HomeMarch 2012Isi Nussenbaum, Survivor and Mensch

Isi Nussenbaum, Survivor and Mensch

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of Congregation Beth Jacob described Isidor (Isi) Nussenbaum as not just a pillar of the community, but a treasure.  Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum of Chabad of Irvine added that Nussenbaum was always ready to be the tenth man in the minyan or whatever else was needed to help the then-fledgling Jewish community of Irvine.  Nussenbaum, who died peacefully in his sleep on February 1 at his home in Irvine, was all of that and more.
In 2005 Nussenbaum completed a powerful, poignant book, He’s Not Coming Here Anymore: A Survivor’s Story, documenting his survival against all odds.  He had been planning to go to Germany in November to speak at an event to unveil the German reprinting of the book.
Nussenbaum knew that he had to tell his story of surviving the Holocaust.  Nobody knew about Camp Rieben, because only three people survived – and he learned of the other two at a survivors’ reunion in Jerusalem in 1981.  As he said in the foreword to the book, “I undertake this obligation to remind the world of the atrocities of which humans are capable.”  Still, he harbored no grudges against anyone. He lived life to its fullest, spoke several languages, read avidly, played soccer and charmed everyone he knew.
Born in Bautzen, Germany, in 1927, Nussenbaum and his family moved to Breslau (now part of Poland) and then back to Bautzen.  Deportation subjected five members of the family to unimaginable conditions, separation and finally death for all but him.  Finally, there was liberation, but some of the Russian soldiers proved to be just as cruel as the Nazis.
After the war, Nussenbaum visited his family’s former landlady, who had a letter from his older brother in America.  After immigrating to the United States in 1948, he pursued a degree in mechanical engineering and worked in the aerospace industry.  He was married to Minnie (nee Cohen) for 52 years until her death in 2007.  He is survived by two daughters – Doris, a doctor of internal medicine in Chicago, and Sharon, a professor and counselor at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, three grandchildren and a brother.

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