Survivor Profiles: Max Epstein
I thought that by enduring the horrors of the Holocaust, I could, at least, say that I am leaving a better world to my children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, it is not so. The remedy, if any, does not lie only in governmental action but requires relentless education of future generations to the dangers of complacency. Even though there were always people of good will they constituted a woeful minority.
Max was born in Lodz, Poland. When he was fourteen, he and his family were forced into the Lodz Ghetto, where Max survived from 1941 to 1944. Upon the final liquidation of the ghetto, Max was deported to seven different camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sachsenhausen. In 1945, he was liberated while on a transport through Czechoslovakia. Later that year, Max learned of his mother’s survival and met her in Italy, where they boarded an illegal ship to Palestine. He would fight in the War of Independence and would eventually immigrate to the United States.
In 1967, Max became a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University, teaching for over forty years. In 2015, he was featured in Laurence Rees’s feature-length documentary Touched By Auschwitz (BBC), along with several former inmates of the camp who told their stories, with an emphasis on what happened next.
To Max, it wasn’t just about how he survived Auschwitz; it was about how he survived life, often saying: “Since it was very dark, the few acts of kindness did appear as very bright sparks. I chose to concentrate on the sparks.”
Max is survived by his wife, Judy, three children, and seven grandchildren.