Wisdom//

Reflecting On My Father’s Life

"He never let his deep losses [during the Nazi period] turn to bitterness and understood that good people live everywhere.”

Decorated WWII Deputy Security Officer for Berlin and former Aide to General Dwight Eisenhower, Arnold “Arno” Fleischmann is buried at 93 with military honors. The author of the memoir “Lights & Shadows” is recognized for saving the life of General Eisenhower by uncovering Hitler’s elite spy ring of assassins during the Battle of the Bulge. Was the first American soldier to enter Hitler’s Bunker in May, 1945.

My extraordinary father, Arnold “Arno” Fleischmann, died peacefully and suddenly in his sleep on Wednesday, June 19. He went to sleep after having had a wonderful dinner with family. He had been looking forward to his annual summer travels to the island of Nantucket with us just a few days later. We thankfully had also spent a special Father’s Day with him just a few days prior on Sunday, June 16th. 

Arnold “Arno” Fleischmann was born in Bayreuth, Germany in the historic family home that was originally part of the Wall of the City of Bayreuth. It was originally the Residence of his great-grandfather. Arno was born into privilege in a family of celebrated military leaders, officials, diplomats, poets, industrialists, and businessmen.

Arno Fleischmann was a real prince. His was the proud son of Ludwig, who himself was an extraordinary man. His late mother, Nelly, came from a family of celebrated industrialists.

Nelly was a proud German of regal bearing. She was among the first women in Germany to graduate from university and was among the first women to graduate from the University of Freiburg.

Ludwig had served during World War I in the King of Bavaria’s Riding Guard—Königlich Bayerische Ulanen. While stationed in Russia, he was a horseman assigned to the Kaiser.

In 1934/1935 Ludwig sued the Nazi German government for his loss of rights taken by the Nazis – as he protested how his business was being hurt by the German Nazis. Ludwig took the case to Germany’s Supreme Court (unprecedented and courageous for him to do). Ludwig won the case in 1935/1936. The case was tried in Berlin. Ludwig won in the height of the Nazi period.

Arno’s extended family had emigrated to Baltimore generations earlier where they created a well-known department store which later became Warren Buffett’s first purchase for Berkshire Hathaway in 1966. It was these cousins in Baltimore who helped get Arno, his father Ludwig Fleischmann, maternal grandfather Samuel, maternal great-uncle Benno Lauer, and stepmother Bettie Maier Fleischmann escape Nazi Germany for America (Arno’s mother Nelly died unexpectedly in August 1938 at the age of 37 years old when Arno was just 12 years old. His paternal grandparents Karl and Berta Fleischmann never escaped as my father was on the 2nd to last ship that was allowed to leave Germany via Genoa, Italy and my great-grandparents were meant to be on the ship that followed the last one).

My Dad was an amazing man. He was a great lawyer, human rights advocate, community leader and a decorated World War II hero. He enlisted in the US Army in 1944 a mere 4 years after having arrived in the United States (directly to Baltimore) following his and family’s escape from Nazi, Germany in 1940. 

During the Battle of the Bulge, Arnold is recognized for having uncovered Hitler’s elite spy ring of assassins and had them arrested which ultimately saved General Eisenhower’s life and began what has been a 75 year old relationship between the Fleischmanns and President Eisenhower’s family (and I serve on the board of trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships). 

Dad was with General Eisenhower at Germany’s surrender in the “Little Red School House”. He supported the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials. He was the Deputy Security Officer for Berlin and went from being Aide to General Dwight D. Eisenhower to working directly for General Lucius D. Clay. He later was among the original officials that worked for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA — each were positions that allowed him to witness and actively participate in the wartime and post-war transition in Germany. 

He argued and won cases before the United States Supreme Court. 

He led the legal team to save the lives of innocent Russian men and women who were on trial in 1970 in Moscow. My father knew these men and women were innocent and felt it his obligation and responsibility to help in their defense in what was a trial known worldwide. He could have been indifferent but felt he could not ignore the situation. My father traveled to the Soviet Union and after weeks of negotiations, my father got the Soviets to drop the case. 

My mother Laura was concerned about him taking the trip and all the risks of getting involved in the trial – fearing that he could be accused of being a spy because of his time in Berlin and the heightened tensions between the Soviets and Americans. Laura supported him for being courageous. From his days at the post-WWII Nuremberg trials, Arnold knew the now Attorney General of the Soviet Union. He had been the chief Soviet Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials and he knew Arnold.

Arnold was able to convince him to drop the case. 

After numerous trips to Germany, where we have family, Arnold actually did not return to the City of Berlin after left in 1947 until just after November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. I was working for the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the German Bundestag when the wall came down. His visit was so profound for him and me. My father never lost his ties to Germany and encouraged me to learn the language and travel frequently to Germany. I lived in Bonn, Germany, Berlin, and Vienna, Austria with his encouragement. He never let his deep losses turn to bitterness and understood that good people live everywhere.

Having obtained such leadership at a young age, I was always struck my his great humility. He was a fierce optimist who had an insatiable curiosity. Dad was always grateful and felt a dedication to his family and service to community. Despite all of his loss, it was his smile and his love of celebration that I shall always recall first.

He was a loving father and husband of almost 30 years to my late mom Laura, who was an extraordinary woman known for being a brilliant businesswoman, mentor to many, and as a great fashion designer who created and identified some of the most beautiful and popular fashion movements and trends from the 1950s through the 1980s. My mom died too young after a long battle with cancer in 1988, with my father by her bedside. And for the last (almost) 30 years, he was also a devoted husband to Rosalie Rosenzwog. Rosalie is a loving stepmother to me, mother-in-law to Dafna, and grandmother to our two daughters. My Dad was an amazing father-in-law to Dafna and as grandfather to Laura Julia and Natalia, we included him in everything and are grateful that he traveled with us around the world. They loved him so. It was mutual.  He is also survived by my sister Nicole, my brother Steve and his wife Michelle, and 3 other wonderful grandchildren: Annelore, Henry, and Beatrice. 

Our leader. My hero. He was so loved and we shall always cherish his love and example. 

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