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Gertrude Arzt, dressmaker, dies at 96

Gertrude Arzt lived her life with style, grace and moxie, the latter exemplified by her courageous actions to gain her husband's freedom from the Nazis on the eve of World War II.

Arzt, of Huntington, died Jan. 19 of natural causes. She was 96.

Her family recalled her Thursday as an independent and loving woman who always put family first.

Arzt, who was known as Trudy, was born in Vienna on June 16, 1913. When the Nazis reached Vienna in 1938, the Gestapo took her husband of just a few weeks, Emil, to a detention center because he was Jewish and a political activist.

Emil was an artist and, during his monthlong detention, Gertrude Arzt showed the commanding officer his oil paintings, offering them in exchange for his life. The officer told her to come back with more.

"She went back the next day with more paintings, risking being taken in herself or beaten or worse," said her granddaughter Melanie Arzt of Sommerville, Mass.

"She stood up and thought cleverly about a way to save him," Arzt said. "She did not give up; she would never give up."

Emil was released and the couple was given 48 hours to get out of the city. They escaped to Holland, then moved on to Manchester, England, before immigrating to the United States and settling in Huntington in 1940.

"She was just bound and determined not to let somebody else decide her fate if she could help it," said her son, Randolph Arzt of Huntington. "You could see that throughout her life. She was a remarkable woman."

Arzt, trained as a dressmaker with a master's degree in design, resumed her career with a studio on New York Avenue in Huntington Station and later at a location on Pulaski Road. Her family says she designed and produced clothes without ever using a pattern.

In 1960 the couple built a home in Huntington, with a studio where she worked until 2001, when she had a stroke. Her husband died in 1972.

In addition to her son and granddaughter, survivors include a grandson and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral was held Jan. 22. Burial was at the Beth Moses Cemetery in Pinelawn.

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