Max Glauben passes away at 94
Photo: Amanda Lynn Harris, Courtesy Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Max Glauben at the Museum’s grand opening on Sept. 18, 2019

An eternal optimist, he was an Upstander, who lived by example

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

DALLAS — Noted Holocaust survivor Max Glauben, 94, passed away peacefully, on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 28, 2022. 

Known to friends and members of the Jewish community as “Max,” Glauben tirelessly taught the lessons of the Shoah. He was a co-founder of the Dallas Holocaust Museum with several other Dallas-area survivors.

Though small in stature, at 5 feet 2 inches tall, Max was a giant of a man. His heavily accented voice resonated deeply with all who were privileged to hear him speak about his philosophy of life and his eternal optimism despite the atrocities he endured at the hands of the Nazis.

For the Dallas Jewish community, Max became a grandfather of sorts to all. He accompanied 14 senior classes of Yavneh Academy (now Akiba Yavneh) students including one Dallas community adult trip on the March of the Living. 

In recent years, Max received numerous accolades. In 2019, he was named Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News. Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity initiated him as an honorary brother. Later that year, he was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Southern Methodist University. In October 2021, he was honored by the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum (DHHRM) with its prestigious Hope for Humanity Award.

In the spring of 2021, “The Upstander: How Surviving the Holocaust Sparked Max Glauben’s Mission to Dismantle Hate” was published. The biography was writted by Dallas journalist Jori Epstein.

In honor of his memory, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a proclamation extending “special recognition to Max Glauben on Sunday, May 1, 2022,” the day of his funeral.

Max was born Moniek Mendel Glauben on Jan. 14, 1928, in Warsaw, Poland, to Fela Hoffman and Isaak Glauben. He had a little brother, Heniek, who was two years younger than he. Max had a happy childhood until age 11, when Germany invaded Warsaw. He and his family were relegated to the Warsaw Ghetto, where he survived starvation and disease until the defeat of the ghetto uprising in 1943. His family was deported by boxcar to the Majdanek death camp. There, he and his mother and brother were separated from his father. They were headed toward the left, when his father grabbed Max’s hand and pulled him toward him. His mother and brother were later murdered at Majdanek. Max and his father were selected for slave labor and transported to Budzyn; they arrived there May 28, 1943. Within a few weeks, three prisoners did not arrive back at camp after their work detail. It was the rule that 10 hostages would be killed for every missing prisoner. His father was selected as a hostage and was among 30 men lying face down on the plaza in front of all the other prisoners. It was the last time that Max, then 15, saw his father alive. The next morning, all that was left were his father’s boots, where his father was the day before, and Max became an orphan. 

In later years, Max often said he was “mechanically inclined.” When given the opportunity, Max used this skill and volunteered for carpentry, which moved him from the outdoors to an indoor shop. Max was at Budzyn for about six more months before being transferred to Mielec, followed by Wieliczka and Flossenberg.

On April 16, 1945, Max was sent on the death march to Dachau. He was liberated on April 23, 1945, along with seven other frail prisoners by the U.S. Army 179th Signal Repair Corps while they were looking for a displaced persons camp.

“Second Lieutenant Bacic said, ‘You kids aren’t strong enough to survive, I won’t let you die,’” reported Max’s eldest son Phil Glauben, as he recounted Max’s story at his funeral Sunday. The eight prisoners were given U.S. Army uniforms and stayed with the Corps for two years, where Max learned how to cook for 600 German prisoners of war and 200 Polish guards.

In 1947, Max was sent to the Aglasterhausen Children’s Center. He was asked to help transport three babies to the United States, which ensured his immediate passage to the United States.

He arrived in the United States Dec. 12, 1947, and on Dec. 31 he boarded an Eastern Airlines flight destined for Atlanta, Georgia. At a foster home there, he was reunited with one of the boys he was liberated with, with whom he started a small grocery store within the coming years.

When he turned 18, Max had registered for the draft. He was drafted during the Korean War, which brought him to Fort Hood, about 160 miles from Dallas.

It was natural that he would become a mess sergeant, using the skills he developed following liberation.

It was on a weekend trip to Dallas, that he attended a singles dance at the Jewish Community Center on Pocahontas Street and met Frieda Gappelberg. They married June 14, 1953, following his discharge from the Army.

The couple welcomed three children: Philip, Shari and Barry. Max delighted in being present for his children’s activities at school, religious school, athletic competitions and BBYO.

He began his career in Dallas in the 1950s as a toy buyer for Neiman Marcus and later became general manager for Southwest Toys and Sporting Goods. For 35 years he was the co-owner of Imperial Garment Supply and National Embroidery companies.

In their early years, the family were members of Congregation Beth Israel in East Dallas, and in 1967, before Phil’s bar mitzvah, they joined Congregation Shearith Israel, which continues to be the family’s spiritual home.

Max was involved in Shearith on many levels over the decades, leading Pikudei Zimriyah on Shabbat mornings and serving as a gabbai.

Max, who is perhaps most well-known to the community as a Holocaust survivor and advocate for tolerance, did not speak about the Holocaust to others for more than 30 years. It was the miniseries “Holocaust,” which premiered on April 16, 1978, that unlocked the vault of Max’s memories. He became a prolific speaker and, along with a group of Dallas-area survivors, a co-founder of the Dallas Holocaust Museum in 1984. The Museum was originally housed in the basement of the Jewish Community Center before it moved to Dallas’ historic West End. In 2019, the Dallas Holocaust Museum moved into its permanent home and became the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. 

“Max embodied the spirit of resiliency. He turned the atrocities inflicted upon him, his family and 6 million Jews during the Holocaust into a message of kindness, love and optimism,” said Mary Pat Higgins, Museum president and CEO. “He taught us that there is hope in hopelessness and that one person can make a difference.

At the DHHRM, Max Glauben is featured in the Dimensions in Testimony Theater from the USC Shoah Foundation. It enables visitors to have a one-on-one “conversation” with Max and other Holocaust survivors from around the world who have participated in the project. The Dimensions in Testimony Theater will feature Max through May 31. 

At his funeral, Sunday, May 1, Max was eulogized by his children, grandchildren and Rabbi Ari Sunshine of Congregation Shearith Israel.

Oldest son Phil said that his father always ended conversations with some of his life philosophies. Some examples Phil shared include:

“Hate corrodes the vessel that contains it. If I hate Germany, Germany doesn’t know, but it consumes me.”

“Get your education, that’s the one thing they can’t take away…. With an education, you can always rebuild.”

“Once you hear the story of a witness, you are a witness.”

“God gave us each the best computer.” Phil said Max would say, pointing to his brain, “It’s our job to program it for good.”

Phil said that he realizes now that the philosophies his father cherished most were “the ones he learned the hard way.”

Son Barry added that his dad would say, “If you are going to do something half-assed, you probably shouldn’t do it at all.”

Daughter Shari Becker said that once her father began speaking about his experiences, the clearer his message became. He wanted a brighter future for his family and the world, one in which there “was no more room for hate,” Becker said.

Barry Glauben said that despite being there for thousands, out in the community sharing his story and message of hope, his father was always present for his family.

“I can count on one hand the number of games my father and mother missed. He was always there reassuring me and my teammates,” said Barry. “I think he did this because his youth was taken away from him at an early age.”

Sarah Golman, Max’s granddaughter, was among his grandchildren who spoke at the funeral. She said that her grandfather sparked her Jewish identity and deepened her connection to Judaism. She related a parable she believes embodied her beloved grandfather’s philosophy. “Rabbi Akiva says, ‘Love your fellow as yourself,’ to which Hillel says, ‘This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.’”

She added that at an early age she learned from him that life can be hard and that “it’s the attitude we have that defines who we are.”

Granddaughter Hayley Glauben echoed her family members. She recounted her experience with her Zayde on the 2019 March of the Living. At Majdanek, where his mother and brother were murdered, he led Yavneh students in the Mourner’s Kaddish at the memorial filled with a mountain of ashes of those who perished there. “He looked at me as the wind blew and said, ‘Do you feel that? That is their soul surrounding us. They are always with us.’”

Grandson Alec Becker said that his grandfather was his superhero. “He couldn’t fly at the speed of light, nor shoot webs from his wrist, but he could do something far deeper… He could captivate an audience and spread love in the heart of thousands, if not millions.”

As Rabbi Ari Sunshine concluded his eulogy, he said, “Max embodied Torah, which means instruction. Teaching us how to be faithful, how to be hopeful, how to be committed Jews, how to love, how to learn, how to teach and how to be an Upstander and take part in repairing the world.”

In addition to his beloved wife of 69 years, Frieda, with whom he loved to dance, he is  survived by his children, Phil (Linda) Glauben, Shari (Norman) Becker, Barry (the late Michelle, z”l) Glauben; grandchildren  Sarah (Brett) Golman, Ross (Stacey) Glauben, Alec (Ellen) Becker, Delaney (Justin) Katz, Madison Becker, Hayley (fiancé Mitch Robbins) Glauben and Blake Glauben; and great-grandchildren Natalie and Amelia Golman and Julian Glauben.

Interment followed immediately at Congregation Shearith Israel Cemetery on Dolphin Road. The processional was escorted to the cemetery by a Dallas Police Department  motorcade. In addition to Rabbi Sunshine, Rabbi Adam Roffman, Rabbi Shira Wallach and Cantor Itzhak Zhrebker officiated.

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