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Joseph Kauffman Jr., helped liberate Dachau


Joseph Ulrich Kauffman Jr., who was among the first U.S. servicemen who liberated the Dachau concentration camp 50 years ago, died Tuesday at Sinai Hospital after a brief illness. He was 72 and lived in the Hampton area of Towson.

Mr. Kauffman, who was chairman of Kauffman Electric Co. in Highlandtown, never forgot the horrors he saw that day he entered the Nazi camp as a 20-year-old soldier with an Army Signal Service battalion -- yet he couldn't mention the atrocities of the death camp to members of his family until just five years ago, said his wife of 49 years, the former Doris Berg.

"He buried the memory," Mrs. Kauffman said. "He said there were walking skeletons and piles of naked bodies that were just as stiff as they could be. For somebody who wasn't brought up in the streets, it must have been a horrible sight."

Mrs. Kauffman said that five years ago, a news story from Ger- many that quoted people denying that the Holocaust happened prompted her husband to tell her what he had seen. He also told her that he had helped set up a radio communications system at Dachau that was used to get out the word about the concentration camp.

An only child, Mr. Kauffman's roots were Pennsylvania Dutch. The Baltimore native was raised on Denmore Avenue in the Pimlico neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore.

Mr. Kauffman graduated from Polytechnic Institute in February 1941, and studied electronics at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1946.

In 1951, Mr. Kauffman took over Kauffman Electric when his father and company founder, Joseph U. Kauffman Sr., became ill.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Kauffman and a group of colleagues invented and patented a remote controlled track-switching device for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.

In 1974, he entered the political arena, losing the Republican nomination for Baltimore County executive.

Mr. Kauffman collected antique clocks and cannons, including one from the Civil War and one from the pre-Revolutionary War era that sits in a side yard at the family's Hampton residence.

In 1963, he was diagnosed with bone cancer, and his left leg was amputated.

Eloy Norman, a corporate engineer at Adell Plastics, remembered Mr. Kauffman as a dear and loyal friend. Mr. Norman, who immigrated to the United States from Havana, Cuba, in the early 1960s, credited Mr. Kauffman with helping to bring the rest of the Norman family -- left behind in Havana --to America a few years ago.

"He has helped me in so many ways," Mr. Norman said, of their 17-year friendship that began over a business deal.

He and Mr. Kauffman, whose families owned condominiums in the same Ocean City high-rise, had many things in common, Mr. Norman said. They recently became interested in astronomy, trying to figure out celestial constellations from the balconies of their vacation apartments.

Mr. Kauffman was a member of the Sharon Masonic Lodge, the Scottish Rite Temple, the Boumi Temple, the National Watch & Clock Collectors Society and the Royal Order of Jesters. He was past president of the Ocean City Rotary Club.

A memorial service was planned for 3 p.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Joseph U. Kauffman III of Forest Hill, Karl Kauffman of Sykesville and Mark Kauffman of Towson; a daughter, Jennifer Kauffman of Towson; and three grandchildren.

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