Dr. Eugene J. Schnitzer, 102, physician, survivor of the Holocaust

June 27, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Eugene J. Schnitzer, who survived the Holocaust by hiding in cellars and attics with his wife in German-occupied Czechoslovakia and later was a general practitioner in South Baltimore, died June 16 at his retirement home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 102.

Born in Sabinov, in what is now Slovakia and was then Hungary, he was educated at a Roman Catholic school run by Jesuit fathers and received his medical education in Prague at the Charles University. During World War I, as a teen, he helped support his family by smuggling sugar and tobacco.

Dr. Schnitzer practiced medicine briefly in Prague in the mid-1920s and returned to his hometown where he became a general practitioner and dentist. In 1942, he married Serena "Renka" Weinberger, a teacher for the Jewish children in Sabinov.

After Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia, Nazis told young Jewish women that they were being taken to a labor camp, and the Jewish Dr. Schnitzer was asked to accompany them.

His daughter-in-law, Barbara Schnitzer, who lives in Chicago, said he was tipped off about their likely fate and remained in the town. After his medical office was taken away by the Nazis, and he worked briefly as a dentist, he and his wife went into hiding for three years.

"He hid in cellars and attics - and in a hiding place through the false back of an armoire. He spent some time in fields," his daughter-in-law said. "He was accommodated by highly placed friends and kind Christians."

She said that people sympathetic to him took in additional provisions - but had to hide the extra food they were passing on to the couple.

In 1945, after Russian troops liberated the town, Dr. Schnitzer learned of his family's losses in the Holocaust: his parents and in-laws, a sister and her husband and their four children.

Though Dr. Schnitzer spoke German, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian, he spoke no English. But after moving to Brooklyn, N.Y., in January 1947, he learned English by reading The New York Times with the help of a dictionary.

He moved to Maryland two years later and took a job as a physician at a tuberculosis hospital at Sabillasville. About 1950, he opened a private practice in the 3900 block of S. Hanover St. in Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood. He retired in 1976.

He was a former member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Services were held June 18 in Fort Lauderdale.

Survivors also include a son, Dr. Thomas J. Schnitzer of Chicago; a brother, Samuel Schnitzer of Lauderhill, Fla.; and a granddaughter. His wife died in 2004.

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