Born in Hamburg, Germany, his good looks and non-Jewish features enabled him to acquire food and coal to help support his family during Hitler’s early days. After Kristallnacht, he was smuggled out of the country, leaving behind his parents whom he would never see again.
In 1941, at the age of 18, he arrived in the U.S. and lived in Washington Heights with his sister Inge. It was not long before he became a member of the U.S. armed forces and participated in the landing at Anzio. For his courage he received two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars, but the severity of his wounds forced him into a nine-month rehabilitation program at the VA hospital in Utica, NY. Surmounting the odds, this Holocaust survivor managed to survive his wounds as well.
Ralph always valued education, something that was denied him as a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. His mantra was, “They can take everything from you, but they can’t take your education.” And so, as the customers of his NYC hardware store became more and more Latino, he decided to go to school to learn Spanish. He enrolled in an evening adult education class at Teaneck High School and loved that experience so much that he decided to get his GED. He graduated from Teaneck High School before his daughter did.
Ralph was very active with both the Teaneck Jewish War Veterans and the Disabled American Veterans. His fondest activity was to “shake the can.” Every Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and July 4th, he would proudly don his JWV cap and collect money. At the end of the day, he would excitedly tally up what he had collected and talk about the “big” donors, the ones who donated $5 or $10. To Ralph, this was the highlight of a day’s efforts, as the “boys” at the Paramus Home could now enjoy anything from TV sets to wheel chairs.
Anyone who knew Ralph found him to be a dedicated, friendly, and vibrant personality. Whenever there was some function, duty to perform, or just a need for a helping hand, there was Ralph…until there was no Ralph anymore.
From his comrades at the JWV, his reporting for duty to a higher command is a great loss. Those like Ralph are few and far between. May Hashem grant him peace and for his family the knowledge that he was a special person who was always appreciated by his fellow veterans.
By Philip Sieradski, past commander JWV Post 498