Independent Journalist

Mike Brake is a journalist and writer who recently authored a centennial history of Putnam City Schools. A former reporter at The Oklahoman (his coverage of the moon landing earned a front-page byline on July 21, 1969), he served as chief writer for Gov. Frank Keating and for Lt. Gov. and Congresswoman Mary Fallin. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at OSU-OKC.

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Just weeks after the University of Oklahoma undergraduate student congress voted to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, and on the same day that two individuals with close links to central Oklahoma elected officials performed a weekly boycott of the pledge, The Oklahoman printed the obituary of a remarkable man whose life story should put those protestors to shame.

Ervin G. Erdoes, M.D. was 97 when he died in Chicago. He had previously served as a professor and chief of pharmacology at the University of Oklahoma medical school, as well as at such distinguished medical schools as Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, the University of Texas, and the University of Illinois.       

But it was his early life, which involved almost unimaginable obstacles, that should make anyone pause before they shun the Pledge of Allegiance.           

Born shortly after the First World War in Budapest, Hungary, Erdoes finished high school but was soon conscripted into a forced labor brigade by the fascist pro-Hitler government of his country.          

“Because of their Jewish faith … Ervin and his father were deported and shipped by cattle car to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany,” the obituary said. There they avoided immediate shipment on to the death chambers of Auschwitz by lying about skills that won them a reprieve as lathe operators.           

Working in a munitions factory, “they secretly sabotaged their work so that the ammunition would blow up on the German Army. While imprisoned at Sachsenhausen, Ervin witnessed the bullwhipping of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the suicide of prisoners throwing themselves against the electric fence surrounding the camp, the cruel experiments on the prisoners, and the mass starvation of all those interned in the camp.”          

Ervin was wounded in an air raid and briefly escaped, only to be driven back to the camp by starvation. As the war wound down, the SS guards drove the few surviving prisoners on a death march, shooting those who could not keep up.           

Then, as the few survivors literally carved their wills on trees, an advance column of the United States 82nd Airborne Division liberated Ervin and his father, who was blinded by malnutrition.           

Those 82nd Airborne troopers all wore an American flag on the right shoulders of their uniforms.           

After the war, Ervin started medical school but was soon driven out by the new communist government in Hungary. “Branded by the communists as a dissident,” his obituary said, “in April of 1950, Ervin smuggled himself across the minefields, past the armed patrols, secret police, machine gun towers, and barbed wire of the Iron Curtain.”           

He finished medical school in Munich and in 1954 came to the United States. “Ervin was a proud naturalized American citizen who cherished the opportunity to live in this great nation under freedom, having witnessed and survived the Holocaust and oppression under both the Nazis and communists,” his obituary concluded.           

Yet in his final months, the school where he once taught saw its student congress vote to stop saluting the same flag those Airborne soldiers wore when they liberated Ervin Erdoes.

“For us to be like the best most inclusive body, I thought that we should remove it,” one student said, somewhat confusingly.           

And on the same day Dr. Erdoes was memorialized in print, two individuals with close ties to left-wing central Oklahoma elected officials continued a weekly boycott of the pledge that opens each meeting of the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners.          

As the rest of the audience puts hands over their hearts and recites the simple pledge, Marty Peercy and Anna Langthorn stand silent with their hands at their waists.           

Peercy, who works as a reporter for an online news source, is the husband of Oklahoma City Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon. Hamon apparently shares his radical views. She took her oath of office with her hand on the history book authored by the late Howard Zinn, which writer David Horowitz has called “the Mein Kampf of the hate-America left.”           

Langthorn, who was chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, works as communications director for District One Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert. Both Peercy and Langthorn have active Twitter accounts where they post far-left comments like Langthorn’s recent “It’s Monday and capitalism is still as bad as it was last week.” Peercy has posted with apparent approval comments from the Black Socialists of America noting that they are “most interested in the catharsis that comes from the idea of violently overthrowing all systems of dominance.”           

Langthorn may have summarized their weekly protest best with a comment that “I don’t know that I have ever been proud to be an American.”  

Ervin Erdoes was, and his son Peter said he “would be appalled” at the action of the OU student congress banning the pledge.           

“He was a staunch patriot,” the Oklahoma City lawyer said. Told of the OU student action, the younger Erdoes gasped and expressed initial disbelief.           

His father, from the road to Sachsenhausen through the barbed-wire barriers to freedom, learned that the pledge he often recited had meaning far beyond the trivial. Unfortunately, some from a much younger generation seem to have missed that lesson.

Anna Langthorn (in red) and Marty Peercy (to her left) are pictured during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance during the November 20, 2019, meeting of the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners.

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