Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Jacobson, DDS of Denver, Colorado beloved father, grandfather, brother, uncle and child Holocaust survivor died on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at the age of 87 after a courageous battle with renal failure and leukemia. Rudy’s daughter was by his side, holding his hand, playing opera music by Luciano Pavarotti (Rudy’s favorite), and reminiscing about their adventures together skiing, camping, and fishing as he peacefully passed away at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
Rudy had quite a life-story.
He was born in Insterburg, East Germany on May 11, 1933 to Greta (Simon) and Erwin Cohen (although he was raised and later adopted by his stepfather, Erich Jacobson). Rudy lived in Bamberg, Germany until the age of 6. His family was very comfortable financially and privileged until World War II and the Holocaust when the Nazis seized businesses and possessions owned by Jews. Rudy vividly remembered witnessing Kristallnacht (burning of the synagogues “night of broken glass”) November 9-10, 1938. Within days, the gestapo arrived at his family’s home and “arrested” his stepfather Erich Jacobson because he was Jewish. Erich was sent to Dachau concentration camp for several months. Since Rudy’s family did not hear from Erich for many weeks, it was unknown if he was alive or dead. In the meantime, Rudy’s mother, Greta, worked tirelessly to make arrangements for the family’s escape from Germany. Greta packed up furniture and sent it on a train from Germany to relatives in London. Greta ingeniously thought to open couch and chair cushions to stuff them with money, silver, china and other valuables. Greta finally secured passage for the family on the ship, The St. Louis as well as landing passes in Cuba for herself, Erich, Rudy, and my dad’s young brother Thomas. At that time if Jews were fortunate enough to produce proper documentation and promise to leave Germany, there was a possibility they could be released from some concentration camps. Thankfully, Erich was released from Dachau so he could join the family and leave Germany. Erich’s experience at Dachau was emotionally and physically traumatic. It most definitely contributed to his early death 11 years later at the young age of 50.
Once Erich was back with his family, the plan for the Jacobson family was to travel across the Atlantic Ocean on the St. Louis and stay temporarily in Cuba until their U.S. visa numbers came up. Then, they would finally immigrate to the United States. However, this turned out to be a horrific voyage for Rudy’s family and over 900 other passengers aboard The St. Louis. All of the passengers’ Cuban landing passes were denied and they were refused entry or even permission to dock in Cuba. Subsequently, The St. Louis sailed up and down the Atlantic coast begging countries to accept the ship of refugees. They were denied entry by all countries including the United States. In fact, over 50 countries denied refuge for the passengers aboard The St. Louis. Sadly, because not a single country would accept the refugees, The St. Louis was ordered by those in power in Germany to return to Europe! The hope and relief these passengers felt when the ship first departed Europe and they thought they escaped Nazi occupied Germany, turned to fear and despair.
The queen of Holland was trying to save Jewish children under the age of two and their families. Since Thomas Jacobson (my father’s brother) was under the age of two, they were permitted to stay in a containment camp in Holland. Finally, February 1940 their United States visa numbers came up. They were sponsored by a Jacobson family member in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who also purchased tickets on another ship that would bring the Jacobson family to the United States. Rudy’s family escaped once again just in time…Holland was invaded May 1940.
Rudy’s family settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Greta’s sister and her family also escaped Germany. Sadly, the rest of their family perished during the Holocaust including Rudy’s beloved grandparents, David and Eva Simon. Later in life, Rudy made it his life’s mission to lecture and educate others about the Holocaust and World War II. He was a member of many Holocaust child survivor organizations and attended numerous conferences throughout the world. He took great pride in sharing his family’s story and honoring the memories of his murdered family members.
Rudy and his family did not speak any English when they arrived in the United States, which was difficult since they needed to completely start over and create new lives. Rudy learned English one summer when Greta and Erich sent him to summer camp. He grew very fond of nature and outdoor activities including snow skiing, camping, and fishing. He loved spending time on a farm with family friends. Rudy graduated from Shorewood High School in Milwaukee June 1951. Rudy attended Marquette University and received a Doctorate Degree in Dentistry. He then joined the Navy and served our country domestically and abroad from 1957 to 1960. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Rudy decided to settle in Denver, Colorado because he loved everything about Colorado…The weather, skiing, camping, fishing, hiking, biking, as well as the lifestyle. He opened his dentistry practice, married Donna Silver, then in 1965 welcomed his one and only child, his daughter Jodi. Jodi inherited Rudy’s zest for outdoor activities, especially skiing. At the age of only two, Jodi was already put on skis and shushing down Vail mountain. There were many ski trips and camping adventures over the years. Fishing was a favorite activity for Rudy…He absolutely loved fishing! He always said that he wanted to be fishing during his final hours and pass away while peacefully sitting on the side of a lake fishing.
Rudy enjoyed many travel adventures, road trips. cruises, and train trips throughout the U.S. and all over the world. Mazatlán, Mexico, was a favorite vacation spot and he traveled throughout Europe as well. He also lived in Israel a couple months at a time and volunteered his dental services in the 80’s & 90’s. Even though he piloted airplanes in the late 60’s early 70’s until a life-threatening accident, Rudy always preferred and truly LOVED taking trains whenever and wherever possible.
Rudy’s love of trains extended beyond traveling. He created an elaborate, professional grade model train railroad layout and collection. Some of the engines, train cars, and accessories he collected were rare and very special. Rudy thoroughly enjoyed spending hours upon hours researching information, designing and assembling his model train world.
Rudy volunteered and was recognized for his work with Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND) a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, affordable dental care to children in need throughout Colorado.
Rudy loved listening to classical music and opera. He found immense enjoyment going to the theatre, symphonies, operas, and sporting events. He attended religious services regularly throughout the years…Most recently at BMH-BJ Synagogue in Denver.
Rudy’s greatest pleasure of all came from spending time with his daughter and her family.
Rudy is survived by his daughter Jodi Milstein (Ross Milstein), his adored granddaughter Layla, brother Tom Jacobson (Peggy Jacobson), nephews Andrew Jacobson (Ashley Schneider) and Scott Jacobson (Tania Ussher), his grand-nephews Ryder, Sam, Nate, grand-niece Willa, stepdaughter Carin Imig (John Imig), stepson David Kish (Pascale), and step-grandsons Bradley and Brian.
He is also survived by wonderful, devoted, supportive long-time friends John and Natalie Joshua, Gary and Susan Tessler, Norman de Castro, Mirella Schreiber, Marlene McNeely, and Julie Hewson. Rudy’s family is eternally grateful for the services and wonderful care he received from Jewish Family Service (JFS), John and Amy Pregulman of KOVOD, Rabbi Yaakov Chaitovsky of BMH-BJ Synagogue, Dr. Rebecca Rivkin, Dr. Eamon Berge and his staff Rhonda and Mollie, Patty Steffes of DaVita Dialysis Center, St. Joseph Hospital of Denver, Daisy, Lindsay, Jeff, Michelle, Zoya, Sebastian, Gabby, Bianca, Victoria and many other from Bright Star.
Rudy is predeceased by his parents Erich and Greta (Simon) Jacobson and Erwin Cohen as well as his grandparents David and Eva Simon and numerous other relatives who were killed during the Holocaust.
Contributions in Rudy's memory are greatly appreciated and may be made to:
*Jewish Family Service of Colorado (https://www.jewishfamilyservice.org/donate/covid-donation.htm),
*Mindful Warrior Project (http://www.mindfulwarriorproject.org/donate),
*BMH-BJ Synagogue in Denver (https://www.bmh-bj.org/payment.php)