Ask Dr. Brinkman

‘Concentration Camp Survival’ Category

Get it Done Thought of the Day: Spring into Action

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

When my mother, Auschwitz survivor was up against adversity she would say, “It’s time to spring into action!”

That philosophy led to her and her sisters to escape a death march in January of 1945 and served her the rest of her life.

Read about her escape here:

Download the PDF sign here:




My Statement to the Court II

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Angela Murray, the second defendant in my father’s murder pleaded guilty to Murder 2. She can’t be convicted on Murder 1 since the other guy was already found guilty of that. My understanding is Murder 1 is “intent to kill” while Murder 2 is an event that happens within another crime but the defendant may not have been the one to actually do the killing.

However, she is the one who had the relationship with my father and betrayed him.

Tomorrow she will be sentenced to 16 years to life. That means she is eligible for parole after 16 years, but there are no guarantees she may ever get out.

Here is my statement to the court that will be played tomorrow at her sentencing. You get to see it today.

(For details Google “Guido Felix Brinkmann”)

Synchronistically I am in NYC and will be only a few blocks away performing a seminar so I made this 3 minute video: This video is in FLASH. For an iOS compatible version here.

My Statement to Court Upon Sentencing of the First of My Father’s Killers

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Many people have asked me what happened in the trial of my father’s (Guido Felix Brinkmann) killers. There were three people involved, each of whom will be tried separately. The first person and the one who most likely did the actual killing was found guilty three weeks ago on all counts of 1st degree murder.

New York State does not have a death penalty. 25 minimum years to life without parole is the consequence.

The judge chose to give 25 years with the recommendation to the parole board that the prisoner serve 45 years before considering parole. That would make him a 75 year old man at the time.

(For those of you who may not know, just put “Guido Felix Brinkmann” into Google.)

I didn’t realize it is the custom to let the victim’s family speak at the sentencing. I asked the DA if there was a specific protocol or purpose, i.e. to influence sentencing, revenge, express grief, etc. She said it can be anything. Even just talking about who this person was.

Although I couldn’t be in NYC that particular day, I made a short 7 minute video that was played at the trial that I thought I would share with you.

Note I was planning to change out of my Rangers shirt and into a suit. In the video I was only doing a sound and lighting check. However what spontaneously came out was the statement and to do it again would have felt “scripted”.  The New York newspapers did take note of the Ranger shirt. (Go Rangers!)

The one thing I didn’t say that I wanted to was this:
A couple of months after the war had ended my father was heading back to Poland to see if my mother was alive.  He was crossing a bridge guarded by a Russian soldier. My father spoke fluent Russian and explained he had spent the last 9 months in three concentration camps.  He didn’t know if any of his family or his wife was alive. Then another person, a German, attempted to cross the bridge. The Russian ripped open the German’s coat to reveal the SS tattoo marking him as an SS officer. The Russian handed my father the machine gun and said, “Kill him for your family.” My father handed the machine gun back and said, “No I can’t do that.”  That was the kind of person he was and the compassion he had. (The Russian killed the SS officer.)

7 minutes 49 seconds

For stories on my father and my mother’s miraculous stories of survival, see the Concentration Camp category or just click here:

The Last Time

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I’m looking at these two home depot receipts. One is on July 14 and the other is July 15. Those are the last days I saw my father. He had some plants he wanted to hang so I bought two hanging planters and some decorator chains.

My father was always a do-it-yourself guy. He had fashioned two clothes hangers into plant hangers. However they were kind of funky and out of balance. (He usually does higher quality work.) I suggested we make it easy  and  let me get what we need at the Home Depot at 3rd and 58th. Under normal circumstances he would have insisted on doing himself but he went with the flow.

We hung the plants and he meticulously made sure the chains were exactly the same length. He laughed with delight as to how much better it looked than the funky hangers.

He then asked me to frame and hang a picture of him and my mother together laughing. It was from about 10 years earlier when they visited us in Portland for Thanksgiving.

Before I left for the airport I put my hand on his shoulder and said “I wish we could have more time together.” Even as I said it, I also heard it from a different perspective. As if “this was it.” The “last time.”

As I sit here literally two months to the day (9/15/09) since the last time I saw him, I realize that all things pass and there is a “last time.” Who knows what mundane activity  you might be engaged in with that person. One minute you’re here, and the next minute… you’re still here, but it won’t always be that way! There comes a time when that’s it.

So as I look back to our last time, I’m very happy that we had the simple enjoyment of that plant hanging moment together. And I share this with you with the hope that you make the most of every moment with the people you care about. I didn’t know a Home Depot receipt could be so special.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

From Left to Right: The Somethings, Me, my daughter Carle, my wife LIsa

From Left to Right: The Somethings Jake, Simona, Me, my daughter Carle, my wife LIsa

Because of this event with my father, I learned I had family I didn’t know I had. My father has a brother Herbert who lives in Bremen Germany. Strangely I didn’t even know that until I became a young adult. I’ve never met him. He has a son Richard Brinkmann, whom I also never met or even knew about. My mother’s family was a different story. Even though her sisters were in Israel, Canada, and Poland, we kept in touch. My mother would go there or they would come here.

However, my father had a different connection to family. A non-connection. My cousin Richard Brinkmann has three children, Simona, Davey, and a Emmanuel. It turns out Simona lives in New Jersey and when her husband read the story of my father’s demise he put two and two together and realized that we were related. In the perfect synchronicity of things, her two younger brothers, both college students in Germany, were visiting the US at that time. So I got to meet my father’s brother’s son’s children, which of course makes us…ah…”something”.

Also, about a week before my father’s passing, I was wondering about an old friend of mine. Rochelle. She was the best friend of my girlfriend in high school and college and we ultimately became good friends. The last time we saw each other was 1979, about a year and a half after her marriage and the year after mine. I don’t remember what made me think of her, but I felt a twinge of sadness that I didn’t stay connected to her and her husband Al. Well when she read of my father’s demise she found me on Facebook. It turns out she lives 22 blocks from my father’s apartment. We had a wonderful visit and now I have two more friends.

I also visited with my Uncle Kurt. Kurt came to the United States with my mother and father and lived with them for seven years. Kurt really, really, liked children. In fact I called him “da-da” before I  called my own father that.

I’ll never forget Saturday nights, age 6 or 7. My parents would put me to bed. I would pretend to be asleep. Kurt would arrive to babysit. And as soon as my parents left, he would come into the bedroom, I would come out of my ruse and we would watch this wondrous thing called television.

At 9:30 was Paladin, at 10:00 was Gunsmoke (still in the half hour version), and the finale at 10:30 was Sea Hunt. Thanks Uncle Kurt!

I not only reconnected again to him but also with his granddaughter Katrina, which in relation to me makes her…ah…”something.”

So yes, I did lose a father, but I also gained two friends,  one uncle, and four somethings.

Net gain!



Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

It’s been a while since I posted. Actually it’s been since I left for New York City to create my father’s memorials and handle the crime scene of his apartment. There were quite a few adventures there I would have liked to share with you, but I was over my head with details.  We created three memorials for him, one at the commercial office building he managed, one that was private for about 60 friends and one that was open for the public which was attended by a similar amount of people including the New York Times. The reporter ironically was a recent transplant from Portland, Oregon and the Oregonian newspaper, (the place I live). Here is a link to the online version.

Here is the video memorial:

Quicktime version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)
AVI version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)

I got into my father’s apartment Saturday afternoon, the day of the private memorial. What a mess, not just made by the crooks but made by the police. There was finger print dust EVERY WHERE!!! White dust on black stuff, black dust on white stuff and it doesn’t just wipe off. I figured I would tackle that job Monday, as Saturday and Sunday I needed to focus on the memorials. However while I did that, my friend Greg who flew out from Columbus, Ohio to help (and is pictured at the bar in the Times article) single handedly tackled the apartment. When it was time to start Monday, he already had the bulk of it done. With friends like that you can’t feel alone.  :-)

A Stone’s Throw

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
Auschwitz Train Entrance

Auschwitz train entrance

In August of 1944 the Lodz ghetto of Poland was liquidated. That meant all the Jews were sent to Auschwitz. But the Germans kept my father and the people in his factory together. The officer in charge told my father his group was ultimately going to be sent to a Siemens factory in Germany. Apparently my father had created such an efficient team that the Germans wanted to keep them intact.

When they arrived at Auschwitz my father’s group was not processed like most prisoners meaning; children and any one frail right to gas chambers, the others shaved, tattooed. etc.  They kept my father’s group sitting on grassy hill. The other prisoners who worked for the Germans were stunned. They had never seen something like this before.

A German officer finally came with soldiers who carried a bunch of stuff. The German officer would hold up an item and ask if my father’s group could make such a thing.  Eventually the men and women were separated into their individual camps, however for the next 5 days they all remained unassigned in Auschwitz.

At one point my father was standing next to the barbed wire and saw my mother across the way in the women’s camp. The distance between them was the width of a typical residential street including the side walks. There was a high fence of  barbed wire on each side. At this point they still had some paper and they would write notes to each other, wrap the note in a rock and throw it across. My mother didn’t have much of an arm, and her notes would land in no man’s land. My father’s notes did reach my mother.

Each day they would meet at a certain time at the barbed wire. But then one day as my father thew a note he was caught by a German guard. “What are you doing?” he barked. My father explained in German he was thowing a note to his wife. My father thought he was dead for sure.  But the guard merely said, “Away from the wire” and moved on.

The next day the Siemen’s transfer was cancelled and they were processed into Auschwitz. That was the last time my mother and father would see each other, until a year and half later, after the war was long over.

My mother said she never forgot the last note. She translated it as saying, “My sweet, don’t worry, we will be together again and I will kiss you and hold you in my arms.”

A Token of Love

Friday, August 7th, 2009
Lighter given to Felix by Simone, 11/2/43

Lighter given to Felix by Simone, 11/20/43

My father being the dedicated worker and leader that he naturally was rose quickly to run a telephone repair factory in the ghetto.  As mentioned in an earlier post (The Radio) he understood electricity and had a knack for fixing things.  The German officer in charge of the whole ghetto, hearing about his ability to fix things brought my father to his office. The officer had a record player, a very advanced design for the time, that wasn’t working correctly and asked if my father could fix it. Felix said of course (even though he had never seen the inside of one before) and said he needed to take it back to his workshop with a few records for a couple of days.

Felix fixed it in a matter of minutes and as a treat to his employees he brought all the workers at the factory together to hear the music. People didn’t have such things in the ghetto and hadn’t heard music for years. Most of the employees were young women and some of them insisted, “Herr Brinkmann you must dance.” My father chose my mother. A day later he made her his secretary, even though she couldn’t type, but as my dad said, “She sure could kiss.”

They eventually got married against the ghetto’s Jewish authorities wishes. The head man said, “I’m not giving a nice Jewish girl to that German!” So they made their own ceremony.

Pictured above is a cigarette lighter that my mother gave my father for his birthday in November of 1943. My Polish is not that good, but as I recall my mother translated the engraving as something like: “My sweet smoochie poochie, Felix on your birthday. Lodz ghetto 11-20-43.”

How did this token of love survive? In August of 1944 the Lodz ghetto was liquidated and the inhabitants sent to Auschwitz, My mother’s older sister Ola and her husband Kit were part of a small group that was left behind to “clean the ghetto”. They found the lighter when they were in Simone & Felix’s apartment. The lighter spent time in Poland, Israel, Canada and ultimately came back to my mother just 10 years ago. She gave it to me during one of her frequent visits to Portland.

The next time my father visited I showed him the lighter and true to style his first response was: “So you’re the little ‘$#*%” who stole my lighter!”

Who’s Crazy?

Friday, August 7th, 2009
Felix, age approx. 21

Felix, age approx. 21

My father, Guido Felix Brinkmann, was a German from Latvia who ended up in Poland on a program that moved German people into occupied territories. When it was time to join the military he innocently and honestly wrote on his application that his mother was Jewish but converted to Lutheran before he was born. That brought the proverbial “knock on the door” by the Gestapo and he was thrown into the Lodz Ghetto.

Once there he sat on a bench all day waiting to be processed. No one knew what to do with him because to the Jews he was obviously a German (and probably a spy) and to the Germans he was obviously Jewish. Finally at nightfall he was sent to an insane asylum because those people were too crazy to care whether someone was Jewish or German.

Can you imagine that? Too crazy to be bigoted.

What crazy people.

PS: “In an insane world, the sane would naturally appear insane.” Mr. Spock to Captain Kirk

The Radio

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

My father Felix understood electricity at an early age. That’s because his father Richard was an electrical engineer. At one point Richard left home for six months to help South Africa establish electric light. That is the level at which he played. So the  Brinkmann boys grew up around it. Felix also had a natural knack at fixing things.

When Felix was in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland he ran a telephone repair factory. One day in the spring of 1944, while tinkering at his work bench he connected a wire and a sound came out of a speaker. Suddenly he looked at what he was working on differently. He quickly scanned his workshop for parts and viola; he created a radio. A device that was highly prized and very forbidden in the ghetto.

It was early June when Felix and Simone were at a party when suddenly there was a knock at the door. The person on the other side informed everyone that the Germans were doing a sweep looking for radios and two people were already hanged. My mother and father quickly excused themselves and rushed back to their apartment. They took the radio from it’s hiding place and turned it on one more time. The last thing they heard before taking it apart forever, was that the allies had landed.

Good Dog!

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Yes it’s true my father was a “ladies man”.  (Although he was a very charming one, not a lecherous one.)  As a 17 year old he and his brother would go out carousing as teenage boys are likely to do, and especially looking to interact with girls.
Finally their mother had enough and gave the boys an ultimatum. If they did not get home by curfew, the door would be locked and they would have to stay out all night.
But what their mother didn’t know is they had an accomplice on the inside. Not exactly an “inside man”, but an “inside dog.” Pictured to the left is Rex circa 1935. The door lock worked with a downward latch and handle, not a knob. The boys taught Rex not only how to open the door, but not to bark when they snuck home.

Rex, Guido Felix Brinkmanns dog, circa 1935

Yes it’s true my father was a “ladies man”.  (Although he was a very charming one, not a lecherous one.)

As a 17 year old he and his brother would go out carousing as teenage boys are likely to do, and especially looking to interact with girls.

Finally their mother had enough and gave the boys an ultimatum. If they did not get home by curfew, the door would be locked and they would have to stay out all night.

But what their mother didn’t know is they had an accomplice on the inside. Not exactly an “inside man”, but an “inside dog.”

Pictured above is Rex, circa 1935.
The door lock worked with a downward latch and handle, not a knob. The boys taught Rex not only how to open the door, but not to bark when they snuck home.

Assholes & Angels

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

If we divide people into two categories, Assholes & Angels, I would say the person(s) who would take advantage of, beat and strangle a 90 year old man (my father) is in the serious “Asshole” category. But for every one of them, I believe there are a lot more Angels. And  you never know when and where you will meet one.

In an earlier post I told you about the death march my mother was forced to endure in January of 1945. The German army was retreating west in fear of the advancing Russians. My mother Simone was part of 1000 girls whose job was to dig ditches in the road to slow down the Russian tanks. She subsequently escaped (see Simone’s Escape and Escape of Diana). However, that almost never happened because a few days earlier my mother couldn’t take it anymore.  She gave up hope and asked a guard to kill her.

Here is what happened in her own words:  Simone Brinkman speaks (1:35)

Felix Brinkmann 1918-2009

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I feel I had a fortunate life. Even going through the three concentration camps, I somehow was able to make the best out of the worst. I never would have thought growing up as a boy in Riga, Latvia that I would end up in the greatest city (NYC), in the greatest country in the world (USA).”

These are the words my father spoke to me two weeks ago, July 14th, when I last visited him in NY. My dad survived three concentration camps for 12 months, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee. He came to NY in 1947 with $5 in his pocket and unable to speak English. Eventually in 1971 he partnered with Mel Steir and Joe Cavalaro to open what would become one of the premier discotheques in NYC, the Adams Apple, (1st Ave and E 61st St.)

Last year my father was hospitalized for the whole month of July with Hepatits B.  I spent most of last summer in NYC caring for him. During the following month of August he couldn’t even remember being hospitalized. I took him back to Oregon at the end of the summer. After 1 week of Naturopathic (holistic natural medicine) care at the Center for Traditional Medicine and Nature Cures, he could remember the date and time we were flying back to NY.

To illustrate the kind of guy he was, two months after being freed from the concentration camp he was crossing a bridge in Germany and was stopped by a Russian guard. My father who spoke Russian explained what had happened to him and that his family had been killed. Then another man tried to cross the bridge. The Russian stopped him and because he wore a German army coat pulled back the man’s shirt to reveal an SS tatoo. He was an SS officer. The Russian soldier handed the machine gun to my father and told him to kill the German for my father’s family. My father said, “No” and handed the gun back to him. The Russian then shot the SS man.

Last November my father celebrated his 90th birthday. (See pictures of the party and pictures here.) Although he didn’t “have to” work he loved to work and managed a commercial building in the Bronx owned by his former partner (Mel Steir). He would drive there everyday, seven days a week. Working was one of his pleasures. Three weeks ago when his car was being repaired he walked 6 blocks to the subway station, took the train to the Bronx, walked another 3 blocks to arrive at work on time. In fact the “alarm” that something was wrong was sounded by the superindentent Julio at the buidling. When Felix didn’t show up, Julio knew something was wrong. It literally took someone killing my father to stop him from going to work.

His end is certainly a shock to me, but at the same time I know my Dad and even if he survived this attack he would have had no complaints. He knew as I do that we all have to “go” sometime. He told me that, “when faced with death I simply choose life and never gave up.” I know my Dad would not have been happy having to be cared for by someone or not being able to live his life functional (working) and independent. Even when I would try to get him to take a week off and come visit me in Oregon he would resist saying, “He didn’t want to leave the United States.” Going relatively quick is something he would have wanted.

For their amazing stories of survival see:

8/2/09 “Assholes & Angels” an audio of when my mother asked to die and hope came from an unexpected source

7/21/09 “Escape of Diana” (My mother’s twin sister’s escape from a death march.)

6/2/09 “Simone’s Story of Escape and Survival” (My mother’s escape from a death march.)

4/3/09 “Priorities in Black & White part 2” (My father’s life and his 90th birthday party.

1/28/09 “Happy Birthday Mom” (my Mom, an identical twin survives being picked by Dr. Mengele)

9/11/08 “Priorities in Black & White part 1

Link to movie about Felix Brinkmann’s life made for his 90th birthday last November.

Quicktime version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)
AVI version: The Felix Brinkmann Story (16 min)

Photo Gallery:

Escape of Diana

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The joy of escape for my mother Simone and her sister Zuza was tempered by the fact that my mother’s twin sister, Diana had not escaped with them. They all agreed to only do it at the right moment. If you weren’t in the right position, than you would keep marching and wait until the time was right. Then whoever escaped later would head back so they might find each other. What my mother and her sister did not know was that Diana marched another 29 km and two days. The right moment just didn’t present itself until the night of the second day.

The prisoners were camped in a barn. A German soldier was playing with his guard dog. He was trying to get the dog to jump up into a loft that was perhaps 7 feet high. The dog tried and tried but couldn’t do it. On the last attempt he bumped his nose on the edge of the loft, causing his nose to bleed. The German soldier petted his dog and told him, “That’s enough play. Good dog.”

Hours later in the dead of night, when all was quiet, Diana and her friend Paula snuck into that hayloft. The next morning when it was time to march again the dog jumped and jumped at the hayloft barking. The soldier thinking the dog wanted to play again pulled the dog away and left the barn. Diana was free.

Meanwhile my mother, her older sister Zuza, and friends lived the good life in the deserted town where they had escaped. A week had gone by. It was the night of January 27, a day before my mother and her twin sister Diana’s birthday. Come the next morning it would be the first birthday they ever spent apart. However, when my mother awakened the morning of the 28th she knew everything would be all right. She had a dream. It was the most vivid dream she ever had in her life prior or since. She told Zuza that they didn’t have to worry about Diana because she escaped and is coming on a sled with 28 cakes she baked for their birthday.

Later that day my Simone and Zuza went to a part of the deserted town to get some supplies. It was dusk when they began to make their way back toward the house in which they stayed. In the distance they saw some figures coming toward them. My mother and sister called out in German, “Five abreast!” That’s what the German soldiers always said. “Five abreast, five abreast.” They marched five abreast, they dug ditches five abreast, they peed five abreast. The figures in the distance called back in German “Five abreast.” That’s when Simone and Zuza knew those people were probably from the same march. As the figures came closer Simone and Zuza saw they were pushing a sled. When they were 5 feet away one of the figures said matter of factly, (as if you just happened to meet someone on the street), “Hello Simone.” It was Diana. “We are here for our birthday and we baked 28 cakes*.”

* (Diana and Paula had stayed up the whole previous night in a deserted house, baking according to recipes they found in a famous German cookbook. Although they had originally baked 28 cakes, there were only little over a dozen on the sled. At one point a Russian truck came by and the soldiers asked them if they wanted a ride. The Russian soldiers suggested they first hand them some of the cakes before they pull Diana and Paula onto the truck. But they simply grabbed the cakes and drove off.)

Simone’s Story of Escape & Survival

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Simone BrinkmanMy mother spent six months of her mid 20s in the Auschwitz concentration camp. As the Russian front advanced quickly, the German soldiers fled west to be captured by British or American forces. They were very afraid of the Russians. Auschwitz was evacuated and my mother was part of 1000 girls they took on a death march through the snow. They were the tail end of the German retreat and on a so-called rest break, they were to dig a ditches in the road. The idea was to slow the Russian tanks down.

It was January, bitter cold, they were hardly dressed and were starving. As they stopped to camp overnight my mother broke down and began to cry. A German soldier asked her what she was crying about and my mother said, “I can’t stand it anymore. I’m freezing, starving, and I’d rather you kill me.” He said, “Look at me.” She looked into his blue eyes, blue eyes she could see in her mind the rest of her life. He said, “The war will soon be over and it is us who will be dead and not you. You can make it just a little bit further a day at a time.” He then gave her a piece of his sandwich and ordered her to go guard one of the fires at the camp.

The next day my mother had renewed hope. She looked for an opportunity and noticed two things. When you went through deserted German towns and the road curved, there was a point when the guards couldn’t see you. There were about 1000 girls and only 100 guards. She also noticed when they stopped to camp for the night there were many moments when no guards were visible. At one of those moments she snuck away. Looking for a place to hide she went to a deserted house and scratched the frost off the window to reveal a wonderful scene inside. A Christmas tree with ornaments, but even better with fruit hanging from it. She broke into the house, devoured an apple, but before she could feel the joy of freedom she realized she had left her two sisters and friend back at the campsite. For sure they’ll think she’s dead and this could be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” for them. She also knew they couldn’t continue the march much longer either. But what should she do? She’d already escaped! It was only a few seconds of deliberation before she thought, “I could not live the rest of my life knowing maybe I could’ve done something. If I can do this once I can do this twice. I’ll sneak back and we’ll get away together.”

So she hid some fruit on her person and tried to sneak back to the camp. But a guard caught her! “Where were you!”, he barked. She explained she just wandered off and got lost. He beat her a few times with his rifle. But even during the beating my mother knew that this would be the last time and tomorrow she would escape.

The next day when the road curved and the guards couldn’t see, she, her sisters and friend all scattered. This time my mother found a barrel and waited for hours until nightfall before she came out. The first thing she noticed was silence and that’s when she realized, “I’m free.” Just like that. All things pass. She, her sisters and friend had escaped and survived.

For the rest of her life when times were tough, when problems or upsets would occur, my mother would let her thoughts drift back to those days and put the present circumstances into perspective. Then in her words she would, “Spring into action and do something about it!”

Priorities in Black & White part 2

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I spent the summer of 2008 in NYC taking care of my elderly father. (See “Priorities in Black and White”). Then I brought him to my home in Portland, Oregon for a couple of weeks of intensive naturopathic therapies. When I dropped my father off in NYC in mid September and flew off to the UK for seminars, it was to be the first time in two and a half months that he didn’t have someone with him at all times. Here is what happened.

He not only survives but he thrives. He has more energy and memory than before he was hospitalized. He is back at work managing a commercial office building for his former partner in the disco nightclub business, not because he has to work, but because it gives him pleasure. He drives to work each day from Manhattan to the Bronx.

Three months after leaving him, I returned with my family to celebrate his 90th birthday. We had a party for him at O’Flanagans bar in NYC where the idea for Adams Apple (the disco he opened in 1971) was born. And being the kind of guy he is, he flirted with the girls at the bar and danced the night away.

My father Felix Brinkmann is a survivor. During World War II he was in three concentration camps. When my family and I visited Auschwitz we saw samples of well-organized handwritten spreadsheets created by the Nazis that showed the profit to the Reich from the slave work of a prisoner. If not purposely killed early, an initially healthy prisoner would be worked to death by the sixth month. My father survived in the camps for a full year.

His father was an electrical engineer so my father, Felix, was very familiar and comfortable with all things electric. In that era, it would be the geeky equivalent of a computer programmer today. He also had a natural ability to fix things, even things he never saw before. It was those skills, his ability to work, and his never give up attitude that allowed him to survive.

When he was in the Lodz ghetto (before being shipped out to the camps) he was in charge of a telephone repair factory. A German officer hearing about his ability to fix things brought him a record player and asked if my father could make it work. Felix said of course (even though he had never seen the inside of one before). He asked the German officer to leave it and a few records for a couple of days. Felix “the electrician” fixed it in a matter of minutes and as a treat to his “employees” he brought all the workers at the factory together to hear the music. People didn’t have such things in the ghetto and hadn’t heard music for years. Most of the employees were young women and some of them insisted, “Herr Brinkmann you must dance.” My father chose my mother. A day later he made her his secretary, even though she couldn’t type, but as my dad said, “She sure could kiss.” And the rest is history.

He spent the next year in the concentration camps; six months in Auschwitz (Poland), two weeks in Mauthausen (Austria), and five months in Ebensee (Austria). While in Auschwitz he was picked for the gas chamber five times and five times got out of it because he could speak perfect German and explain his value as an electrician. This summer and fall when we would discuss his life threatening illness, his response was to show me the numbers on his arm and say, “Big deal. I’m a survivor.”

In dealing with my father’s illness I am amazed that we have a medical system that can prevent people from dying from a life threatening disease, but then release them with no care whatsoever to actually help them recover. Out of the ten medications he was prescribed, none of them produce healing. They all just force a certain physiologic response. It would be difficult for a young person to recover from the liver issue my father had, but for an older person, it’s nearly impossible. That’s where naturopathic medicine comes in. I brought my father back to Portland for two weeks of intensive naturopathic therapies, which included I.V. vitamins, B12 shots and a supplement regime to support the liver and other vital organs. For the entire month of August following his release from the hospital he didn’t even remember being hospitalized for the month of July. After one week of naturopathic treatment he could remember the day and time we were flying back to NY. Before the illness I could barely get him to walk a block. Now he not only walks six blocks, but he does it with intention like any self-respecting New Yorker.

Although my naturopathic medical course took me into the mind/emotions, relationships and it’s affect on your well-being, this experience re-energized me in terms of what is possible physically.

I want to share the benefit of that with you, so in the coming months I will be interviewing some exceptional holistic healers and posting those interviews. Many of these will be audio downloads, while some will be articles by guest authors within the Conscious Communicator e-article series. Here’s to your health and I’m here to support you.

Dr. Rick Brinkman

PICTURED ABOVE: From Top to Bottom:

Felix Brinkmann 1939, age 21,

Felix and Simone 1946,

Felix Brinkmann’s concentration camp tatoo 2008,

Felix Brinkman at his 90th birthday part November 20, 2008.

Happy Birthday

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Simone, Diana, and Arie in the Ghetto 1941Today is my mother’s 90th birthday. She passed away last year, 5 days before her 89th. She was an incredible person, always positive and embracing life even though when she was 25 she spent six months in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.  She also was an identical twin who survived Dr. Josef Mengele.  

Dr. Mengele was a German SS officer and physician at Auschwitz-Bireknau. He gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, and for performing human experiments on camp inmates, amongst whom Mengele was know as the Angel of Death. 

Dr. Mengele was always looking for twins on which to perform his horrific experiments. My mother (Simone) and her sister (Diana) would try to keep far apart so they wouldn’t be recognized as twins. One day as Mengele was gathering subjects one of the prisoners came up to him and said, “Dr. Mengele, I have another set of twins for you.” And pointed out my mother and sister as way of gaining favors from the Nazis. Simone and Diana were brought to the back of a parked army truck to be loaded in the back. The guards who brought them there left. Then all of a sudden the truck just drove away leaving Simone and Diana standing there. Needless to say they didn’t stand there very long.

For the rest of her life my mother kept the book “Mengele” on her bookshelf. If she ever felt bad about anything, sorry for her self, or upset she would simply pull the book off the shelf, read a paragraph or two and then the present circumstances didn’t seem so bad. 

Thanks Mom. You are an inspiration. Happy Birthday.

PICTURE: 1941 Lodz Ghetto, Poland, from Left to Right; Simone, Arie (currently Distinguished University Professor Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park) Diana

Priorities in Black & White

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

“I could not llve the rest of my life knowing maybe I could have done something.”

After escaping from a Nazi death march in 1945, these are the words my mother said to herself right before she purposely let herself get captured again, so she could tell her sisters about how they might escape. She found her sisters among the 1000 girls in the march, explained how to escape and the next day they all did.

She passed away earlier this year and I spent most of December and January living with her and enjoying her in Arizona. This July my father (also a concentration camp survivor) was hospitalized for a month with a life threatening disease. When he was released August 8th I thought I was going to be in NYC for 5 days to help him get set up. Now thirty three days later I am leaving him for the first time.

Luckily I had space in my schedule to be there for him, although even when I am not traveling there are still plenty of work prioities. Just in the creative category alone there was 5 articles, 4 blogs, 3 podcasts, and a Tele-seminar oh my. Unfortunately they didn’t all get done. But what did get done is everything I could possibly do for my Dad. This included de-cluttering his apartment (a six day process), organizing his home so he can function even with impaired short-term memory, taking him to Portland for 2 weeks of concentrated naturopathic therapies, having great quality time with him, organizing home care support and a whole lot more. But today I finally had to leave. So I tagged his ear with radio transmitter and released him into the wild of NYC. 😉 And as I sit here on a plane bound for seminars in the United Kingdom I can hear my mother’s words and know for certain that I can live the rest of my life knowing I did all I could. Sometimes priorities are simply black and white.

PS: During the second week following his release from the hospital my father and I went out to our local Chinese restaurant. My fortune cookie was the fortune you see superimposed on the picture to the left. His fortune was, “Forget the stock market, invest in family.” So he bought dinner. 😉