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Philip Markowicz (1924-2017)

Nazi death camp survivor shared his experiences

Philip Markowicz, who lost much of his family in the Holocaust and years later shared publicly his experiences in a Nazi death camp during World War II — and as a survivor — died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 93.

He had cancer the last year, his son, Dr. Allen Markowicz, said. In October, he attended the annual Philip Markowicz Lecture on Judaism and Jewish Biblical Studies at the University of Toledo and in April lit a candle while at a Holocaust remembrance service.

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Markowicz

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“To me he was a phoenix,” said Rabbi Alan Sokobin, rabbi emeritus of The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim in Sylvania Township. “He came out of a camp of death, out of a camp of hatred and degradation, the filth of human beings doing things to others that were beyond description. He came out shining and intelligent and creative and, more than anything, loving.

“In some ways, he was a symbol of the Jewish people who came out of the Holocaust, its destruction,” said Rabbi Sokobin, who was inaugural Philip Markowicz instructor of Judaism and Jewish Biblical Studies at UT. “He touched my heart, my mind, my spirit, my soul. He touched me at the essence of what I am as a human being.”

Mr. Markowicz began to speak publicly to schoolchildren, college students, audience of all ages, in the early 1970s, at the urging of his daughter Diane. He told of the harrowing conditions for those confined, as he was, to the ghetto in Lodz, Poland, and of his time in Nazi camps, including Auschwitz. At war’s end, he weighed about 88 pounds.

He aimed in his talks to examine the causes behind the horror, his son said.

The elder Mr. Markowicz, after a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in 2008, said: “We need to emphasize what brought it about. It did not happen out of thin air. If it is not to be repeated, we need to remember what caused it.”

After his 2010 memoir, My Three Lives, was published, he curtailed his public speaking about the Holocaust.

“He said it became too painful to relive that,” his son said.

He was born in a Polish village, Przerab, and grew up in an ultra-conservative Jewish community. His father was a district rabbi, and Mr. Markowicz as a teen was known as a Talmud prodigy.

After World War II, he was sent to a displaced persons camp in Germany, where he met and married his wife. She had second cousins in Toledo and, through their sponsorship, the couple and their young son arrived in Toledo.

He worked in the garment-making trade and at the Jeep plant when he took up television repair. He started a business in the basement of the family home. He and his wife later opened a store on Sylvania Avenue, what became Phil’s TV & Appliance. He sold the store in 1987 and retired.

“They strived to give us a normal middle-class American life, and they did,” their son said.

He was a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, Sylvania Township, and Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center Synagogue in Florida.

He and the former Ruth Fajerman married in November, 1945. She became the namesake in 1997 of the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center of Greater Toledo. She died in December, 2004. Their daughter Diane died in 1976.

Surviving are his son, Dr. Allen Markowicz; daughter, Sylvia Neil; six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; three step-grandchildren, and a step-great-granddaughter.

Services will be at noon Friday at Congregation B’nai Israel, Sylvania Township, where he was a member. Arrangements are by the Robert H. Wick/​Wisniewski Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Philip Markowicz instructorship and professorship in Judaism and Jewish Biblical Studies at UT; the Ruth Fajerman Markowicz Holocaust Resource Center at the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo; the Diane Markowicz Scholarship Fund for Young Judaea of the Central States Hadassah Zionist Youth Commission, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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