Name: Martin Weingarten
City / Town: Carmel
Death: April 16
Martin Weingarten was born in the middle of the Spanish flu, during the most serious pandemic in recent history, the son of two owners of confectionery in Austria.
He would become a curious and anxious teenager who would watch from the family’s fourth-floor apartment as the Nazis brutally beat his Jewish neighbors on the sidewalks of Vienna.
Weingarten escaped and spent 80 glorious years in the United States, first in New York working for his uncle, then at a US Air Force base. Then in Maryland, as an employee of the United States Census Bureau.
Weingarten died on April 16 in Carmel amid the latest global pandemic. The coronavirus was ruled his cause of death, according to his nephew Joe Weingarten.
He never knew he had contracted COVID-19. At the time of his death, Weingarten was suffering from dementia, his nephew said.
But the 100-year-old has never let the trials in his life mar his prospects or destroy his good will.
“Oh, he was very nice, very happy,” said Joe Weingarten, 75, of Fishers. “He was still the nicest guy in the room. He was still smiling, still one of those kind-hearted guys.”
Weingarten was born on November 28, 1919 during the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic. This health crisis was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
The flu spread around the world and from 1918 to 1919 infected 500 million people, or one third of the world’s population. The death toll is estimated at at least 50 million, including about 675,000 in the United States, according to the CDC.
Weingarten, however, was safely born to Mancie and Isak Weingarten, the youngest of three boys.
The family lived in an apartment above the candy store in “a quiet environment” with a “close family,” Weingarten wrote in a 9-page, 45,000-word document for his family which he titled “A Brief personal story of myself and Family. “
By the time he was a teenager, Weingarten’s parents sold the candy store and opened a general store, offering household items like soaps, cleaning supplies, and a variety of perfumes. It was a great financial success, enough for the Weingartens to buy two four-story apartment buildings and move their family to the top floor of one.
Weingarten, even in his youth, was always interested in world events. He became more interested as the world around him grew disastrous. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, insisted that Austria be merged with Germany.
“In the end, Hitler succeeded in luring the head of the Austrian government to a fateful meeting, where he forcibly detained him and removed him from office,” Weingarten wrote.
This meeting was followed by the invasion of Austria by Germany on March 12, 1938.
A few weeks after the invasion, Izak Weingarten was arrested, along with other Jewish business owners, by the Nazi authorities. He was taken into custody and threatened. He was eventually released, only after agreeing to relinquish his general store and appoint an apartment building administrator.
“We were all, of course, relieved to see him come home safe and sound,” Weingarten wrote. “The loss of property and income was no longer significant.”
Weingarten, 18, and his brother Morris managed to obtain the appropriate documents and in the summer of 1938 left Vienna by train for Constance in Germany. There, they hoped to move to Switzerland. The Gestapo, the German secret police in Constance, are rumored to help guide emigrants across the Swiss border.
“The emigrants were only allowed to take out 10 deutsche marks from Germany, but our father had given us a number of dollar bills which we hid in a stick of shaving soap,” Weingarten wrote.
With the help of Gestapo officers, accommodation was arranged for Weingarten in a former abandoned youth hostel on top of a hill in Switzerland. While there with other young Jewish men, they did labor, repairs and maintenance, and sometimes played games and sports.
In early March 1939, after nearly eight months in the camp, the Weingarten brothers received the announcement from the American Embassy in Zurich that their entry visas were ready. After heading to Zurich and then Antwerp, they board a cruise ship bound for New York.
For the next 80 years, Weingarten would never take the life he led for granted.
A stint in the US Army in 1943 before being demobilized for medical reasons for scarlet fever. He graduated from college in business administration and statistics in June 1959.
And his marriage to his dear Elisabeth in February 1950.
At 39, after working for his uncle for nearly two decades, Weingarten landed a management analyst job at an air base in Rome, New York. He was then transferred to the Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. There, he ended his 26-year career as principal economic adviser to the deputy director of economic fields in 1984.
Until a few years ago, Weingarten still read the “Wall Street Journal” every day, his nephew said. When he visited him one day at Stratford in Carmel, Joe Weingarten noticed the diary under his uncle’s arm.
He asked someone from Stratford if he was still reading it. “No, he just carries it,” he was told. Joe Weingarten canceled his uncle’s subscription. On his next visit, Weingarten found a copy of IndyStar and hid it under his arm.
Weingarten and Elisabeth moved to the Stratford retirement community about 10 years ago to be close to her nephew. He and Elisabeth, who died several years ago, have never had children, due to her stay in four concentration camps.
Contribution of the Indianapolis Star