Frank Warner Kussy, Holocaust survivor, engineer, dies

Frank Warner Kussy, a Holocaust survivor who won reparations for damages done to him and his business by both the Nazis and the communist government of East Germany, died of heart failure Oct. 1, less than two weeks short of his 100th birthday.

"He was probably unique, in that he fought the German government double-time," said Kenneth Waltzer, director of Jewish Studies at James Madison College at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., who invited Mr. Kussy to speak to his class several times. "So far as I know, he's the only survivor who got restitution from both."

A native of Dresden, Mr. Kussy lived in Detroit and Philadelphia before moving to Randallstown and working for Gould engineering in Baltimore from 1976 until his retirement, at age 72, in 1982. He moved to Farmington Hills, Mich., in 1994 to be nearer his family and remained there until his death.

Mr. Kussy grew up in Weimar Germany in a Bohemian Jewish family; his father, Edmund, founded Rheostadt, a leading German technological company headquartered in Dresden. The younger Mr. Kussy received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Vienna in 1936. He and his brother were running the company their father founded when the Nazis came to power two years later.

Mr. Kussy was first arrested during the Kristallnacht, a series of Nazi raids on Jewish homes and businesses on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938. He was later released from prison, then fled the country with his mother and brother the following year, making it as far as Amsterdam by the time war broke out.

Befriended by a Dutch Catholic schoolteacher who was active in the resistance movement, Mr. Kussy and his family hid from the Germans in Holland for several years. In 1942, they were discovered in the coastal town of Bossum and sent to Westerbork. Mr. Kussy spent much of the next three years at Theresienstadt, and was ultimately liberated from Auschwitz in January 1945. The rest of his family died in the concentration camps, his mother and brother at Auschwitz, his sister at Buchenwald.

"Growing up, he would talk about it," says his daughter, Henriette, of Nevi, Mich. "He never dwelled on it, in the sense of showing any real bitterness."

Mr. Kussy returned to Germany after the war and was able to reclaim his family's business and property. He fled the country, again, in 1953, after being tipped-off that he was about to be arrested by the communist government. He settled in Detroit, where Mr. Kussy took a job with Square D, manufacturers of electrical equipment. Over his lifetime, Mr. Kussy was awarded more than 60 patents and wrote three technological books.

"What's amazing about him was his resilience and, given what happened to him, his positive outlook," Mr. Waltzer said. "He had seen the worst in human nature, and yet he remained a progressive, with faith in humanity."

After the war, Mr. Kussy married the resistance worker who had aided his family, Adelaide Aleven; they remained married until her death in 1997. He also converted to Catholicism.

While Mr. Kussy rarely displayed any bitterness over his experiences, he never stopped fighting for compensation from the Nazis, who seized the family business during World War II, or from the Communist East German government, which seized it after he was forced to flee the country in 1953. He spent more than half a century seeking compensation; beginning in the mid-1950s, he received several settlements, most recently in 2005.

Mr. Kussy "lived by his own definition of courage," says his granddaughter, Tamara Warren, who chronicled her grandfather's life for her senior thesis at Michigan State's James Madison, a project that prompted him to talk more openly and more publicly about his experiences. "'The right choice is always the hardest choice,' he said when recalling the details of his tumultuous past."

Mr. Kussy was an active supporter of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, according to his granddaughter, and a member of the Baltimore Schlaraffia, an international German club. In the 1980s, he volunteered with the International Service corps, helping in the development of electrical equipment Egypt and Zimbabwe.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Kussy is survived by his son, Edward, of Alexandria, Va., two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Frank and Adelaide Kussy Memorial Scholarship for the Study of the Holocaust, University Advancement Michigan State University, 300 Spartan Way, East Lansing, Mi., 48824-1005.

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