Maier Ben Himelstaub

Leading Aircraftmen, 2 B.F.T.S.
Service number 1383614
Died 13 February 1942
Buried Lancaster Cemetery, California
Age 21

Maier was born on 17 Jul 1920 in Warsaw, Poland to Abram and Perla nee Birnbaum and he had a younger brother Israel who was born in 1933. The family changed their surname to Shahak whilst living in Nazi occupied Poland. Maier managed to escape Poland to join the RAF.

Life in occupied Poland forced Perla to pay a Roman Catholic family to hide Israel, whom they returned when she could no longer afford to pay them. In 1943, the Nazis sent the Shahak family to the Poniatowa concentration camp where his father died. Perla and Israel managed to escape from the camp, and returned to Warsaw; yet, within a year, the Nazis recaptured Israel and his mother, and imprisoned them in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they survived for 2 years, until the camp and its inmates were liberated in 1945 by the British Army. As displaced persons they managed to emigrate to Tel-Aviv where twelve-year-old Israel worked, studied and supported his mother, whose health had deteriorated in Bergen-Belsen. Upon graduation from school Israel served in the IDF and after his military service he gained a doctorate in chemistry.

Maier was training to be a pilot at the Polaris Flight Academy in California.

‘On 13 February 1942, No 2 B.F.T.S. experienced high winds and limited visibility due to snow flurries. Striding across the flight line and with head down British student M.B. Himelstaub walked into the propeller of a taxiing AT-6 and died instantly.’ Tom Killebrew: The Royal Airforce in American Skies.

The Ledger Gazette newspaper reported, ‘at the funeral, Himelstaub’s casket was draped with the Union Jack and his flying helmet and goggles placed inside. Band members from Antelope Valley High School played in the procession. His headstone simply reads, “For King and Country,” and bears the Star of David for his Jewish heritage’.