Andre Steiner, the last living member of an underground network that saved thousands of Slovakian Jews during the Holocaust, turns 100 today.
A profile by The Associated Press recounts how Steiner was in his 20s when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. An architect, he went to work designing work camps while plotting with other Jewish workers to improve working conditions, a cohort known as the Bratislava Working Group. When the deportations began, the group began bribing Nazi officials on behalf of a fictitious Jewish leader, who Steiner was chosen to impersonate.
When it was time for a face-to-face meeting, the group picked Steiner, the confident man who cut a dashing figure with slicked back hair and a golden tongue. Inside, though, Steiner was awash with anxiety. A single misstep could have cost him his life and betray the group’s effort.
Asking the rabbi for advice, he got a most unexpected answer: Imagine the Nazi sitting on a toilet nude. When he arrived at the meeting and did just that, he couldn’t stifle a smirk.
“He got really angry but I told him if you’re angry we won’t make a deal. He conceded, then said, ‘Take a seat,'” Steiner remembers. “From then on, I wasn’t nervous at all.”