Lieutenant Reb Meyer Birnbaum z”l


It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Reb Meyer Birnbaum z”l. Known to many as “Lieutenant Birnbaum,” after the book written about his life – growing up Jewish in America, liberating the DP camps, and resettling in Eretz Yisroel – Reb Meyer was a warm, endearing personality who shared his love of Hashem and simchas hachaim with the thousands of people he came in contact with during his lifetime. He was 94.

Reb Meyer grew up in the East New York section of Brooklyn, where he attended public school and all of his friends were non-religious.  As a young boy, he davened at the Malta Street Shul near his home and then joined the Young Israel of New Lots, which became a second home for him and remained so for nearly three decades.

A few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Reb Meyer’s was drafted in the army and ended up in England.  Reb Meyer’s experiences during the war were many, and they are chronicled in his book, Lieutenant Birnbaum, written by Yonason Rosenblum and published by ArtScroll. The stories are replete with examples of his mesirus nefesh for Yiddishkeit, his bravery, and constant examples of siyata diShmaya.

Reb Meyer later liberated Buchenwald and remained in Europe to assist at the camps for displaced persons, including Feldafing, Frenwald, Landsberg and Dachau, encountering a number of unforgettable Torha giants.

After returning to America and being reunited with his wife and their seven children, Reb Meyer worked with the likes of Mike Tress and Irving Bunim, assisting in the Vaad Hatzolah efforts. Reb Meyer then worked for the Young Israel and later went into the poultry business. In 1969, Reb Meyer remarried to his devoted wife Goldie, whose nine children he considered like his own. In 1981, Reb Meyer, Goldie and their children resettled in Eretz Yisroel.

From the crunching poverty of Brooklyn during the Great Depression to the experience of the spiritual awakening in Young Israel, America’s first baal teshuvah movement; to meeting Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Rav Yitzchok Hutner and Mike Tress as a teenager; to encountering anti-Semitism in the American army, liberating DP camps, teaching Israeli youngsters skills they would use in Israel’s War of Independence, to chauffeuring Rav Beinush Finkel and raising a wonderful family, Reb Meyer lived a fascinating life and indeed held thousands of listeners transfixed for hours with his stories. His genuine warmth, his love for people, his zest for life, and his living example of mesirus nefesh and determination will be sorely missed.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. first four of the nine children were Goldie’s and he raised them as his own. The other 5 WERE his children!
    His simchas hachaim and love of people was inspiring.

  2. Truly an amazing individual!
    Sad! Great loss!
    Noteworthy, he drove many personages to the kosel for vasikin minyan, and did so for many years! He loved picking people up at hotels and driving them thus adding a special dimension to their trip to Eretz Yisroel. I think he didn’t even charge – for him it was his reward to just enable them to add more ruchniyos to their day!

  3. He was a giant of a man; so says my father-in-law Reb Yosef Friedenson. Lt. Birnbaum first met my shver in the hospital barracks in Buchenwald when the US army liberated it in April 1945. As he was suffering with typhus and emaciated beyond description, Lt. Birnbaum started to say Vidui with my shver but he responded that he didn’t have any intentions of “leaving” soon. It is now almost 70 years since and he is still proving the Nitzochon of Klal Yisroel and the defeat of the Nazis.
    We will miss the “giant”. YZ”B.

  4. I was Zoche to get many rides with him to the Kosel for the Vazikin Minyan. Knew many of his wonderful children. Learn’t in Shaare Chaim with his son Sruli.

  5. He started the first take out food called Mauzone in Borough Park:
    Always with a smile whenver you saw him, dating back to the 60’s when he used to come to Baltimore to visit his sons that learnt there: May he be a Mailitz Yosher for his Mishpacaha and Klar Yisroel

  6. The Lt. was my friend that I never met.I got divorced after 17 years of marriage, as the Lt. did.I wrote the Lt. and he called me,talked to me,helped me and brought comfort to me as he did to thousands in Europe.I got married 2 years to the day that I had to leave my home to an almana with children,as the Lt. did as he describes in chapter 14 in his book.He would often call me and ask how I was doing.He told me that he would daven at the Kosel for me and ask other Tzadikim to daven for me. I often speak about him to my talmidim.I will miss him so much even though we never met in person.Yehi Zichro Baruch.

  7. When i learned in EY i became a ben bayis in his house. A True yarey shamyim. His devrei torah was all from his heart of being an ish emes.

    he was close with special gedolim who make themselves at home in his house. But Lt Birnbaum was always the humble one who never would brag about it.

    When his daughter and son in law came for sukkos one year, they told me to look them up in Lakewood when i get back. I did and became a ben bayis by them. This is about 20 years ago.

    The last time i saw Lt Birnbaum was at the Kosel about 2 years ago. I was able to snap a picture of him in the car with his legendary smile.

    I brought my kids to see him when he came to Lakewood. A man with so many special zechusim for helping so many yidden. An example of a special yid -always with a smile- and a story to uplift our hearts. HE always asked about my zaida- a friend of his from Zeire Agudath israel with Mike Tress.

    To Mrs Birenbaum and his children Ezzy Sruli,Leah,Suchi,Aviva and all the other children(can remember everyone name). Hamokom Yenachem Eschem – May he be a melilz yosher for the entire family.