Stockton Holocaust survivor Paul Fairbrook recognized in Capitol
SACRAMENTO – Paul Fairbrook, of Stockton, who escaped Nazi Germany with his family and later enlisted in the U.S. Army, was recognized along with other survivors and their descendants on the floor of the State Assembly on Monday during the Annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony.
As children growing up in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party, Fairbrook and his brother were thrown out of the German Boy Scouts and denied admission to school because they were Jewish.
Fairbrook’s parents, sensing it was time to leave Germany, moved to Palestine, where his father, a banker, built and operated a small machine shop until civil unrest caused the firm to go bankrupt. The family decided to immigrate to the United States, requiring a return to Europe. The Fairbrooks applied for visas at the Amsterdam consulate, which they heard was friendly to Jews.
Fairbrook’s mother and the four Fairbrook children waited in Slovenia, then boarded a train to Amsterdam. At the German border, they were pulled off the train by a Nazi official, who told them they had lost their citizenship and, if they were not out of the country by midnight, their next stop would be a concentration camp. Fairbrook’s mother sent a last-minute telegram to the stationmaster at the German-Dutch border; when the family arrived, they found that the friendly stationmaster had held the train for them.
Like many other immigrants, the family arrived in Manhattan after their paperwork was examined at Ellis Island. Fairbrook’s father became a stamp salesman – he had a large, expensive collection – and his mother and siblings worked at any job they could get. Fairbrook had always wanted to be a hotel manager. He was working at a New York City hotel when he heard the news about Pearl Harbor. He tried to enlist in the United States Army, but was told he was an “enemy alien” because of his German citizenship. However, before the end of that year he received a draft notice, was inducted into the Army in January 1942, and gained his American citizenship.
After basic training, Fairbrook was sent to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, to the Military Intelligence Training Center. Because he spoke fluent German, he was trained as an interrogator of POWs and was accepted into the Order of Battle School, a highly specialized program translating and analyzing German military documents. Next, Fairbrook was sent to a secret camp named “P.O. Box 1142,” where he joined a small group of intelligence analysts poring over stacks of German documents captured in the invasion of North Africa. One of the documents they translated was Hitler’s orders for the invasion of the Soviet Union: Operation Barbarossa. Shortly after D-Day, Fairbrook and several colleagues were sent to London to help the British translate more captured German documents. In 1945, he received a military commendation for his work as one of the “Ritchie Boys.”
After his honorable discharge, Fairbrook attended college under the G.I. Bill, married, had four children, and launched a career in food service. In 1968 his first wife died. A year later, he married Peig; this December will be their 47th wedding anniversary. Fairbrook was recruited by the University of the Pacific in 1969, running their dining, housing and bookstore services until his retirement in 1985. He has published several books on food service and volunteers at St. Mary’s Dining Room, Sons-in-Retirement, and the Weber Point Coffee Club.