Name: Martin Weingarten
City / City: Carmel
Died: April 16
Martin Weingarten was born amid the Spanish flu, during the most severe pandemic in recent history, the son of two candy shop owners in Austria.
He would grow up to be a curious and anxious teenager who would watch from his family’s fourth floor apartment as the Nazis brutally beat his Jewish neighbors on a Viennese sidewalk.
Weingarten fled and spent 80 scintillating years in the United States, first in New York working for his uncle and then at a US Air Force base. Then in Maryland, as an employee of the United States Census Bureau.
Weingarten died April 16 in Carmel amidst the world’s newest pandemic. Coronavirus has regulated the cause of his death, according to his nephew Joe Weingarten.
He never knew he had COVID-19. At the time he died, Weingarten had dementia, his nephew said.
Yet this 100 year old man has never allowed the trials of his life to taint his outlook or destroy his good intentions.
“Oh, he’s so friendly, so happy,” said Joe Weingarten, 75, of Fishers. “He was always the nicest man in the room. He was always smiling, always one of the kindest people.”
Weingarten was born November 28, 1919 during the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic. The health crisis was caused by the H1N1 virus with genes originating in birds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu spread around the world and, from 1918 to 1919, infected 500 million people, a third of the world’s population. The number of deaths is estimated at at least 50 million, with about 675,000 in the United States, the CDC said.
Weingarten, however, was born safely to Mancie and Isak Weingarten, the youngest of three children.
The family lived in an apartment above a candy shop in a “quiet neighborhood” with “close relatives,” Weingarten wrote in a 9-page, 45,000-word document for his family entitled “A Brief Personal History of My Self and Family.”
By the time he was a teenager, Weingarten’s parents sold candy shops and opened a general store, offering household items such as soaps, cleaning compounds, and various fragrances. It was a huge financial success, enough that Weingarten bought two four-story apartment buildings and moved their family upstairs in one of them.
Weingarten even as a boy was always interested in world events. He became even more interested as the world around him turned terrifying. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, insisted that Austria be incorporated into Germany.
“In the end, Hitler managed to lure the head of the Austrian government to a fateful meeting, where he forcibly detained and removed his position,” wrote Weingarten.
The meeting was followed by the German invasion of Austria on March 12, 1938.
Within weeks of the invasion, Izak Weingarten along with other Jewish business owners were arrested by Nazi authorities. She was detained and threatened. She was finally released, only after she agreed to let go of her general store and appoint an administrator for the apartment building.
“We are all, of course, relieved to see him return home safely,” wrote Weingarten. “Loss of property and income is no longer important.”
Weingarten, 18, and his brother Morris managed to obtain proper documentation and, in the summer of 1938, left Vienna by train bound for Konstanz in Germany. There, they hope to cross into Switzerland. The Gestapo, the German Secret Police in Konstanz, reportedly helped guide emigrants across the Swiss border.
“Emigrants were only allowed to take 10 deutsche marks from Germany, but our father had given us some banknotes which we hid in a bar of shaving soap,” Weingarten wrote.
With the help of Gestapo officers, housing was arranged for Weingarten in a former abandoned hilltop hostel nearby in Switzerland. While there with other Jewish youths, they did work, repair and maintenance and, at times, played games and sports.
In early March 1939, after nearly eight months in the camp, the Weingarten brothers received word from the American Embassy in Zurich that their entry visas were ready. After traveling to Zurich and then Antwerp, they boarded a passenger ship bound for New York.
For the next 80 years, Weingarten would never take for granted the life he led.
A stint in the US Army in 1943 before being discharged medically with dengue fever. Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and statistics in June 1959.
And his marriage to dear Elisabeth in February 1950.
At 39, after working for his uncle for nearly two decades, Weingarten landed a job as a management analyst at the Air Force Base in Rome, New York. He was later transferred to the Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. He ended his 26-year career there as senior economic advisor to assistant director of economics in 1984.
Until a few years ago, Weingarten was still reading the “Wall Street Journal” every day, his nephew said. While visiting him one day at The Stratford in Carmel, Joe Weingarten saw the newspaper tucked under his uncle’s arm.
He asked someone at The Stratford if he was still reading it. “No, he just carried it around,” he was told. Joe Weingarten canceled his uncle’s subscription. The next time he visited, Weingarten had found a copy of IndyStar and kept it under his arm.
Weingarten and Elisabeth moved to the retired community of The Stratford about 10 years ago to be close to their nephew. He and Elisabeth, who died several years ago, never had children, because he was in four concentration camps.
Contribution by the Indianapolis Star