"I feel I had a fortunate life. Even going through the three concentration camps, I somehow was able to make the best out of the worst. I never would have thought growing up as a boy in Riga, Latvia that I would end up in the greatest city (NYC), in the greatest country in the world (USA)."
These are the words my father spoke to me two weeks ago, July 14th, when I last visited him in NY. My dad survived three concentration camps for 12 months, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee. He came to NY in 1947 with $5 in his pocket and unable to speak English. Eventually in 1971 he partnered with Mel Steir and Joe Cavalaro to open what would become one of the premier discotheques in NYC, the Adams Apple, (1st Ave and E 61st St.)
Last year my father was hospitalized for the whole month of July with Hepatits B. I spent most of last summer in NYC caring for him. During the following month of August he couldn't even remember being hospitalized. I took him back to Oregon at the end of the summer. After 1 week of Naturopathic (holistic natural medicine) care at the Center for Traditional Medicine and Nature Cures, he could remember the date and time we were flying back to NY.
To illustrate the kind of guy he was, two months after being freed from the concentration camp he was crossing a bridge in Germany and was stopped by a Russian guard. My father who spoke Russian explained what had happened to him and that his family had been killed. Then another man tried to cross the bridge. The Russian stopped him and because he wore a German army coat pulled back the man's shirt to reveal an SS tatoo. He was an SS officer. The Russian soldier handed the machine gun to my father and told him to kill the German for my father's family. My father said, "No" and handed the gun back to him. The Russian then shot the SS man.
Last November my father celebrated his 90th birthday. (See pictures of the party and pictures here.) Although he didn't "have to" work he loved to work and managed a commercial building in the Bronx owned by his former partner (Mel Steir). He would drive there everyday, seven days a week. Working was one of his pleasures. Three weeks ago when his car was being repaired he walked 6 blocks to the subway station, took the train to the Bronx, walked another 3 blocks to arrive at work on time. In fact the "alarm" that something was wrong was sounded by the superindentent Julio at the buidling. When Felix didn't show up, Julio knew something was wrong. It literally took someone killing my father to stop him from going to work.
His end is certainly a shock to me, but at the same time I know my Dad and even if he survived this attack he would have had no complaints. He knew as I do that we all have to "go" sometime. He told me that, "when faced with death I simply choose life and never gave up." I know my Dad would not have been happy having to be cared for by someone or not being able to live his life functional (working) and independent. Even when I would try to get him to take a week off and come visit me in Oregon he would resist saying, "He didn't want to leave the United States." Going relatively quick is something he would have wanted.
For their amazing stories of survival see:
8/2/09 "Assholes & Angels" an audio of when my mother asked to die and hope came from an unexpected source
7/21/09 "Escape of Diana" (My mother's twin sister's escape from a death march.)
6/2/09 "Simone's Story of Escape and Survival" (My mother's escape from a death march.)
4/3/09 "Priorities in Black & White part 2" (My father's life and his 90th birthday party.
1/28/09 "Happy Birthday Mom" (my Mom, an identical twin survives being picked by Dr. Mengele)
9/11/08 "Priorities in Black & White part 1"
Link to movie about Felix Brinkmann's life made for his 90th birthday last November.
Quicktime version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)
AVI version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)
Photo Gallery: http://gallery.me.com/dr_rickbrinkman#100088