Alan A. Brown
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Alan A. Brown (born Andor Braun, March 20, 1928 – March 22, 2010) was a Hungarian professor of Economics. He founded the international honor society in Economics, Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE), while he was a student at City College of New York (CCNY) in 1955. The society now has 600 chapters worldwide. Brown arrived in the U.S. in 1949 at age 21, having survived the Nazi Holocaust as the sole survivor of his family (except for three scattered cousins), without money or knowledge of English.
According to the Jewish custom, he was named for his uncle Andor, who died before he was born. Andor’s grave was one of very few graves that exist in Alan’s family. The Holocaust, which took many other lives in his family, did not allow for proper burial of one’s kin.
A day before Alan’s 16th birthday, the German Nazis came to Miskolc. In his personal testimony on YouTube, Alan states, "On June 6, 1944, D-Day with the German defeat rapidly approaching, our ghetto in Miskolc was liquidated." Jewish men lined up in front of a Hungarian bilingual guard (which he called a kapo, derived from the German word for “head,” although he was perhaps "a Schwab or Volksdeutsche, that is, an ethnic German that lived in Hungary for a long time"). The Schwab sat at a table and took roll call, categorizing males. Unknown to the men, their age determined whether they’d live or die, with the cut-off being age 18. The Schwab most likely knew that to be 16 years old was more dangerous for him than if he were deported as an 18 year old in Hungarian forced labor. As a monolingual German Nazi closely scrutinized the interactions, the Schwab quizzed Alan, next in line – "Age?" Alan replied his true age: "16." For an unknown reason, the Schwab countered "18." Alan, baffled, corrected him: "16." This went on a few times until the Schwab said in Hungarian, "Do I have to teach you how to lie?" Thus, Alan’s first miracle: his life was saved for the first time in his years during and after the Holocaust.
Alan Brown survived six Nazi labor camps - first in Hungary, and then in Austria, where the treatment was more brutal, and where he contracted typhus and tuberculosis, which eventually killed his father. Alan's life was saved by a righteous gentile, Frau Rosa Schreiber (née Freismuth), in whose name a scholarship award was established at the University of Windsor, from which Brown retired in 1994. Brown was fortunate to encounter Frau Rosa Schreiber, an Austrian woman who ran a general store on the outskirts of his final labor camp. Schreiber risked her life, sneaking small amounts of food and medicine to Alan so that he and his father might overcome the typhus and tuberculosis that was endemic in the labor camp.
Sadly, these diseases overcame Alan's father, who died in his son's arms the day after the Russian soldiers liberated the labor camp. Although the exact date is unknown, Alan's family observes this day as the second day of Passover, and this is almost 65 years to the day that Alan died in the arms of his wife and daughter, March 22, 2010.
In 1961, Alan and his wife Barbara located Frau Schreiber. They reconnected with her in 1995 and through a series of events, ensured her rightful place as a righteous gentile in Yad Vashem. Yad VaShem requires verification by three individuals of a person's righteous behavior. It was not until Alan visited Rosa in 1995 that he found proof of her having been viewed as a righteous individual by the mayor of the community of Neuhaus, near Jennersdorf, where she saved Alan's life and tried to save his father. The document Alan found stated that Rosa "expressed her disgust and outrage at the terrorist actions of the NSDAP/AO. She greatly helped the Jewish and gentile slave laborers with food and medicine." It is dated February 22, 1946.
Frau Rosa Schreiber's certificate as a righteous gentile at Yad Vashem, May 20, 1997
Marriage to Barbara Delson, December 26, 1955
Alan Brown met Barbara Delson at City College of New York, which they both attended. Their initial connection, which remained throughout their lives, was through reading. Barbara grew up in a small but strong Jewish community in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They also shared a love of classical music. Alan used Hungarian terms of endearment for Barbara and adapt them into his own and she reciprocated: jóság ("goodness") and jámbor ("docile"), sometimes combined as “jámbor jóság.” (These are not actual terms of endearment in Hungary, but Alan used them as such.)
Alan’s first major "test" was after he had been in the U.S. for five years – taking his naturalization. Although Barbara could not be physically present for the momentous occasion, she was in Alan’s heart and mind, and after the exam, she had a gift that most spouses cannot offer: she named her fiancé. From this time on, he would be Alan Andrew Brown. His last name was changed to eliminate the German referent, to assimilate, and to retain the accurate pronunciation of his name.
Alan Brown graduated CCNY with a B.A. summa cum laude, with Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, and first in his class (in a class of 2000 students) in 1957. He went on to graduate with a Ph.D. from Harvard Graduate School in Economics in 1966. Alan’s dissertation advisors were Abram Bergson when he was Director of the Harvard Russian Research Center and Gottfried von Haberler, who worked on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Alan Brown went on to a long academic career: he became a full professor with tenure in 1971, just before moving to the University of Windsor, Ontario and he retired in 1994.
Beginning of Omicron Delta Epsilon
ODE began by Alan Brown developing an honor society, Omicron Chi Epsilon (OCE) as an undergraduate. He subsequently learned of the existence of another honor society in economics, Omicron Delta Gamma, founded in 1915 by John R. Commons, University of Wisconsin and Frank Taussig, Harvard University, which, while older and formally larger (more chapters) than Omicron Chi Epsilon, was less active than the younger OCE. Alan was the prime mover to facilitate a merger in 1963 between the two societies, renamed Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE), adding "International" to its non-Greek name. At that point, ODE really took off.
Dr. Brown was a very learned man, fluent in four languages. He co-authored and co-edited eight books in economics and over 50 articles, and organized a number of international conferences, as well as having founded and served as national president of ODE, the national honor society for Economics.
Among his many awards were the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, Earhart Fellowship and Ford Foundation Fellowship. He received an Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Southern California and also at the University of Windsor.
Brown's special interest was Centrally Planned Economy in Eastern Europe.
Close to the time that Alan retired as a Professor at the University of Windsor in 1994, a young man came into his office. He asked, "Dr. Brown, would you write a letter saying that I never disrupted your class?" Alan said, "Well, you never disrupted my class – I know that because I don’t remember you! But what is this about?" The student revealed that he was a Holocaust denier, and unlike the U.S. where "freedom of speech" reigns, denying the Holocaust was met with punishment, and in the case of university, expulsion. Alan agreed that he would write the letter for the young man on the condition that he accompany Alan to the Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center. Alan never saw the student again, but Alan realized the imminent need for him to speak publicly about his experiences.
Long reticent about his personal history, in the early 1990s he became concerned about the Holocaust denial movement. As he said later in his 1995 speech in Windsor, "As a survivor, I … have to remember and tell others that democracy in the Weimar Republic did not prevent the rise of Hitler. … As a survivor, I also have to remember and tell others that genocide did not stop with the liberation of the camps 50 years ago."
In retirement, Alan devoted many hours to lecturing on the Holocaust at elementary school and colleges through the Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center, The Holocaust Center Boston North and Facing History and Ourselves. He also exemplified fairness and mentoring of others, bringing many under his wing, and showing through his actions that one cannot stand by while there is injustice.
Despite his accomplishments, he always exhibited wit and grace. To know him, you might not see his former suffering, but rather his trademark humor which always accompanied him in every gathering. Even as Parkinson's unfairly took his abilities in his later years, he remained stolid, never flinching, ever going forward. For all of their 54 years together, he owed much of his strength to his wife, Barbara, who was patient, hopeful, and, in his later years, caring with him to the very last minute, always exploring the latest opportunities for physical mobility and medical advancement, to try to beat the odds.
Alan Brown leaves his wife, Barbara (Delson), a daughter, Fern Remedi-Brown, and a son, Stephen; another son, Dennis, predeceased him.
- Present Memories personal testimony video on YouTube, The Holocaust Center Boston North
- Obituary in The Boston Globe, April 12, 2010
- Obituary in The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants (pdf)
- Obituary in Harvard (Alumni) Magazine, July–August 2010 (pdf)
- Tribute in The American Economist, journal of Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE), the international honor society in Economics, Fall 2010 (pdf)