Arnold “Arno” Fleischmann, who escaped Nazi Germany, served on Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s staff as an interpreter during World War II and after the war became a lawyer, died June 19 in his sleep at his Lutherville home. The former Stevenson resident was 93.
Arnold Fleischmann was the son of Ludwig Fleischmann, a prominent businessman, and his wife, Nelly Fleischmann, a homemaker.
On a summer day in 1945, Mr. Fleischmann, an American soldier, stood outside a house at Badstrasse 30 in Bayreuth, Germany, where he had been born and spent his early years, and remembered his former life there.
“I remembered my childhood there, hours spent sliding down piles of hay in the barn, playing with my toy steam locomotives, and conducting my amateur chemistry experiments that once almost cost me my eyebrows,” wrote Mr. Fleischmann in his 2010 published memoir “Lights & Shadows.”
“I pictured the changes that had taken place — in myself and in the world — since my family had left the house and fled Germany five years earlier, and thought about how it felt to leave my homeland and return as an American GI,” he wrote.
“He was born into privilege in a family of celebrated military leaders, officials, diplomats, poets, industrialists and businessmen,” said a son, Alan H.H. Fleischmann of Chevy Chase.
Initially, Mr. Fleischmann’s family was unconcerned about the rise of Nazism in Germany, but his mother felt otherwise, and in 1932 began pressing her husband to leave Germany.
“My mother begged my father to make plans for the family to emigrate, but he was not about to leave his business to go to a land whose language he didn’t speak and whose customs were unfamiliar to him,” Mr. Fleischmann wrote in his book.
“Although Bavaria was a Nazi stronghold, my father assumed that Hitler’s influence would soon diminish and life would go on as before,” he wrote.
When he was 10 years old, Mr. Fleischmann recalled, he saw Adolf Hitler give a speech in Bayreuth.
“It’s amazing how Hitler drew these people,” he wrote. “You got a palpable sense of animal hatred as he ranted. It was hard to shake off.”
In 1935, the Nazis adopted the Nuremberg Laws, which made Jews second-class citizens, and on Nov. 9, 1938, Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, swept throughout Germany as Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, their property seized and homes ransacked and synagogues destroyed.
Several of his family members personally suffered the actions of the Nazi storm troopers during Kristallnacht, and finally Mr. Fleischmann’s father agreed to leave Germany.
In 1938, when he was 12, Mr. Fleischmann’s mother died, and two years later, it was through cousins in Baltimore, who were owners of the Hochschild-Kohn department store, that made their escape financially possible.
They sailed from Genoa, Italy, in February of 1940 aboard the United States Lines’ SS Washington, and landed in New York, where they lined the rails and watched the Statue of Liberty come into view as the ship steamed up the Hudson River.
“The boat docked in New York Harbor. As I disembarked and set foot on American soil, I felt that I was one of the lucky ones; I had escaped from Germany with many of my family members, and I hoped that the others would join us soon,” Mr. Fleischmann wrote.
Mr. Fleischmann and his family settled on a Liberty Road farm in Harrisonville, not far from Randallstown.
After graduating in 1944 from Polytechnic Institute, he volunteered for induction as he had not yet become an American citizen and was considered an “enemy alien.”
“I wanted to be ready to serve. I felt simply I had to get back at Hitler for everything he had taken away from me,” he wrote. “The spirit of Hitler was like a ghost in my life. That shadow presence remained with me after I came to the States, and I didn’t like it.”
After completing basic training, he was sent to Givet, France, where he joined the 80th Infantry Division, later fighting at the Battle of the Bulge.
In one encounter several men wearing clean American uniforms and speaking perfect English approached Mr. Fleischmann and his comrades.
After Mr. Fleischmann began interrogating them in German — which they at first refused to understand — they were turned over to battalion headquarters where they were arrested and it was discovered they were part of Hitler’s elite Otto Skorzeny spy ring whose mission was to infiltrate behind Allied lines and ultimately assassinate Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.
In 1945, he was assigned to Allied Supreme Headquarters at Versailles, as a translator during interrogations and deciphering encrypted cables.
Mr. Fleischmann was in Reims, France, at the time of the German surrender on May 7, 1945, when German chief of staff Alfred Jodl and other members of the German high command had come to sign the unconditional surrender agreement.
“So, I was well aware of the signing, though of course I wasn’t party to it,” he wrote. The day after the surrender he went to visit the map room in what was called the Little Red School House, to witness where the historic surrender that ended the war in Europe had transpired.
“A sergeant guarding the door said he didn’t think anyone was in the room and to go ahead and go in, and when he did, he was greeted by several five-star generals sitting around the table.
“Slowly I raised my eyes and found myself looking right into Gen. Eisenhower’s face. ‘What do you want, solider’ he demanded, looking pretty surprised. He wasn’t angry, but I don’t think he appreciated the interruption,” he wrote.“‘I just wanted to take a look, sir,’ I replied meekly,” he wrote. “ ‘Well, take a good look, soldier, and get out!’ he said. I looked and that was my rendezvous with destiny,” he wrote.
Mr. Fleischmann, who had liberated his hometown of Bayreuth, later supported the prosecution at the Nuremberg war crime trials, and worked as deputy security officer for U.S. occupation forces in Berlin under U.S. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, and was one of the first U.S. soldiers to visit Hitler’s bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery.
He was discharged in 1947 with the rank of colonel and his decorations included the Combat Infantry Badge.
Mr. Fleischmann earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from the University of Maryland, College Park and his law degree, also from Maryland, in 1954.
In 1955, he joined the firm of Smalkin, Hessian, Martin & Taylor, and later joined Nyburg, Goldman & Walter, the oldest Jewish law firm in Baltimore, in which he became a partner.
He specialized in zoning, antitrust work and corporate litigation, and later became a founder and partner of Fisher and & Fleischmann in 1968, and practiced in Baltimore and Towson until retiring in 2005.
“I was always struck by his great humility,” his son wrote in a biographical profile of his father. “He was a fierce optimist who had an insatiable curiosity.”
His son added: “He never let his deep losses turn to bitterness and understood that good people live everywhere.”
Mr. Fleischmann enjoyed vacationing on Nantucket, Mass., where he liked to sail. He was also a world traveler who continued to visit Germany often, an avid reader, model railroad fan, photographer and chess player.
His wife of 28 years, the former Laura Buxbaum, a fashion designer, died in 1988.
He was a founder with his father of Beth El Congregation, where funeral services were held June 21.
In addition to his son, he is survived by another son, Steven K. Fleischmann of Chelsea, Mich.; a daughter, Nicole J. Fleischmann of Pikesville; his companion of 29 years, Rosalie Rosenzwog of Stevenson; and five grandchildren.