Vale George Freuden

George Freunden Ski Patroller

George Freunden 1932-2015


George was born in Budapest on 30 August, 1932. In his own words, he came from an affluent and deeply religious family. His grandfather, originally from Poland, ran a Polish minyan in Budapest.

Sadly, everything was to change quickly and dramatically when the Germans marched into Hungary in March 1944. As George put it – ‘life became a fight for survival’. His parents were astute and realising the horrific circumstances that lay ahead, they placed George, who was only 12 years old in a monastery with his cousin, who was just a year older, under the care of the monks who to their eternal credit had decided to try and save some Jewish children.

But George was homesick and escaped one day from the monastery and ran home, where he was scolded by his father. Fearful for their only child’s safety, they told him that he could not remain at home and must return to the monastery. But it never happened because over that weekend the Nazis came to the monastery and they shot all the priests and all the children, including his cousin.

Only when we hear stories like this do we begin to comprehend how the smallest decision in those days could result in life for one, and death for another. It is impossible for those of us born after the war, to appreciate what it meant to have one’s innocence, one’s childhood stolen away – and how such experiences would inevitably toughen a person and steel their resolve in the years ahead.

One might say in one regard he was a little fortunate. Instead of being deported to the camps, he was sent into the ghetto. Again he describes some horrific experiences and yet being a quite remarkable person, he was still able to say in later life that aspects of those times gave him the impetus and the ability to become a first-class first-aider, which in turn gave rise to the Ski Patrol which he founded, which as far as he was concerned led to great things.

At the end of the war the communist government made life intolerable, and so his parents arranged his escape. From a very young age George had to learn the fundamental survival techniques to get through, which have carried him throughout his life.

George was a caring, compassionate and generous man. He gave so much of himself to his family, his friends and to the communities he was involved in. That included the Jewish community, the local community and the skiing community, both in Australia and internationally.
George engaged with the world around him. He did this through his love of sport and being active.

He played basketball, tennis and golf, raced 12 foot skiffs and of course, his great passion, skied the world. Skiing was a part of the fabric that made George. It was in his spirit, which he shared with his family. From a young age George made sure the Freuden kids spent every holiday and took time off school skiing in Thredbo, rain, hail or shine. Happy Jacks was their Thredbo home, all 21 square metres of it! Consequently they are a close knit family. George’s passion for skiing was infused into his kids, and this opened their eyes to not only a love of the mountains and the natural environment, but to a broader world and more possibilities in life. From a very early age, skiing life shaped their perspective and values of life and how they choose to live it. They have George and Hilary to thank for that, it’s an invaluable gift.

George had an adventurous spirit. He and Hilary travelled the world, and no matter where they went it nearly always included skiing. He was able to combine his passion for skiing, travel and public service throughout his involvement with the ski patrol. George set up the Australian Ski Patrol Association; he co-founded the International Ski Patrol Federation; he was on the legal and safety committee for the International Ski Federation; he set up the international patrol exchange schemes with Val d’Isere in France and Canada and he spent time on the National Parks Advisory Committee. The personal connections he made globally in the ski fraternity were passed onto his kids, and where ever they went skiing in the world they were warmly welcomed. Those connections are still strong today. So close is his ski fraternity that it rivals the Jewish community! When Hilary phoned Canada to inform ski friends of the sad news of George’s passing, they already knew!

Throughout his life a large part of George’s time was dedicated to volunteering. Not just to the ski patrol that he was best known for, but also mentoring small business people through the Business Enterprise Centre and supporting various Jewish programs. He was the founder of the Macabbi Basketball Association; he taught kids to be strong and compassionate through the Courage to Care Program; he shared his Holocaust story with school children at the Jewish Museum and he supported many Jewish charities.

George’s service to ski patrol and ski safety was formally recognised on several occasions. He was awarded Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and in 1992 he received the Order of Australia Medal, an OAM. He received many other accolades and awards throughout his commitment to volunteering.

George was a man with very strong views. He was stubbornly determined and always fought for his ideas. Anyone who knew him knew his mantra “Just Do It!”. This came way before Nike used it….they should be paying him royalties!

George didn’t tread lightly. He has left a very large footprint on a global scale and he will be sorely missed.