Meyer (Max) Rodriguez Garcia
Max was born to a Jewish family in Amsterdam. He lived in a working-class district occupied by many diamond polishers, of which his father was one. In the 1920s and 30s Amsterdam was a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population. Though his father hoped Max would follow him in the diamond trade, Max dreamed of becoming an architect.
1933-39: My happiest years were with close friends in school. Papa encouraged me to learn by bringing home newspapers to help my English. After 1933 German Jews began to flee to Amsterdam. Papa lost his job and we moved to Belgium. After my bar mitzvah I apprenticed in a diamond factory, but when I broke a gem, I decided to try something else--architecture. Fearing the Germans might attack Belgium soon, we returned to Amsterdam in 1939.
1940-44: Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. To survive, my family sold cheese on the black market. I went into hiding in early 1943, but by June I was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. After a year in the camp I developed appendicitis. Nazi doctors allowed my condition to worsen over four days so that a young physician could see the removal of a nearly ruptured appendix. I was "lucky"; most people who needed surgery were sent to the gas chambers. As the Soviets advanced, we were force-marched towards the German interior.
On May 6, 1945, Max was liberated by the U.S. Army at the Ebensee labor camp in Austria. In 1948 he emigrated to the United States and became an architect.