. He was 45 years old when arrested by Hitler’s Gestapo in Vienna 1942

     . Was rescued by allied forces in 1945

     . Came to the New York City (about) 1948

     . Employed as a messenger in my father’s company 1950

     . Returned to Vienna 1952 where he died alone (No one was left)




         I first met Max when he was employed by my father’s company as a messenger. I was 21 years old, married with a baby son. My father had persuaded me to turn down my acceptance to law school and come into the business. Max became my company friend.


         The very first question that came to my mind when I first got to know him was how did this simple, uneducated, gentle man manage to survive more than three years in a German concentration camp? The only answer: Max was a survivor.



         In the spring of 1950 World War II was over just five year earlier; a war which clearly differentiated the good guys from the bad guys. I was disappointed in being too young to enlist. Then, in 1950 came Max!      


         Everything I had heard and read about regarding Nazi barbarity became real with his coming. The numbers tattooed on the inner forearms of the victims as they were herded from the cattle cars and into the death camps were there on Max’s left inner forearm. He still carried his camp identification card bearing his picture, name and I.D. number with the Nazi swastika imprinted in one corner. He would show me the tattoos and the I.D. card as if brandishing macabre badges of honor. They were, probably, the only honors, as terrible as they were, that he had ever received in his whole life, the honors of having survived Hitler’s horrors.


         He had come to New York in (about) 1948 to find a new and better life. His new and better life was to be a messenger paying the minimum wage of 75 cents an hour in 1950. I believe we were paying $1.00 per hour that would be about $10.50 in today’s wage.


         Now, 65 years later, I find Max rising up in my conscious mind from the depths of my subconscious. Why now? Like a jealous ghost he demands my attention and at the same time, as he smiles and points an accusing finger at me I can hear him say:


         “You have forgotten me.” He speaks softly in that familiar, accented voice.


         “No, no.” I protest, knowing full well I had forgotten him.


         “What is my name?”


         “Max.” I reply.


         “We were friends?”


         “Of course.”


         “What was my last name?”


         I realize, 65 years later I didn’t know his last name. Of course, his full name and address were listed with the company (no longer in business) but I knew neither his last name nor where or how he lived. I was embarrassed and had to admit to his apparition that I knew neither. And Max just smiled.


         He was trapped in America; trapped in New York City. The American dream was not to be his, locked into a dead end job with no hope of betterment. I knew he wasn’t happy. How could he be? Although he spoke English rather well, his language of comfort was German. While he knew his way around New York City, it was the streets of Vienna he was most familiar and comfortable. He was a prisoner in America, the land of opportunity.


         If he could, he would have returned to Vienna despite the horrors of the past. He would now, happily, return to Vienna where he had neither family or friends. Vienna was familiar; the streets, the buildings, the language (that was enough)— He just could not afford the travel expenses and the cost of living involved. Then came his lucky break both literally and figuratively. He was struck by car and suffered a broken leg and other injuries and was awarded a large, financial settlement. Was fate smiling on Max or chuckling?


         When Max was well enough, he returned to Vienna, grateful for the accident. I, sadly, said my goodbyes and that was the last I ever herd from him...until now.


Bob Flicker



 © robert 2014