Autor: Egon Löbner
Zdroj: archiv rodiny Loebnerových
An Autobiography of an Auschwitz graduate who found his destiny in Silicon Valley.
CHAPTER 1: IN MASARYK'S CZECHOSLOVAKIA
Born into a well-to-do Jewish merchant family in Plzen Czechoslovakia I grew up well sheltered economically and socially but became very early exposed to the variety of languages, nationalities and religious beliefs found in my environment. Encouraged at home and by teachers I excelled in school, became extraordinarily self-reliant in a country that protected the rights of minorities, including Jews, and exercised to the fullest the splendid opportunities that my boyhood had to offer me. I participated in many sports, became a scout and dreamed of becoming a diplomat, a job in which I could exercise my knowledge of five languages that I was learning before becoming a teenager.
CHAPTER 2: HITLER'S VORTEX OF EXTINCTION
The years 1938-1945 found me drawn with increasing velocity into the vortex of Hitler's extinction of Europe's Jews. My many times repeated brushes with death are only a sample of a long string of events that I witnessed throughout and past my teen hood. The peripheral disturbance in my idyllic life my younger brother was able to immigrproduced by the presence of Jewish refugees from the Third Reich intensified with Hitler's annexation of Austria and his unabashed design at swallowing parts of Czechoslovak territory where my grandparents any many close relatives resided. By May 1938 we were getting ready for war and my dad insisted that I change schools. While his insistence that I train for the engineering profession saved my life many times over, I bitterly resisted his snuffing out my educational goals and professional dreams. Within a year Masaryk's republic came to an end because of the treachery of the only ally the country had, and Hitler's SS-dominated police was defining the laws of the land. In April 1939 my father's younger brother became a political prisoner accused of being a member of the anti-Nazi Black Front organization. Hitler's January 30, 1939 threat to punish the Jews if they succeeded to precipitate a war was turned into reality after he attacked Poland. In rapid succession my dad lost his revolver, radio, house and part of his business. I became the youngest leader in the Zionist underground of the Plzen province. A year later, having only half-completed my engineering education, I was expelled from school "on racial grounds". Even though Jewish, I found employment as quality controller and later draftsman in weapon manufacturing factories. Those employments kept me out of mines where most Plzen Jews were forced to work. Only my younger brother was able to immigrate to Palestine. All attempts by nearly all the remaining family members to leave the Nazi clutches failed. In the fall of 1941 deportations of Czech and Moravian Jews started. In January 1942 Plzen became the first city of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia to become "cleansed of Jews". Together with my parents I was deported to Terezin (Theresienstadt). We remained there for 32 months. I became there engineering assistant to the Chief of the Waterworks designing and supervising the construction of a new network to supply the town of 60000 with water. In my free time (evenings and weekends) I taught boys that were 5 years younger than I various' subjects (Math, Languages, History, etc), I myself took courses in Hebrew, Philosophy, History, Art, Arabic, Math and Engineering. My father's job enabled him to provide extra food for my mother and myself. I was also active in the Zionist Hechalutz organization and led a group of youngster within the organization called Yad Tomekhet (Helping Hand) that aided physically and spiritually seniors without any family. In the early Fall of 1944 we were included in transports to Auschwitz were both my parents perished in the gas chamber. My uncle, mentioned above, who had been arrested in Prague 66 months earlier, survived many concentration camps and was at that time (October 1944) a inmate-physician in a coal mine satellite camp of Auschwitz. He located me in Auschwitz and we became united at his camp. He arranged for me safer work above ground as a locksmith. We became separated after a death march in Gross-Rosen in early February 1945. During that march I experienced three close encounters with death. On February 13 I arrived with over 1700 prisoners in the Bavarian concentration camp F1ossenbuerg. Again my engineering background enabled me to get a favored job as a quality controller in the manufacture of Messerschmitt airplanes. In Flossenberg I had three additional close calls that could have ended up in death. Early in May, three years, three months and three weeks after my detention, I became again a free man, having been liberated by Patton's Army.
CHAPTER 3: THREE R'S OF REHABILITATION
Retribution, Restitution and Restoration are what I call the three R's of post-liberation rehabilitation. None of them have been possible for most of the victims of Hitler's mad extinction project called the final solution. In my case only the third R approached a semblance of completion. Weighting 92 pounds, suffering from a broken back and frozen feet I did not participate in the revengeful looting of German villages and a hunt after the escaping- guards that the United States Army tolerated for 48 hours after liberation. For a few days I enjoyed watching Germans in Czechoslovakia to be treated the way Jews were before deportation but soon objected to this steady reminder of the past. I did denounce at the police Czech gendarme and Czech prisoners who were especially cruel to Jews. I am reserved to the present day when meeting Germans who served Hitler or caused harm to Jews. I raise the unpleasant subject when the occasion seems appropriate. (R.W.Poh1 at RCA). I went to Germany in recent years to testify three times in a trial of a Janina (Auschwitz) Waffen-SS guard. I did not devote much time to activities such as those carried out by Simon Wiesentha1. I did attempt to restitute my parent's property and my own health. I was not able to repossess items that they hid with non-Jewish people in P1zen. People just would not want to return them. I got back my citizenship, undid my expulsion from school, collected some monies in father's accounts and returned my body to better health in a sanatorium. The returned property constituted family photos and legal papers deposited with my father's attorney. I did not bother to reestablish my father's business and I had to sell our house because the mortgage payments far exceeded my income. I never saw a crown from the proceeds since I went overseas and two monetary reforms shrunk them an insignificant sum. I did sue the German government for health damages and it settled out of court after eight years of proceedings: I am receiving a small pension for damages to my vision in the camp. The restoration to full freedom and earning status so that I could launch my carrier took seven years. That life's journey was even more complex than my experiences in Hitler's vortex of extinction. In May 1945 less than 5% of the Plzen deportees returned home. I stayed in Plzen, which was under US Army occupation, only a few months. I moved into my parents' house sharing an apartment with a widow and her daughter. My many activities included the following: I went back to school; I became an officer of the Jewish Community in Plzen in charge of social work; I collected documentary materials of Nazi atrocities (Zeev Scheck); I assisted in an underground railroad to transport Jews from Soviet occupied lands British held Palestine run by Sylvia Neulander and Rabbi Lippman; I ran my own underground railroad stop for the Jewish Brigade of Palestine; I assisted in the restoration of the Plzen Temple for the US Army conducted high holiday services and I fell in love with a young refugee woman from the Carpathian-Ukraine. I helped her and her sister to escape across the border into the Deggendorf Displaced Person Camp in Bavaria. When the US Army withdrew I went through a "war graduation" and escaped across the border because Plzen's mayor Hrbek was after me for having insulted him by calling him before his subordinates an anti-Semite. I joined my girl in Deggendorf where I became a teacher and secretary of the Zionist organization. When my girl left to join her nearest of kin in Buffalo, New York I gave her my school certificates because I had applied for Foreign Student Scholarship with the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation in the United States. I enrolled in two Universities in Munich to continue my engineering education. The first, the so-called UNRRA University was run by White Russian émigrés, the second was the German Technical University. I was learning next to nothing and could not subsist on the German food rations. I became an American Joint Distribution Committee Officer and an Officer of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. I served first as a Liaison Officer to the US Army, 16th Infantry who was running a tent city in Landshut, Bavaria for Polish Jews who were returning from the Soviet Union in the fall of 1946. Later I became part of the UNRRA team at the DP Camp in Landsberg where I was in charge of the AJDC Emigration Office. I made an illegal trip to Paris where I applied at the British Consulate for a visitor's visa to see my sick brother in Jerusalem. After receiving a stateless passport from the US Army I obtained a student visa to study at the University of Buffalo under a Hillel scholarship and convinced the issuing officer to designate my port of embarkation to be Haifa instead of Bremerhafen. In July 1947 I went to Paris, obtained my British visa and became the agent of the Jewish Agency for Palestine to supervise a legal immigrant ship sailing under Greek flag and a bribed Greek captain. During my two-months stay in Palestine the Irgun hanged two British sergeants and the ship Exodus 1947 arrived in Haifa. While in Palestine I met Sylvia Neulander, Mrs. Samuelson (wife of first Commissioner of the Palestine Mandate), Rabbi Leo Beck and Josef Sprinzak (later speaker of the Kneset). In mid-September, still wearing my UNRRA uniform, I sailed into New York harbor on a Liberty ship that carried many Jewish and Arab students including the sons of mayors of Jaffa and Naharia as well as the son of Great Mufti of Jerusalem a sworn enemy of the Jewish people and collaborator with Hitler.
In New York harbor I was not allowed to enter but send to Ellis Island. Only after a hearing at 60 Columbus did I get permission to enter the US on a student visa. After seeing a few relatives in and around New York City I arrived in Buffalo. Hillel was not ready to provide full support as promised. The School of Engineering at the University of Buffalo was not what I expected. With the assistance of Albert Einstein I was permitted to switch to the College of Arts and Sciences and enroll in Physics major. I taught Hebrew and Sunday school and worked summers to supplement my income. Joined IZFA and Sammies. Applied for permanent residence under DP Act of 1948. Was first rejected but case reopened. Completed course work for BA in less then 2 years, a record at UB that still stands. Won first prize for an autobiographical story about Herz1's daughter. Enrolled in Graduate School (Physics Dep't) in September 1949. Married in June 1950 just before Korean War broke out. Selected for my major professor Stanislaw Mrozowski, the most prominent physicist in the Department. Several clashes with SM because of his anti-Semitism (he considered himself to be of the blue blooded Polish nobility). He held on to students too long before they were able to graduate. Many ups and downs on my Ph.D. research and dissertation. Becoming a citizen in 1952. Taking a job with Sylvania in Buffalo in summer of 1952. First son born in 1953. My brother commits suicide in Jerusalem in 1953. In 1954 transferred by Sylvania from Buffalo to Boston. Difficulties to continue work at Sylvania in my chosen field of optoelectronics. Obtaining my Ph.D. in 1955 and welcoming my second son into the world. Looking for a better job to continue my research in OE. Relocating to RCA's Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton only months after Einstein died. Becoming a Member of Technical Staff of one of the World's foremost Research Labs and laying the foundation for becoming recognized as a leader in a field I help to establish completes my Rehabilitation a little over ten years after my liberation by the US Army. It eliminates the handicaps of being a student and a young researcher striving for recognition in an inhospitable environment that is not world class.
CHAPTER 4: PROFESSIONAL AND SOCIAL LIFE IN PRINCETON
Difficulties of finding a place to live. "RCA is not a computer company, you must find another kind of project" says David Epstein, my new boss. Taking over Max Knoll's Storage Light Amplifier project. The make-up of the Labs. Old-timers vs. Young Turks. The semiconductor revolution and how I became drawn in switching from ZnS to GaP. Seeing the green light! Earning my spurs in chemistry - discovering new compounds. Crossover in the GaAs-GaP alloy system. A missed opportunity in microwave oscillators. Optoelectronics is becoming recognized (1959). Bionics and the Frog's Eye. Slow growth rate at RCA Labs. Interviewing rapid growth job potentials. Jews in Princeton. Jewish Center. A Jewish majority in the Electronics Section of RCA Labs. Teaching at the Jewish Center. Serving on its Board. The many RCA and non-RCA friends. Serving on the Governor's Commission and the resulting frictions at RCA. An extended trip to Europe in 1961. The three interviews with David Packard and Bill Hewlett. Accepting HP's offer and finishing my work at RCA (including of recapturing their lost contract with the Air Force). Off to California.
CHAPTER 5: THE BIRTH OF THE COMMERCIAL LED
The heavenly Bay Area and the beginnings of Silicon Valley. HP Associates and its co-founders. An optoelectronics manager who could not keep-up with the rapid growth. Technical successes and carrier setbacks. Personal interference on the job. Attempts to squeeze me out. The perennial starter of new projects taken over by others. The Monsanto story. The Corning story. The Bar Mitzvah incident. The showdown over authorship. The reputation trap and attempts to get out. The Stanford connection. . Applying LED's to environmental problems and medical instrumentation. The Jewish dimension. Beth Am. Raising kids in the Hills. Boy Scout Leader.
CHAPTER 6: A WINDOW: GENERIZABLE KNOWLEDGE
From building machines that discover to teaching of heuristics of invention and discovery. Course development. The changing student populations. The inventive output of the course. No cross listing. Changed sponsorship. The Palo Alto Unified School District Laymen's Math Committee. Beth Am Religious School Committee. Officer of Sigma Xi. Transdisciplinary migration and its teachability. The NSF and the Council of the School of Engineering (Stanford). Among the 40000 invited to join the Nixon Administration but no response to my application. Attempts to get away
(For at least a while) from HP. Proposals to the Commerce Department to intercede with the Justice Department to permit pooling of R&D by large
US corporations. Counter-proposal for me to go for 2-3 years to Moscow.
CHAPTER 7: AN ACTIVE AGENT OF DÉTENTE
State Department invites me to apply for the position of Science Attaché at the Moscow Embassy. Telling it gently to my family and Mr. Packard. Jack Tech comes from Moscow to visit me in Palo Alto. I ask about the utility of bringing the most powerful desktop computer to the Embassy. Overcoming barriers: State Department's Medical Releases - a trip to Wiesbaden and Moscow to negotiate access to a Moscow hospital with coronary care equipment in case of need. (Mrs. Kaiser had died in Moscow during an official trip.) Meeting Mr. Dubb and filing a petition with the Soviet Government to permit the use of a Ministry of Health research Hospital. Joining the dinner table of a Czechoslovak delegation in Hotel Ukraina. Having to move to the Rossia and getting lost on Red Square. It is harder to leave than to arrive in Moscow (September 1974).