Petty theft claims Holocaust survivor's treasures

By: MARC RAMIREZ, The Dallas Morning News/AP
February 21, 2014 Updated: February 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Caption +
Max Glauben, 86, stands in front of some of the photographs taken of him and his mother and brother in Poland at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Max is in the photograph to his left, standing next to his mother, (Max is on her right) and his older brother. The 86-year-old retired garment-supply store owner survived five German concentration camps and often shares his story with school groups and conference attendees. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, David Woo) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET USE BY AP MEMBERS ONLY; NO SALES

DALLAS — What Max Glauben waited decades to obtain, thieves took in a matter of minutes.

The 86-year-old retired garment-supply store owner survived five German concentration camps and often shares his story with school groups and conference attendees.

As part of his talks, he shows a video that German officials recorded of him offering his testimony, or the photos he's taken with luminaries such as Nobel Peace Prize-winning writer Elie Wiesel and President George W. Bush.

But sometime Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning, those items were among other treasures stolen from his car as it sat outside his North Dallas home.

He doesn't care to prosecute. He just wants his prized collection back.

Most of the materials were papers, photos, documents and personal things, some irreplaceable, like the photos and medals and other crafted items given to him as gifts.

"You know, they're not valuable to them," Glauben told The Dallas Morning News ( ), "but to me, they mean an awful lot."

He'd grown up in Warsaw, in what became the overpopulated and diseased Warsaw Ghetto once the Nazis moved in. Life had transformed, as he put it, "from day to night."

One day in 1943, he and his family were carted off in a boxcar with many others. Five days later, the stops began. Glauben gradually saw his mother, father and brother taken away, never to be seen again.

The letters "KL" are branded on his arm, a stark reminder of his nightmarish years in the Nazi konzentrations-lagers. At Flossenburg, he was among those directed on a death march to Dachau in April 1945. A week later, he was liberated by American forces.

He came to the U.S. and was drafted into the Army, then assigned to Fort Hood. He moved to Dallas in 1953.

Even at 86, the fit and compact survivor speaks regularly at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and elsewhere, a bit of living history imploring younger generations to never forget the 11 million people who died during the Holocaust, including 6 million Jews.

"He remembers everything," said Errol Jacobson, who's known Glauben for 30 years and marvels at his still-sharp memory and nonstop energy. "He's incredible."

Lately, Glauben had begun using his 2012 video testimony among his visual aids.

But just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, as he prepared to head off to another speaking engagement, he went out to his car, parked on the corner in front of his house. He'd left two 10-by-13-inch leather satchels in the trunk overnight in preparation for his talk.

He opened a rear passenger door to put something inside. The back seat was covered with business cards. Why would he have done that? His eyes shot to the front: The glove compartment had been ransacked, his skullcaps were scattered about.

Glauben checked the trunk and the two bags were gone. Inside had been his video testimony; some organized photos of his family, the Warsaw Ghetto, himself with Wiesel and Bush; the medals and gifts.

"Everything was nice and orderly," he said. "It's just sad that they would do something like that."

Presumably, he might be able to get a copy of his video testimony from German officials in the event the items aren't returned. But the gifts, the medals and the photos, he said — taken by people he didn't know or who have since passed on — "are one of a kind."

And because the items are of no use to anyone but him, he worries the thieves will simply toss them into a dumpster.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum placed a notice on its Facebook page, offering to accept the returned items on Glauben's behalf, no questions asked.

"This man devotes a lot of his time inspiring others through his testimony," the posting said.

Though dismayed, Glauben was not going to let the incident slow him down. Other than postponing a couple of talks to meet with Dallas police detectives, he was quickly back on the circuit.

By midday Thursday, he was at the Dallas Holocaust Museum again, preparing for a noon address and recalling memories among a flock of touring middle-school kids who were visibly moved by the images of death and misery.

Word slowly spread of the special figure in their midst. He was there, they whispered to each other, pointing at the photos on the walls. He was in the camps.

There was something about the little man in front of them — a man both humbled and yet made more powerful by his experience — that stirred the youngsters to awe. Afterward, a number of students asked him to pose with them for photos, and he readily complied.

One by one, in twos and in groups, they sidled up alongside this rare connection to the past.

A young girl of about 12 stood beside him. The two smiled. Smartphones flashed. And then, she gave Glauben a hug.

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