By Kennedy Zak
Herbert “Herb” Murez, Holocaust survivor and active member in the Burbank community, died on June 23, nine days before his 100th birthday.
Friends and family gathered at Temple Beth Emet of Burbank on July 2 — what would’ve been Murez’s birthday — to celebrate his life and carry on with the party he had spent years planning.
“He was my biggest supporter, my biggest role model and besides being my grandfather, he was my friend,” Murez’s granddaughter, Marni Murez, said in an interview with the Leader. “He was just the most incredible human and so kind to everyone he met, so compassionate. And above all, he was an amazing listener.”
In attendance was Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony, who expressed his condolences to Herb Murez’s loved ones.
Herb Murez fled from his home in Austria to the Los Angeles area as a young teenager amid the Kristallnacht November Pogroms, a violent aggression against Jewish people carried out by the Nazis in 1938. A few years after his move, he joined the U.S. Army where he worked in Camp Ritchie, a military base where many Jewish refugees worked in intelligence.
After his military service, Herb Murez became a lawyer and started a family in Southern California where he was a member of Temple Beth Emet for decades.
His son Lew Murez said that while his father didn’t always like to talk extensively about the war and his experiences, toward the end of his life he recognized the importance of keeping the history alive. Therefore, more than a decade ago, Herb Murez began working with David Meyerhof, the Holocaust speaker coordinator for the Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank school districts, to share his story throughout the area.
“I think the most meaningful thing to him was his understanding how important it was to preserve that history in a real-life form, being one of the last living, coherent people of that time,” Lew Murez said in an interview with the Leader. “Despite his age, he was incredibly sharp. It was remarkable watching him speak.”
Meyerhof reflected on the impact Herb Murez’s work within Burbank schools had on the community.
“Part of our program is the kids would write thank-you letters to the speakers and Herb had hundreds and hundreds of letters,” Meyerhof said. “It’s quite touching.”
At the birthday celebration, Lew Murez spoke about pending legislation, which seeks to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the “Ritchie Boys,” the collective name for the soldiers who worked in intelligence in Camp Ritchie. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland, introduced this legislation, HR 3545, in May, and Lew Murez encouraged people to call their representatives to support the resolution.
First published in the July 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.