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"The Holocaust Survivors"

A sad reality is that Holocaust Survivors are rapidly disappearing from the United States. Reports vary as to the exact number of Shoah Survivors. The Jerusalem Post, however, reported on January 27, 2018, that 100,000 Holocaust Survivors were living in the United States. On March 8, 2022, the Atlanta Jewish Times reported that the U.S. count of Holocaust Survivors had fallen to 50,000. According to the same story, this was confirmed by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Moreover, many are in dire straits. Blue Card, a charity that provides aid to needy Survivors, estimates that more than 210,000 Survivors receive assistance worldwide. It is also disturbing to learn that most Holocaust Survivors received only a few hundred dollars of restitution. That's it.

A second finding of the Claims Conferences was that "37 percent of Holocaust Survivors live below the poverty line set by the United States government," a figure that has remained the same for years. Some believe that as many as two-thirds of Holocaust Survivors live in poverty around the world, but this seems to have been confirmed by other sources. It is such a tragedy.

But this is not what this story is about. This article is largely dedicated to Survivors who became philanthropists after achieving substantial wealth. The good news is that there are still some around today. They consider giving back to be one of life's most important goals. Obviously, it depends on the cause.

Henri Landwirth

A feature story on March 25, 2021, in The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, is illustrative of a Survivor who moved on to amass considerable wealth, but when he arrived in this country felt he needed to give back because he was spared. They reported that "Henri Landwirth was arrested in Belgium at age 13. Henri spent the next five years in Nazi death and labor camps, including Auschwitz. Late in the war, he was taken into the woods to be shot. But his two German guards, with the fighting so close to an end, let him live. Run, they said. And he did."

Like so many of his peers, Henri was penniless when he arrived on these golden shores. He eventually made a name for himself in the hotel industry and became a rich philanthropist who supported the needy. In a related story, he said: "I promised myself that one day, God willing, I would be able to help other people not to suffer as much as I did."

Lisa Landwirth Ullman, his daughter, summarized it best. "Somehow he felt like God spared his life," Ullmann said, "and he really needed to give back to the world, helping those in need — and also, in the process, healing himself."

Hilda Eisen and Harry Eisen

Hilda Eisen and Harry Eisen lived to the ripe old ages of 100 and 95, respectively. They immigrated to the U.S. in 1948 from Poland and, like so many other Survivors of WWII, spoke no English and were completely destitute. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hilda had joined the Jewish Resistance after convincing a Nazi guard to unlock the Lublin ghetto gate and then escaping. In the Nazi death camps, however, she lost both her parents and six siblings. Harry managed to survive Auschwitz, where the Nazis forced him to work in a coal mine.

They settled in Norco, a city in Riverside County, California, where they raised chickens. It wasn't long before they started selling eggs in their neighborhood.

According to a December 7, 2017 article in Los Angeles' Jewish Journal, "Norco Ranch Inc. in western Riverside County became one of the state's leading egg producers, processors and distributors. By 2000, when the Eisens sold Norco Ranch Inc. to Missouri-based Moark, it had a staff of about 450 people and a list of major customers that included the Ralphs division of Kroger, the Vons division of Safeway, Albertson's, Costco, Trader Joe's and Jack-in-the-Box… Until 2005, it was the largest egg producer west of the Mississippi."

Because of their good fortune, the Eisens were determined to give back. They founded and ran The Lodzer Organization of Southern California. It involved Holocaust Survivors who donated generously to local causes and Israel. When Hilda reached 99, she even donated an ambulance to Magen David Adom.

Their daughter Fran Miller, in an interview with the Times, said: "They were able to take their grief and become very philanthropic about it and very Zionistic and very into giving back. They felt fortunate to be on the giving end of charity rather than the receiving end."

Sari and Abe Baron

Most Survivors did not become independently wealthy but felt it was their mission in life to give back. One such example was Sari Baron, OBM, a community leader and warmhearted humanitarian in Fairfield, Connecticut. She was also my mother-in-law; the dearest extended family anyone could ever be blessed with.

After putting down roots with her husband Abe following the war, she served on many boards and volunteered for numerous not-for-profit organizations. Among them included HIAS, ORT, Jewish Family Services of Bridgeport, Congregation Ahavath Achim in Fairfield, Bridgeport Jewish Community Center, UJA Federation of Bridgeport, the Jewish National Fund, Meals-on-Wheels, and the Jewish Home for the Elderly. She also helped raise millions of dollars for Israel Bonds and other organizations. She did all this while also ministering as a devoted wife, a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

My father-in-law, Abe Baron, OBM, also gave back in other ways. He suffered through 5 1/2 years of sheer terror in five concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Majdanek and Buchenwald, where he was liberated. How he survived is beyond comprehension, yet he did.

He lectured about the Shoah in Jewish Community Centers, middle schools, high schools, colleges, organizations of all kinds, Yom HaShoah programs and more. Stories about the Shoah were important to him, and he wanted them preserved for future generations.

A community-minded volunteer and the husband of a very active volunteer force in the community, my mother-in-law, he dedicated himself to acts of kindness. Without fanfare or ceremony, he accomplished what he set out to do. He once replaced the carpet in the local synagogue on his own dime. He also donated his time, materials, and labor. If a school or an organization needed a volunteer to make an event happen, he raised his hand and offered his services with a smile.

Survivor Philanthropists Among Us

There are Holocaust Survivors all around the world that have enriched societies with their thankfulness for having survived. Here are just a handful. There are, of course, many more.

1. Marcel Adams in Canada, who was the second oldest billionaire at age 98.

2. George Soros, the Hungarian hedge fund mogul, estimated charity donations at $32 billion.

3. Edward Mosberg, a major supporter of the March of the Living.

4. Sol Teichman, an Auschwitz Survivor, made his fortune as a store display manufacturer. He was the recipient of countless awards from major Jewish charities for his generosity and leadership contributions.

5. Dov Landau, a volunteer from Poland for Names, Not Numbers, is an Auschwitz Survivor who gives endlessly to teach future generations the lessons of the Holocaust.

6. Hogan's Heroes actor Robert Clary, himself a Survivor, helped to interview 75 Survivors for the Shoah Foundation and gave greatly to the world through his entertainment skills.

7. Roman Blum, born in Chelm, died at age 92 with an immense fortune of $40 million by some estimates, but with no heirs.

Unfortunately, time is no longer on their side, as their numbers are decreasing. While we must be respectful of them, we also realize that many wish to leave a meaningful legacy behind. And time is of the essence. Keep this in mind if you are a fundraiser.

It is said that "The life you lead… is the lesson you teach." Considering the brutality and the horrors of war that Survivors suffered through, this adage is indeed fitting for the many who gave and are today still giving back to humanity. Their many selfless acts of love, kindness and philanthropy embody authentic gratitude for being spared.

© 2022 Norman B. Gildin. All rights reserved.