Max Birnbach (1912-2008)
Max Birnbach was born in Vienna, Austria. His father came from Poland, which he left to avoid the army draft. Max’s mother also came from Poland, from a small shtetl and moved to Vienna when she was young. They were married in 1911. Max went to school and began working.
Soon the Nazis invaded Austria Max was picked up by a group of SS men. He was tortured and brought to a work camp with his brother. The brothers escaped into Switzerland with about 20 other young men and spent time in a Swiss refugee camp, where Max learned to cook for a large number of people .Max and his brother arranged for their parents and his brother’s girlfriend to escape on a Christmas day when security would be relaxed. The girlfriend was able to escape, but their parents refused as it was Shabbat and they thought the war would be over soon. The parents were eventually sent to Auschwitz where they were killed.
Max eventually was transferred to a home for pregnant immigrant women, where his sister-in-law was staying as she was pregnant, and was able to get his brother transferred there as well. Max was the head cook of the faciltiy. Eventually his brother and sister-in-law were able to get out of the camp and stay in Zurich. When the war ended, Max was allowed to join his brother. The government was going to deport Max back to Austria, but he refused and was able to convince them to let him attend hotel and restaurant school so he could learn a trade before he immigrated elsewhere.
He graduated with honors and worked at a hotel where he met a rich Arthur Bulova, who helped him immigrate to the United States in 1949. After a year in New York Max moved to Portland, Oregon where he worked at the Benson Hotel until 1968. He purchased Rose’s Restaurant, which he grew to three restaurants and a bakery before retiring.