Lilly and Ludwig Friedman were Holocaust survivors who met in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Persons camp right after the war. They got engaged, and Lilly confessed to her fiancee that she’d always wanted to be married in a white wedding dress.
This seemed like an impossible goal in the DP camp, where everyone wore rags, but Ludwig vowed to grant his bride’s wish.
His opportunity arose in the food distribution center, where Ludwig worked. When a former German pilot came in with his old parachute, Ludwig traded coffee and cigarettes for it.
A seamstress named Miriam at the DP camp worked for weeks turning the six parachute panels into a fashionable wedding gown with a tight waist that tied in the back with a large bow. There was even enough material to make a matching shirt for Ludwig.
Lilly was thrilled with her unique wedding dress. She said, “My sisters and I lost everything. Our parents. Our two brothers. Our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home.” And that began with a proper wedding.
Six months later, Lilly’s sister Ilona wore the parachute dress when she got married. Next was cousin Rosie.
Lilly stopped counting after 17 young brides – all of them concentration camp survivors – wore the same precious dress.
She brought it to America when she immigrated in 1948. The dress then collected dust in her closet for 50 years until it was acquired by U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.
“I was happy when it found such a good home,” Lilly said. The historic dress is now displayed in a special climate controlled case, which will preserve it for 500 years.