I could not have left. If I had not left, instead of my being here talking to you in 2019, I would’ve ended up in the ovens of Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Dr. Fribourg.

His family was able to escape because his father purchased visas, so the family could move to Cuba and then immigrate to the U.S.

“Two of my grandparents were murdered by the Germans during WWII, as well as many other millions,” said Dr. Fribourg.

He says hearing that a message of hate targeting the Jewish community has happened in Knoxville is hurtful, “I find it disgusting. Despicable.”

At the same time, Dr. Fribourg says he sees their right to paint such things.

“We are in a country which has a constitution and a bill of rights, fortunately, and we are allowed freedom of expression. Unfortunately that allows despicable statements to be made publicly.”

UT holds a special place in Dr. Fribourg’s heart. He retired from UT after 45 years as a member of the Plant Sciences Department and it’s part of the reason why the anti-Semitic message hurts.

“I think in great part the problem with the thinking of these people is that they have not been fully educated into not just what is happening today, but in history,” he added.

Today and everyday Dr. Fribourg says he’ll share his story – “so we can ensure that nobody ever forgets, but remembers, what did happen between 1933 and 1945.”

The Knoxville Jewish Alliance says anti-Semitic comments have been painted on The Rock three times in the last 18 months.

In response there’s a billboard up right now that’s a religious ‘COEXIST’ focusing on ‘Knoxville Against Hate.’ The billboard is at I-40 and James White Parkway.

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