Milton Fingerman, clothing buyer, WWII liberator
MILTON FINGERMAN, a clothing buyer who lived in New Orleans for 52 years, but who was forever marked by his role as a translator at Dachau concentration camp during World War II, died May 14 after a short illness. He was 90. Fingerman was known as a kind and gentle man and a very good representative for local clothiers that included Lord’s and Krauss department stores before he retired. He was enthralled with the culture of the city and was a longtime supporter and season ticket holder of the New Orleans Saints and a dedicated member of the Krewe of Caesar.
Fingerman was born in New York City and had already received an associate’s degree from City College of New York when he was caught up in the war effort while still a teenager. He became a staff sergeant in the U. S. Army and was a member of the 20th Armored Division during the spring of 1945 when the Dauchau concentration camp was liberated by one of its companies. Fingerman arrived on the scene about two hours after the Allies had captured what few Nazi captors remained. He recounted many years later how he was haunted by the sight of so many cadavernous, malnourished bodies. He thought them little more than walking skeletons. Because he spoke Yiddish, he was able to converse with many of the former inmates and determine their immediate needs. Despite the importance of his mission and the horrors he witnessed firsthand, Fingerman remained tight-lipped about it until late in his life. He felt very uncomfortable talking about this incident, even though it changed him psychologically and brought him to full maturity in a way few ever experienced. Last year Fingerman talked about his experiences at a gathering of the Jules Lazard post of the Jewish War Veterans for Memorial Day at Shir Chadash, the synagogue he attended for most of his many years in New Orleans.
It was during the war that he met his future wife Roslyn (née Weissman) Fingerman and the two of them lived in the New York area before eventually settling in New Orleans to pursue his career. In recent years he kept up with family and friends through the Internet and was an avid reader. His biggest complaint in life was that his vision was beginning to fail due to macular degeneration. But like the trooper he was during the war, he rose above the problem, not letting it keep him down or depressed long at all.
Beside his wife, Fingerman is survived by a son, Dr. Irwin Fingerman of Birmingham, AL, and a daughter Ellen of Arlington, VA, their spouses, and two grandchildren. A funeral service officiated by Rabbi Ethan Linden was held at Conservative Congregation Shir Chadash on April 16 and the body was transferred by Tharp Sontheimer Funeral Home for interment in Beth Moses Cemetery in Farmingdale, NY.
Donations are suggested to Jewish Family Service of New Orleans, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association or Conservative Congregation Shir Chadash, 3737 West Esplanade Avenue North, Metairie, LA.