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1922 - 2019

Ervin G. Erdoes, M.D.
October 14, 1922 - November 17, 2019

Ervin G. Erdoes was born on October 14th, 1922 to his father, Andör and mother, Aranka Erdös in Budapest, Hungary. His father served as an officer during WWI in the Hungarian Army and went on to become a respected engineer in Budapest, until the rise of Hitler, and Hungary joining the "Axis" of the Nazi Empire. Because of their Jewish faith, shortly after Ervin graduated from high school in 1940, he was conscripted by the fascist Hungarian Army to a forced labor brigade. Following the German Invasion of Hungary in 1944, Ervin and his father were deported and shipped by cattle car to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany.
When they arrived, they were warned by another prisoner to lie to the German SS about their vocational skills, so that they would be placed in a forced labor factory, rather than being sent to the gas chambers or the death camp at Auschwitz. And so, they told the SS they were lathe operators, and were promptly assigned to the nearby Henkel Munitions Factory, where they secretly sabotaged their work so that the ammunition would blow up on the German Army.
While imprisoned at Sachsenhausen, Ervin witnessed the bull whipping of Jehovah's witnesses, the suicide of prisoners throwing themselves against the electric fence surrounding the camp, the cruel experiments on the prisoners and the mass starvation of all those interned in the camp. Only 5% of those who were sent with Ervin via train to Sachsenhausen survived.
In April of 1945, during the Allied Invasion of Germany, Ervin was hit by shrapnel following a heavy air raid. He fled the camp, only to realize he had nowhere to go but back, starving and unable to determine friend from foe in the nearby German village. A few days later, after Hitler's downfall was announced, the SS evacuated the camp to avoid the discovery of their atrocities.
The SS drove all of the prisoners north on a death march toward the Baltic Sea. Those who couldn't march were shot, their bodies left in the frozen ditches along the roadway.
Ervin witnessed a man saying his last prayer in Hebrew just before he was shot in the back of the head. When the column of prisoners reached a forest, they were ordered to bed for the night. Many of the Jewish Polish, Ukrainians, Hungarians, and others, carved their last wills out in the trees. Those trees still stand today.
Fortunately, the march was cut off and saved by an advance battalion from the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army.
Following his liberation, Ervin and his father, who had gone blind from malnutrition, walked back from Berlin to Budapest, where Ervin enrolled in medical school.
By 1950, the Communist regime in Hungary made finishing his final year in medical school impossible. Branded by the Communists as a dissident, in April of 1950, Ervin smuggled himself across the minefields, past the armed patrols, secret police, machine gun towers, and barbed wire of the Iron Curtain between Hungary and Austria.
He arrived in Munich a few days later. He enrolled in at the University of Munich Medical School and completed his medical degree a year later, despite having to learn the language. In 1952, he went to work in a laboratory in Munich, studying enzymes and peptides and how they aided in the control of blood pressure. From there on, medical research became his lifelong passion and profession.
In 1954, Ervin emigrated to the United States. From 1957-1963, he worked at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.
In 1963, Ervin and his family moved to Oklahoma City, where he served as Head of Pharmacology at the University of Oklahoma Medical School from 1963-1973. In 1973, Ervin became a Professor of Pharmacology and ran a research laboratory at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. In 1985, Ervin moved to Chicago where he met his wife, Sara Rabito, an anesthesiologist at Cook County Hospital. He served as a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois, at Chicago, garnering numerous awards for his contributions to science and research.
Ervin was a proud naturalized American citizen, who cherished the opportunity to live in this great nation in freedom, having witnessed and survived the Holocaust and oppression under both the Nazis and Communists
He is survived by his wife Sara Rabito of Chicago, Illinois, son Peter Andor Erdoes, daughter-in-law Kimberly Erdoes, grandson Dirk Ervin Erdoes, and granddaughter Erin Erdoes of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and son Philip Erdoes, daughter-in-law Mary Erdoes and granddaughters, Mia Erdoes, Morgan Erdoes and Mason Erdoes of New York City, New York. He is preceded in death by his son, Martin Erdoes.
A service will be held on November 22nd at 10:00 a.m. at the Weinstein and Pisner Funeral Home in Wilmette, Ill. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation, should you so choose, to the National Holocaust Museum.
Published in The Oklahoman on Nov. 19, 2019
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