Holocaust refugee Lucy Marx dies at 103

Even at 90 years of age, nothing could stop Lucy Marx from going to St. Petersburg, Russia.

“She was a strong, determined person, and she loved to travel,” said her daughter, Doris Marx. “She went with a neighbor who was dying of cancer and who had always wanted to go to Russia. My mother was so thankful she could enable the woman to go on a trip she always wanted to go on.”

Such thoughtfulness was second nature for Lucy Marx, who died Jan. 3 at Monarch Place, a senior facility in Piedmont where she had lived for the past 12 years. She was 103.

In her lifetime, Marx also traveled to Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, Thailand and Japan, among other places.

She was born in a small town near Cologne, Germany. She fled Nazi Germany with her husband, Willi Marx, in 1939. Lucy’s entire family, save for one sister, was killed or died in Auschwitz. Learning her family’s fate after the war affected her deeply, Doris said.

Willi and Lucy first made their home in New York, settling in New Rochelle and then in Buffalo, making a living as a butler and cook, respectively.

“To come as refugees to the United States with practically nothing, they appreciated any help they got,” Doris said. “They worked in a household in New York where they got Tuesday afternoons off, and they’d go to a movie together.”

The couple moved to Berkeley in 1965. Their daughter, Doris, was enrolled in graduate school at U.C. Berkeley, and they wanted to live closer to her and in more pleasant weather.

“They adapted to Berkeley well,” Doris recalled. “They were very interested in what was going on politically.”

Marx appreciated the intellectual and cultural happenings in the Bay Area. She loved classical music and often went to the Oakland and San Francisco symphonies. She also enjoyed museums.

She volunteered her time and gave donations to various causes, including a variety of Jewish agencies such as Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay, Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and the American Red Magen David for Israel.

Later in life, she got involved in a Jewish women’s social group called the Friendship Circle. They got together often for tea or to attend concerts.

“She led a very good life, a healthy life,” Doris said. “If you’re good to other people and good to yourself, you’ll last a long time.”

Marx is survived by her daughter, Doris Marx of San Leandro; granddaughter Tina Valkanoff of Oakland; sister and brother-in-law Ruth and Eric Lansing of Tonawanda, N.Y.; nephew Tom Lansing of Amherst, N.Y.; niece Diane Lansing of Syracuse, N.Y.; and nephew Ernest Kallmann of Neuilly, France.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11 at Temple Sinai, 2823 Webster St., Oakland.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.