Biography: Max Rothschild was born on June 13, 1919, in Stuttgart, Germany. He was the son of Otto Rothschild and Thekla Wollenberger and attended local schools in Stuttgart. He continued his education at the Technische Hoch Schule, also in Stuttgart, with a focus on Chemistry.
Growing up Jewish under the Nazi regime was very difficult and in 1938, Max was able to obtain a visa and move to the U.S. He tried very hard to obtain visas for his family as well, but his parents were unfortunately not able to get the necessary permissions so they remained in Germany.
When Max arrived in the U.S., he joined the government’s National Youth Administration and was sent to Wausau, Wisconsin, where he held several jobs and took commercial classes at a vocational school.
Service Time: Max entered the service on September 24, 1941, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The enlistment record listed a Brooklyn, New York, address for mailing purposes, which was the address of his cousin who had sponsored Max’s immigration to the U.S.
Because he was not an American citizen and was from Germany, he spent a few days in the army stockade until his citizenship status was cleared for service. He was then sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and then to Camp Roberts, California, where he received his basic training in the Infantry. It was during his time there that Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.
Max was moved by troop train to Fort Lewis, Washington where he was assigned to the Reconnaissance unit of the 41st Infantry Division which was a former National Guard unit. Everyone thought they were going to be sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese but Max was ordered to the Division office and ordered to surrender his gun. For the second time, he was sent to the stockade due to his citizenship. Max was cleared again for service and assigned to the newly formed Reconnaissance Company of the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with them at a number of military facilities, including Fort Lewis, Hunter Liggett Military Reservation, California, and Camp Hood, Texas, during 1942.
The 899th shipped out from the New York port on January 13, 1943, and arrived at Casablanca on January 26, 1943. While they were in North Africa, they were issued new M10 tank destroyers. They were deployed to the Gafsa-El Guettar sector, Tunisia, on March 16, 1943, where they established the first American contact with the British Eighth Army on April 7th. Max performed a variety of functions, including company clerk but his discharge makes note of his service as a reconnaissance car crewman, involved in patrolling enemy territory for military information, interrogating enemy prisoners and serving as a translator. His native German language was a significant asset to his unit.
The 899th arrived in the Naples, Italy, area on November 10th, but were immediately sent to England. Liaison personnel from the unit accompanied the second glider lift of the 82nd Airborne Division during the invasion of Normandy, France. The main section of the battalion landed at Utah Beach on D-Day and helped capture Cherbourg in late June. It was in the performance of his duties that Max was injured on July 11, 1944, in the Normandy, France area. In recognition of those injuries, he received the Purple Heart.
In late July, the unit supported the Cobra breakout by the U.S. First Army under the command of Omar Bradley. The operation was intended to help the Allies break out of the Normandy area. The 899th advanced through Mayenne, and entered Belgium on September 2nd, where they backed the 9th Infantry Division’s operations in the vicinity of Monschau and Hofen, Germany. In October, they fought in the Rötgen/Hürtgen Forest.
In December, elements of the 899th were deployed in the first days of the Battle of the Bulge, to stop the German advance, while others remained in the VII Corps area. They supported the attack to capture the Roer River dams in February, 1945, and most of the unit converted to the M36 tank destroyer that same month. They crossed the Roer River on February 28th and advanced to the Rhine River near Bad Godesberg, where first elements crossed into the Remagen bridgehead on March 8th. The 899th joined the attack on the Ruhr Pocket in April, and then moved east into the Harz Mountains. Max mentioned in his memoirs that he was present when the gates to the Nordhausen concentration camp were opened and states that:
“It was a shocking and unspeakable experience. At that moment, I could only imagine what had happened to my parents. How I wished they could know that I was still alive and that I would avenge them.”
Moving to the Mulde River for link-up with Soviet forces, which they achieved on April 27th, the 899th finally began occupation duty in Bernburg on May 3rd.
Max’s contribution to the capture of war criminals is noted in a letter from the 899th Reconnaissance Commander, Alvin E. Gourley, to the Division’s Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) in Stuttgart, Germany, to allow Max to assist them and take care of personal affairs in the area. It was during this time that Max tried to locate his parents, but found out that they had been taken to a concentration camp and killed.
Max received credit for each of the unit’s seven campaigns including Tunisia, Rome Arno, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. He was awarded the American Defense, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign and Good Conduct Medals. As mentioned before, he also received the Purple Heart. Max left the service on August 6, 1945, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, with the rank of Technician 4th Grade.
Now back in the U.S. he started a business named Rothschild Provisions, which was located in Brooklyn and was a wholesale meats and provisions provider. On April 7, 1946, he married Ann Krinsky who was born in Suwalk, Poland and was the daughter of Chaim Krinsky and Civia Kumel. Sadly, Ann’s family had also perished in the concentration camps. The new couple would live in New York and have three daughters, Claudette, born in 1947, Suzan in 1955, and Ona in 1957.
Max loved spending time with his eight grandchildren and in his spare time, he also enjoyed painting and writing. He wrote a memoir about growing up in Nazi Germany and his combat experiences during World War II. You can read the military portion of his memoirs at the following link:
Memoirs by Max Rothschild (Army years only)
He was a member of the Suwalk Benevolent Association, which was a charitable organization for his wife’s hometown in Poland. After his retirement, Max and Ann moved to Delray Beach, Florida. He passed away on September 30, 1999, and was buried in the Eternal Light Memorial Gardens in Boynton Beach, FL.
I want to thank Max’s daughter, Suzan, for providing the information and photos for this tribute as well as other photos of the 899th personnel and places. Thank you also to Find A Grave contributor Romper90069 for the use of the grave marker photo.