Max Mannheimer

03.04.2014 | 00:00
Max Mannheimer

Terezín, Auschwitz, Warsaw, Dachau...
Another story from the time of the Second World War is the story of a man who went through the atrocities of not only the Terezín ghetto. It is an extraordinary, incredible, and yet a true story which tells us about the fate of Max Mannheimer (born on 6th February 1920), a native of Nový Jičín.

Jakob Mannheimer and Markéta Gelb met in 1918 in Nový Jičín where Markéta was working at her bother Jakub’s butcher’s. They got married on 25th March 1919. Max was the fi rstborn, in 1921 Erich was born, in 1923 Arnošt, in 1925 Edgar and in 1927 Katka. Max remembers his father as a respectable businessman as well as a man with great sense of justice. His mother was born in Uherský Brod and despite having gone to only eight grades, she predominated her husband spiritually. This showed in the children’s upbringing. The family lived at 20 Venkovská Street in Nový Jičín where the father was renting a pub. He spent a lot of time there and the mother was often left alone. During summer holidays Max would go to his granny to Myšlenice where his uncle Ludvík took him to the synagogue on Saturdays. The ten-year-old boy did not comprehend that only a few-hour train journey eastwards is enough for the Jews praying, looking, and living in a completely different manner. He loved the woods behind the house in Myšlenice but he liked even better the football in Nový Jičín. What Max did not understand where the diff erences between the Jews and the Christians. He learned about the fi rst ones at nursery school, then at school in religious classes and even though his schoolmates did not make fun of him, sometimes there was someone in the street who would call him “you stinking Jew”. However, he observed the nationalistic and socialistic infl uence on the 15 to 17 year old boys at the German business school (1934–1936).
After school, he worked in a small department store in Znojmo – Starý Šaldorf for J. Shön & comp. He liked going on trips, cycling and playing football in his free time, which was very unusual for a Jew. After 15th March 1938 (after the occupation of Austria) Hitler’s troops were standing ten kilometers from Znojmo and many Jews were coming inland. At the end of September, circumstances made Max return to his parents in Nový Jičín. The Germans occupied the Sudeten Land on 10th October 1938 and that was an event. The family started to be afraid. His father’s van was confi scated, German customers stopped doing their shopping in their shop and some of his schoolmates started wearing brown uniforms… 10th November 1938 came, “the Night of Broken Glass”, synagogues were set on fi re, Jewish shops were demolished. Soon after, the family moved to Uherský Brod. Max recalls that he started working on the construction of a road near Luhačovice and despite the ban, he would go to the spa’s park and count the signs saying “No entry for Jews”. There were six of them and one night, Max pulled them out and threw them into the stream and bushes. He realized the following day that it was useless because the signs reappeared in the same places and he did not fi nd enough courage to do the same the second time.
At the end of 1940, Max met Eva Bocková whom he married in 1942. In the same year, most Jews had to move from Uherské Hradiště to Uherský Brod. At that time, Max’s brother Erich was arrested, imprisoned in Špilberk and later transported to Auschwitz. Max and Eva received an “invitation” on 24th January 1943 telling them to report on 27th January at a school and take all their documents with them. On that day, in late afternoon, they had to get on the train bound for Terezín, Max wearing a sign for CP 510. Then came the Terezín ghetto, barracks, and rooms with straw on the fl oor and Gestapo men calling the names of those destined to go further east. The family was together for the time being – the parents, wife, two brothers, sister and sister- in-law. Max was going to be 23 years old in eight days. But there was to be no party for him. Along with around a thousand men, women and children on a gloomy morning, he dragged himself to Bohušovice where a passenger train was waiting for them. At nine o’clock am the train departed from Terezín – bound for Dresden, Budyšín, Zhořelec, Vratislav, Brzeg, Opole, Zabrze and that was it. Only a single day and night separated them from screeching brakes, SS-wardens with dogs and entering the platform of death Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, Max lost his parents, sister Kateřina, wife Eva and other relatives in the gas chambers. His younger brothers Arnošt and Edgar passed through the selection successfully, Arnošt was taken ill in Auschwitz. In October 1943, Max and Edgar were sent to the notorious Warsaw ghetto. In 1944, they were sent to the concentration camp Dachau and after a three-week quarantine Max was taken to the outer camp Karlsfeld. In January 1945, his brother Edgar was transferred to the outer camp Mühldorf, and a fortnight later, Max followed too. But on 28th April 1945, the Nazis had to clear the Mühldorf out and a transport of prisoners headed west. The brothers saw liberation in Tutzing on 30th April 1945.
After his discharge from the hospital, Max returned to Nový Jičín where he fell in love with a German girl Elfriede Eiselt. Later, their daughter Eva was born. In 1946 they moved to Munich where Max worked as the manager of a shop selling leather goods until his retirement. Elfriede died in 1965. Then, Max got married for the third time, this time to an American Grace Franzen Cheney with who he had a son Ernst. In 1988 he became the chairman of the camp prisoners from Dachau. Today, he still gives lectures, writes, paints and has won a number of prestigious awards. He has been an honorary citizen of the town of Nový Jičín since 2009. He wrote a book Memories (1964) for his daughter when he was seriously ill. It was published in Munich in 1986 and is unputdownable.  

Luděk Sládek, for the Terezín Memorial

Max and his family before the war Lorry of daddy´s company Max and the whole family Max´s wedding day photo (1942) Max´s wedding day photo (1942) Max and team-mates, Nový Jičín Max before the war Obrázek č.8 Liberated Obrázek č.10 City park in spa Luhačovice in the period of the Protectorate Atelier in Max‘s Munich House Obrázek č.13 Obrázek č.14 Obrázek č.15

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