Baruch Dayan Emet, we mourn the loss of Herman Graulich, Holocaust Survivor, of Brooklyn, NY. Herman was niftar on July 12th, 2019. As a Volunteer for Connect2, Friendly Visiting for Holocaust Survivors, I met over 20 Holocaust Survivors but no one like Herman Graulich. Born in Skolya, Poland and a Survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Herman passed at age 101.
During visits since 2014, Herman always greeted me with a heavy polish accent and a smile as he said, “it’s a real pleasure to see you. Thank you for coming.” Herman gave me several brachos, some in english, some in yiddish, and maybe a few in Polish, and while I did not often understand, I knew his words were pure and from his Jewish heart and soul. The Torah tells us to avoid sadness and depression, and it was Herman who showed me the way.
Through many conversations on subjects ranging from the Catskill Mountains, the “Borscht Belt,” to davening at the Young Israel of Flatbush, his lunches at the Brookdale Senior Center of Agudath Israel, on Avenue H, the news, and politics, Herman had tremendous “inner strength” and always tried to see the good in people. There were times that Herman expressed his disappointment with President Franklin Roosevelt because he did not do what was necessary to save Jewish lives. Herman praised President Harry Truman for recognizing the State of Israel, and he expressed a fondness of Edward Koch and Michael Bloomberg, two New York City mayors that “were good for the Jewish people.”
Herman, like many Survivors I met, did not speak much about the Holocaust but he told me that he never forgot those who perished, particularly his sister, and her two sons, who at age 4 and 6, were sent to the gas chambers.
Herman came from the hasidic town of Skolya, in Galicia, Poland. After coming to America and living on Cherry Street on New York’s Lower East Side, Herman remembered the Eldridge Street Synagogue and the Bialystoker Synagogue, and restaurants such as Bernstein’s on Essex Street and Ratner’s on Delancy Street. Herman later married and found his way to Crown Heights where he became a barber, and owned “Herman’s Hairstyles – Unisex,” on Albany Avenue, with separate rooms for men and women. Herman served the Crown Heights community, cutting the hair of many young boys, teens, and young men. One of those boys was Avraham Shabsi HaKohen Friedman, who later took the stage name of Avraham Fried, and became one of the most popular musical entertainers in the orthodox Jewish world. Avraham Fried’s brother, Rabbi Manis Friedman, is also known around the world. Several customers remember Herman as “a real mensch…he told me not to come for a haircut on Rosh Chodesh,” said one man.
Herman told me many times how he regularly cut the hair of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Ob”m, the 7th Rebbe of the Chabad Hasidic Dynasty, known as the “Lubavitcher Rebbe,” or simply, “The Rebbe.” Many times,”The Rebbe” was sent by chauffeured car to the skillful hands of Herman Graulich, and sometimes the chauffered car would pick up Herman and take him to “The Rebbe.” Although I never met him, there is no doubt in my mind that “The Rebbe” was fond of Herman and blessed him for a long life.” Herman told me that even in recent years, people used to say hello to him, during walks on Ocean Parkway and told him that they remembered he was their barber in Crown Heights. Herman was proud of his career and always expressed sincere gratitude.
When I first met Herman, he poured me a Coke with his hand trembling but he made sure to say the Bracha. He told me how he used to daven at the Young Israel of Flatbush and of the friendships he made there. Unable to see in one eye and hard of hearing, in recent years Herman davened at home. I once framed a photo of his synagogue and told him that if he could not go to the synagogue, I would bring the synagogue to him.
Herman told me about his travels to Florida, Montreal, Niagara Falls, and most dear to his heart, Israel. He spoke with tears in his eyes, of Jerusalem, especially the Kotel and the King David Hotel, as well as the Dead Sea and Masada.
Friendship was a very important part of Herman’s life and he also told me about Chaim Langsam, also a Holocaust Survivor, who lived two blocks away and davened at the Young Israel of Flatbush. Herman spoke fondly of Chaim, telling me about trips to Miami Beach and the Catskill Mountains, where the two men would walk around the lake at the Kutscher’s Hotel. In recent years, Herman’s best and truest friend was his aide, Lydia, who spoke to him in his native Polish and took care of him to the best of her ability. I remember the look on both their faces as I delivered mishloach manot, purim gifts, courtesy of Connect2 and the Mitzvah Man. They were so happy to see that others cared about them and they were appreciative and thankful.
“Sometimes we don’t think or feel like we have a lot to give, or anything really great or special to give others in need…” said Michael Cohen, Founder Mitzvah Man organization in Brooklyn. “But the truth is, we never really know how much a small little gesture or small act of giving, that we see as ‘not that great,’ can help another person cope in their lives.”
On one visit, I found a misdelivered package in the lobby of Herman’s apartment building. Inside was a gift from Bikur Cholim, a new large print Siddur, for which Herman seemed eternally grateful. Despite macular degeneration in his eyes, Herman continued to pray at home and did the best he could. Herman was a true “Survivor,” until the end, battling loss of hearing, melanoma, prostate cancer, and other ailments. He had “Emunah,” faith in HaShem, who had mercy and allowed him to live a long life, past 101.
Always thankful for everything, Herman loved going to lunch, daily at the Brookdale Senior Center, run by Rabbi Heineman and his staff. Herman appreciated the good in people and was always thankful. It was this character trait or middos, that I will most remember about Herman. Thank you Herman, for being a friend, for being a gentleman, in the purest sense.
Herman is survived by his daughter Marlene Shapiro and her husband, as well as their son and daughter. I consider myself fortunate to have met such a person. May his Memory be for a Blessing.
Written by Michael J. Weinstein, Volunteer for Connect2, Friendly Visiting for Holocaust Survivors (www.connect2ny.org) and the Mitzvah Man (www.themitzvahman.org)