Joshua Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor who eventually emigrated to the United States, became “a professional plumber at the age of 48 and raise[d] four daughters on the income of what steel toe boots and strong hands were able to provide,” has had his work van stolen in Los Angeles, and his family and friends are begging the public to help them find the iconic and sentimental vehicle.
Kaufman’s daughter, Alexandra (who recently married CA State Sen. Henry Stern of Calabasas), posted a photo of the van with an emotional plea on her Facebook page Wednesday.
“Someone stole this beloved truck. Maybe they thought there were expensive tools inside and they needed the cash. But this truck is so much more valuable than that. It’s what makes Joshua Joshua. The pride of being able to start as a professional plumber at the age of 48 and raise 4 daughters on the income of what steel toe boots and strong hands were able to provide. If you have seen this truck in the past two days or have any info on its whereabouts please contact the LAPD #findjoshuastruck”
Sen. Stern shared his wife’s post on his own page, saying:
“My father-in-law, the one and only Joshua Kaufman, had his plumbing truck stolen yesterday. This 1978 Ford Econoline is his pride and joy, and a piece of LA history. If you see it around town (hard to miss!), please call LAPD.”
The van was prominently featured in a 2015 History documentary, “The Liberators: Why They Fought.” Joshua Kaufman was just 15 when he and his family were sent to Auschwitz, and was “cooped in a cattle wagon” outside Dachau when the camp was liberated by Allied forces. He was honored at the 2019 State of the Union, along with Herman Zeitchik, one of the soldiers who liberated Dachau.
After the war Joshua moved to Israel, where he served in the IDF. He married at the young age of 47, and raised his four daughters in Los Angeles. Joshua flew to Germany in 2016, when he was 88 (and still working as a plumber), to testify against a Nazi SS guard at a war crimes trial, but his testimony was not allowed by the presiding judge.
In 2015 Joshua finally fulfilled a lifelong goal – to kiss the feet of one of the soldiers who saved his life. He met Daniel Gillespie, who served as a gunner in the 42nd Rainbow Division of the United States Army, who had also moved to California and raised a family after the war. Joshua described what he saw from the cattle wagon the day they were liberated.
“Through a little hole in the wall I saw American soldiers coming with their tanks and I saw the Germans running away. To me the American soldiers were a proof that God exists and they were sent down from the sky.”
As Gillespie protested that thanks were not necessary, Joshua got down on his knees and kissed Gillespie’s foot. He told Gillespie:
“I don’t forget the day when you opened the cattle wagon and you freed me. I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much.”
In both Christianity and Judaism, this is the season of miracles. Please share the photo of Joshua’s distinctive work van, and pray that it is found.
(Note: The author is professionally acquainted with both Sen. Stern and his 2020 election opponent.)