Defeating Death

News-Register | Joanna Mikolajczak – Max Glauben, who lived through five concentration camps after being captured in 1939, brought his story of courage to North Lake College’s Library Oct. 23.

How Max Glauben survived the Holocaust

By Grant V. Ziegler
Editor-in-Chief

Before he was a teenager, Max Glauben lost his entire family at the hands of the Nazis. Commanding officers at the Budzyn Concentration Camp ordered his mother and siblings into a line that guaranteed they would be executed immediately, while his dad was selected to go into the work line where he would become a slave laborer.

Max was supposed to go with his mother and siblings, but was pulled into the work line by his father at the last second.

His father’s quick reactions kept Max alive, but at what cost?

Max Glauben, whose only “crimes” were being born Jewish and Polish, was put into his first concentration camp in 1939 at age 11. He was liberated by the 3rd United States Army, 90th Division, at the age of 15.

However, during those four years of enslavement, Glauben managed to survive five separate concentration camps during the Holocaust while witnessing and enduring unthinkable atrocities at the hands of the Nazis.

While imprisoned, Max’s horrors included seeing Jews dragged through the streets while Nazis forced other Jews to beat the victim. If they refused to participate in the beatings, they would be shot in the head. He also witnessed other Holocaust victims being hanged by their feet so they could be sliced open at the stomach and bleed out. Those memories of death are still ingrained in his mind. Despite the hells he witnessed and suffered, a strong and positive 84-year-old Max appeared at North Lake College Oct. 23 to speak to Dr. Phyllis Elmore’s English students.

The Warsaw, Poland native spoke for 45 minutes to educate new generations about the nightmares of the Holocaust and to encourage them to be “upstanders” and not bystanders. He believes that if more people had spoken out against the hatred and racism of Jews, Poles and other sects, it would not have been so easy for Hitler and his armies to systematically murder millions of people.

“It’s such a tragedy because the Holocaust killed so much future,” said Max. “How many of these innocent victims could have been Einsteins or Elvis Presleys? More than 80 years of culture has been destroyed and it’s up to your generation to replace it.”

Max still has his camp tattoo, which spells KL, meaning Koncentration Lager or concentration camp in German. When asked about it, he views the tattoo as a positive reminder. After his liberation by U.S. forces, he received paperwork and documents about his encampment. From that point forward, the tattoo was not a burden, but a blessing in disguise.

“The tattoo represents the cruelty that can be inflicted, but it also represents the fact that back then, I was just a number or an animal – I wasn’t a human being,” said Max. “But when I got my records back and I saw my name in the most beautiful handwriting, I knew I must have been someone. ”

He accredits his youthful resilience in his ability to stay strong during what many considered the “darkest period of human history.” He said that older teenagers and adults had a harder time adjusting to the tortures but, since he was younger, he was able to adapt. When Max played his DVD for Elmore’s classes, it opened up with Max singing a beautiful song. He says that singing during some his bleakest moments helped him through.

Although Max’s heritage is Polish, he’s been a Dallas resident for decades. He and his wife of nearly 60 years, Frieda, met here. Max was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and was stationed at Fort Hood thus beginning his life in Texas. He is now a lecturer and Holocaust consultant working at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. He travels the world telling his story, hoping his words will prevent hate and genocide from occuring in the world.

“The reason I speak is because if you do something to save one life, you do something to save the world,” said Max.