The Jewish community in New York’s North Country recently lost one of its own. Dr. Vladimir Munk, a holocaust survivor, accomplished scientist, educator and family man died last month at the age of 98.
Dr. Munk taught microbiology and biochemistry at SUNY-Plattsburgh for more than 20 years. In 2022, he was the subject of a documentary as he revisited Auschwitz 75 years after its liberation.
Vladimir Munk was born in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1925. He lived a relatively normal childhood. His mother was a socialite thanks to his father’s successful career as a chemical engineer, a field Munk would consider joining.
That all changed with World War II and the German invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Munk and his family were sent to concentration camps, including Auschwitz. His parents were killed, but it was in one of those camps that he met the woman who would be his wife, Kitti Lowi.
“She took a harrowing turn, like all the Jews in the country, and wound up being an intern at Terezin concentration camp. She was 14 or 15 when that happened, but fortunately for us, that’s where she met our dad,” Munk’s son, Paul, said. “He fell in love in the camp. He fell in love, and you know what love can do? Miracles.”
After the war, Munk went to college and became an accomplished scientist. He and Kitti were married and settled in Prague before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia sent them both to America and eventually to the North Country.
Plattsburgh State invited Dr. Munk to a faculty position where he spent the next 21 years.
After retirement, Dr. Munk would continue educating people, sharing his experience of the Holocaust. In 2020, at age 95, he revisited those experiences firsthand when he was invited to Poland and Auschwitz to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
The experience was showcased in the powerful documentary “Return to Auschwitz: The Survival of Vladimir Munk.”
Paul Munk said he was surprised his father accepted the ivitation.
“I confess, I was not thrilled about that initially,” he said. “Both because of his physical condition, and I was worried about the emotional impact it would have on him. But, in hindsight, it was terrific that he got the closure that he was looking for.”
Dr. Vladimir Munk passed away peacefully in his Plattsburgh home on September 30. A memorial service is planned for Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m. at Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh.