Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld, Holocaust survivor, professor of sociology and author passed away May 1, 2019, at the age of 93. Eugen was born on Nov. 8, 1925, in the Jewish shtetl of Munkács, Czechoslovakia (now Mukachevo, Ukraine) near the Carpathian Mountains. The son of a book store owner and educated in the Munkács Gymnasium, Eugen developed a love for reading and knowledge.
In April of 1944, Hungarian officials, under orders from the Nazi military, began to ghettoize Munkács, shortly after which Jews in the city were transported to concentration camps. Eugen and his family — his father, mother, younger brother and younger sister — were transported first to Birkenau and then to Auschwitz.
Soon after, he and the surviving members of his family were forcibly transported to Warsaw, Poland “to work on a project of rebuilding Berlin.” A few months later, he and his father were forced to march with other prisoners to Dachau, where they were liberated by American military forces in the summer of 1945. His mother, brother, and sister were killed in the camps.
After the war, Eugen worked for the United Nations in Prague, escaping to Germany to avoid the Soviet-controlled government that would soon come to power. His father remained behind the Iron Curtain. From Germany, Eugen immigrated to the United States in 1948, coming through Ellis Island, and traveling to St. Louis, where he earned a master’s degree from Washington University. It was in St. Louis that he met his wife, Jean Appelman. The two were married in 1949 on Christmas Day and would have four daughters: Leslie, Stephanie, Karen and Robin.
Unsatisfied with working multiple, low-paying jobs, Eugen returned to academia, receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from Southern Illinois University, after which he began teaching in Memphis, Tenn. In 1970, Eugen was hired by Georgia State University as the chair of the sociology department, where he remained for many years, developing the department’s graduate program and advocating on behalf of the faculty for better pay and reasonable teaching loads.
Always an avid fisherman, Eugen also developed a passion for photography and tennis. After retiring from GSU, Eugen joined Georgia Tech’s study abroad program, teaching and traveling the world with his wife. His memoir, “My Reconstructed Life,” was published by Kennesaw State University Press in 2005.
He frequently traveled to talk about his experiences during the Holocaust, from Jewish organizations in Atlanta to high school football teams in London, Ky., to 4-H clubs in Bozeman, Mont.
He was also heavily involved with the Atlanta Jewish community and spoke at several synagogues in the Atlanta area during Shabbat and High Holiday services. Eugen was a frequent contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times. He published his second book “Faith and Conflict” in 2011, and up until his death, was working on a third book, detailing the evolution of his thoughts on Judaism.
Eugen took great pride in his family. He and his wife, who passed away in August 2014, felt fortunate to see their family grow and thrive over the years.
In addition to his wife, Eugen is predeceased by his grandson, Michael Eilen. He will be remembered by his daughters Leslie (Gary) Myerson, Stephanie Eilen, Karen (Neil) Hollingsworth, and Robin (Michel) Valin; five grandsons, Aaron (Kimberly) Myerson, Jason (Alison) Myerson, Dana (Heather) Eilen, Alex and Nicolas Valin; and five great-grandchildren, Aiden, Naomi, Sadie, Caleb and Brinley.
We remember Eugen as the center of family gatherings, at the head of the table at Passover, directing the seder. We learned, as his students who crowded his lecture halls over the years learned, to listen when he spoke. We close with his own words, from an article published on March 20 in the AJT: “Now at 93, with advanced heart failure and struggling for my breath, what is left to me is hope for a few more years and for a pleasant old age, and above all, for a peaceful world.”
Graveside services were held May 3 at Arlington Memorial Park with Rabbi Michael Bernstein officiating.
Donations may be made to The Breman Museum in Atlanta, www.thebreman.org/support/tribute-gifts.