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A Jewish mother leaves Prague in a cattle car; her son returns as a Shomer Shabbas, US ambassador

A mother leaves Prague in a cattle car; her son returns as a Sabbath-observant, US ambassador.


Norman Eisen met Barack Obama as law school classmates at Harvard University, where they became friends, remaining in touch even after their school days ended. When Obama eventually won the US Presidency, he appointed Eisen, in 2009, to serve as his Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform. Only a couple of years later, in 2011, the president tapped Eisen to be the US ambassador to the Czechs.

It was no coincidence that Obama chose Eisen to be ambassador in Prague of all places: “The president thought it would be a remarkable thing for the son of a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor to return and represent the US… No one from my immediate family had returned since my mother fled Communism in 1949, and the symbolism of [returning there] was just too unique an opportunity to pass up.”

In 1944, Frieda – along with her parents, siblings, and other family members – was sent to Auschwitz. Although she and two siblings miraculously survived, their parents and other relatives weren’t as fortunate.

On his first day as ambassador, following all of the formal greetings and arrival ceremonies, Eisen sat alone in the library of his new home reflecting on the events of the day. The head of the ambassador’s household, Miroslav Cernik, came into the room and informed the ambassador that there was something Cernik wanted to show him. Cernik led Eisen to a small, ornate table and asked Eisen to look underneath


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