Alfred R. Himmelrich Jr., 71, helped establish center to trace Nazi victims

February 15, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Alfred R. Himmelrich Jr., a retired chemical company executive who helped establish a center to trace persons missing after imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, died of a blood disorder yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Cross Keys resident was 71.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Pikesville, he attended Park School and graduated from Cherry Lawn School in Darien, Conn. He attended Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.

He began working for the old Moran Printing Co. and later joined Inland Oil, a business his father founded in the 1920s. It became Inland Leidy Chemical, an industrial chemical distributor located for many years on a site now used as a parking lot for Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Mr. Himmelrich became its vice president, and before his retirement about six years ago sold chemicals to businesses including dry cleaners and printers.

"He knew every dry cleaner in Baltimore - and could give directions to any location in the city by telling what cleaner was nearby," said a son, attorney Ned Himmelrich of Baltimore.

Mr. Himmelrich was long active in local charities. While involved with the Health and Welfare Council of Central Maryland, he joined the board of the American Red Cross for Central Maryland.

"He had the ability to cut to the essence of a problem," said J. Sydney King, a former WBAL-TV executive and Red Cross president. "He could clarify issues."

As part of his Red Cross work, Mr. Himmelrich traveled to Arleson, Germany, in late 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There he examined records that the Russian government had obtained in the liberation of concentration camps.

"He was intrigued, struck and moved by the experience," said his other son, Steven Himmelrich of Baltimore, who heads a public relations company. "He had the vision to use the records to reunite families."

He donated money and worked for what became the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center on Mount Hope Drive in Northwest Baltimore. In 1997, its headquarters was dedicated in his honor.

Part of an international effort begun in the 1950s, the Baltimore-based national center attempts to trace the missing from records, including a microfilm archive obtained from the former Soviet Union of about 400,000 people detained by Germany for forced labor, and death books obtained earlier from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Since 1990, the center's staff and volunteers have tried to ascertain the fate of about 37,000 people, and located about 1,200 survivors and their family members. They also provided information on 10,000 who died.

"His legacy is amazing. He was the driving force that allowed people to have closure and hope," said Linda C. Klein, the center's director. "He was a part of all our activities. He nurtured the volunteers. He always found time for the program."

Mr. Himmelrich was a past president of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and set up a partnership with the local Red Cross in which Meals on Wheels packaged meals for local disaster victims and workers.

He was also a past board president of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Big Brother League, and served on the Board of Jewish Vocational Service.

Active in The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Mr. Himmelrich was the first chairman of the Industries and Professions Council for its annual campaign. He also was co-chairman of one of its phonathons.

Among his honors for charitable work was being named the Maryland Chapter of the Red Cross's Man of the Year last fall.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Himmelrich is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Linda Talkin; a brother, Samuel Himmelrich Sr. of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.

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