Meyer (Max) Rodriguez Garcia
Born: June 29, 1924
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: Max's happiest years were with close friends in school. His father encouraged him to learn by bringing home newspapers to help his English. After 1933 German Jews began to flee to Amsterdam. His father lost his job and the family moved to Belgium. After Max's bar mitzvah he apprenticed in a diamond factory, but when he broke a gem, he decided to try something else--architecture. Fearing the Germans might attack Belgium soon, his family returned to Amsterdam in 1939.
1940-44: Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. To survive, Max's family sold cheese on the black market. He went into hiding in early 1943, but by June he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. After a year in the camp Max developed appendicitis. Nazi doctors allowed his condition to worsen over four days so that a young physician could see the removal of a nearly ruptured appendix. He was "lucky"; most people who needed surgery were sent to the gas chambers. As the Soviets advanced, Max was 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 immigrated to the United States and became an architect.