The extraordinary life of Dr. Paul Fried, a legendary Hope College faculty member whose impact on the college continues decades after his retirement, is chronicled in “Hope Beyond Borders: The Life and Letters of Paul Fried” by Dr. Stephen Hemenway of the Hope English faculty.
Fried, who died in July 2006 at age 87, was an émigré whose family was killed by the Nazis. After initially coming to West Michigan to attend Hope, he served with the U.S. Army in the European Theatre during World War II and was subsequently a translator during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He returned to Holland to teach history at Hope from 1953 to 1984, and is widely recognized as the principal architect of the college’s international education program. Hemenway was a long-time colleague and friend of Fried, and since 1976 has directed the college’s Vienna Summer School, which Fried had founded in 1956 and directed for the two decades in between.
Published by the Van Raalte Press of the college’s Van Raalte Institute, the volume tells Fried’s story in his own words as much as possible, drawing on the extensive collection of correspondence that he had retained and contributed to the Joint Archives of Holland in 1998.
“I found that Paul’s extensive biographical notes, especially his boyhood and World War II reflections, the carbon copies of at least 10,000 personal letters that he wrote and preserved, and other personal papers presented an opportunity for creating an edited version of the highlights of his life and career,” Hemenway noted in the book’s preface.
“In a 23 January 1965 letter to former student and art curator John Dryfhout, Paul said, ‘I am always somewhat aware of the historian’s task. I don’t think I ever had in mind the possibility of my letters being published as the value, for myself, of putting down on paper things I would otherwise easily forget,’” Hemenway continued. “I, however, think that Paul’s letters and autobiographical sketches do have incredible value in revealing the personality of a man who breathed ‘hope beyond borders’ in all of his life’s actions and passions.”
The approach provides insightful personal perspective on both world events and local experiences, while also conveying Fried’s characteristic good spirit and wit.
“Several of this book’s chapters are very serious treatments of discrimination and persecution, refugee status, unsuccessful efforts to save family members, World War II exploits, the Nuremberg Trials, and philosophical and religious ideas,” Hemenway said. “Other sections are narrations of Paul’s academic adventures at Hope (as student and professor) and Harvard and the establishment of the Hope College Vienna Summer School and other international programs. Humor surfaces in many entries, but especially in those linked with Paul’s passions for automobiles, exercise, food, travel, and his adopted town of Holland, Michigan.”
Fried, who was also a 1946 Hope graduate, was born in Germany in 1919 to Austrian parents, and his early years were shaped by the turbulence of pre-World War II Europe. His mother was a medical doctor and his father was a journalist. Both were outspoken and held advanced ideas that earmarked them as enemies of the Nazi movement. Their black-listed status resulted in their forced eviction from Germany, family separations, confinement in jail for young Paul after German troops marched into Austria in 1938, and, ultimately, death in concentration camps for his parents and both brothers.
Fried was released from prison and deported to Czechoslovakia. Circuitous routing took him to England and from there to America. He came to Hope College in 1940, the result of connections with a Presbyterian Church minister for whom he had briefly worked during an international missionary conference in Vienna three years earlier.
At the end of his sophomore year, Fried enlisted in the U.S. Army, eventually serving in the Intelligence Corps in the European Theatre of Operations. He received the Bronze Star.
After the war, he returned to Hope to finish his degree and went on to Harvard, where he earned a master’s in history in 1947 with plans to pursue a doctorate.
His developing interest in the rise of Nazism led him to interrupt his studies for a position as translator with the American delegation to the Nuremberg War Trials. While part of the historic process, Fried completed his dissertation and received a doctor of philosophy degree in 1949 from the University of Erlangen. He returned to Harvard to begin pursuing a second doctorate, but then went to Germany for two more years as a civilian employed by the United States Air Force Historical Research Division, mainly questioning German prisoners of war who had worked behind the Iron Curtain and were returning to the West.
He joined the Hope faculty in 1953, receiving the offer of a temporary appointment the day before the fall semester was to begin. His appointment soon became permanent, and in 1964 his duties were expanded to include directorship of the international education program.
Fried’s chief legacy to Hope is the Vienna Summer School. One of the oldest and most highly regarded summer study-abroad programs, the Vienna Summer School centers on a six-week program in Vienna. More than 3,000 students have participated in the popular program since its founding.
Fried was recognized with The Gold Medal of Merit award from the Federal Government of Austria, bestowed in recognition of his services in fostering international understanding. In 1981, when he retired from his post as director of international education, the Vienna Scholarship Fund, established in 1968 by summer school alumni with special emphasis on bringing Austrian students to Hope, was named for him and broadened in scope to focus on international education more generally.
Fried was director of international education when the college established the exchange program between Hope and Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, in 1965. Through the popular program, the two institutions exchange both students and faculty.
He was also a leader in the formation of the international program of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and for two decades was a member of the committee which monitored the association’s overseas centers. He also held liaison positions with the Institute for European Studies.
Fried was an avid art collector, and the college showcased works from his collection in the exhibition “Visions from Vienna” in the gallery of the De Pree Art Center from January 15 through February 4 in 1996. A number of his pieces have become part of the college’s Permanent Collection.
Hope presented Fried with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1984. The college’s international education center, long housed in a cottage in the central campus, was named in his honor on Sept. 22, 1990. In the fall of 2005, the international program offices were moved to the newly constructed Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, and both the offices and the cottage, now a student residence, continue to bear his name. In addition, the auditorium in the Martha Miller Center has been named in honor of Fried and Hemenway. Alumni and colleagues wrote a book, “Into All the World: Hope College and International Affairs,” to honor Fried in 1985.
Copies of “Hope Beyond Borders: The Life and Letters of Paul Fried” are available for $20 at the college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore, which is located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, 141 E. 12th St., and can be called at 800-946-4673 or (616) 395-7833. Additional ordering information may be obtained by e-mailing the Hope-Geneva Bookstore at email@example.com.