A. Chrambach; Biophysicist, Nazi Camp Survivor

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Andreas Carl Chrambach, 78, a biophysicist at the National Institutes of Health who as a young man survived a year in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, died Feb. 23 at Bethesda's Suburban Hospital after a traffic accident.

Dr. Chrambach retired in June as chief of the laboratory of cellular and molecular biophysics at the National Institute of Child and Human Development, where he had worked since 1970.

He was on the editorial board of several scientific journals and, in 1985, was given the NIH Director's Award for his work. One of his papers, published in 1967 and describing a method for staining proteins, was cited more than 10,000 times, making him and his co-authors among the most-cited authors in biomedical literature.

Born in what was then the German city of Breslau and is now Wroclaw, Poland, Dr. Chrambach grew up in Berlin as a practicing Catholic. However, his grandfather was Jewish and his mother, who converted to Catholicism as an adult, was born a Jew, which subjected the family to the Nuremberg Laws, Germany's race-based laws that deprived Jews of rights.

The family fled to Budapest, Hungary, where his father aided a group attempting to overthrow Adolf Hitler. The July 20, 1944, coup failed, and the entire family, including the 17-year-old Andreas, his 18-year-old brother and his mother, was incarcerated in a crowded Budapest jail. The family was separated and the father was never seen again. The boys were shipped to the Birkenau camp, a satellite of Auschwitz, in Poland. His brother died there.

The young man survived the camp and, after a year, reunited with his mother in Dresden, Germany, after the war. He attended law school at Humboldt University in Berlin. Before he finished, he and his mother sailed for New York in 1948. They then took a bus to Stockton, Calif., where they had relatives.

Dr. Chrambach worked as a farm laborer, attended Stockton College and graduated in 1953 from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in chemistry. After receiving a doctoral degree in biochemistry there in 1960, he moved to New York to work at the Institute for Muscle Disease. Dr. Chrambach joined Johns Hopkins University in 1962. By 1968, he was working at NIH's National Cancer Institute. He switched to NICHD in 1970.

His family said Dr. Chrambach bore no grudge against Germany. He was driving a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle at the time of his death.

His marriage to Marie-Luise Dirksen ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Birgit An der Lan of Bethesda; two daughters from his first marriage, Carla Tesar of Oakland, Md., and Monica Kucich of Maynard, Mass.; two sons from his second marriage, Adam Chrambach and Max Chrambach, both of Berlin; and five grandchildren.

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