Roman was instrumental in all of our organizational activities, from the national and worldwide survivor gatherings of the 1980’s to the yearly memorial services at Yom HaShoah. He was an eloquent orator whose voice reached millions through his speech at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Roman was a determined advocate for survivor reparations and for the acknowledgment of and advocacy for righteous gentiles, negotiating with the German government and winning concessions from them even as he was personally weakening from age and illness, to assure that survivors and those who had helped Jews during the war years might live out their days as free from want as possible.

His enthusiasm for teachers and for Holocaust education led him to develop a strong relationship with HAJRTP. He often said that education would ensure that his past would not be our children’s future. So many of our teachers were witnesses to his riveting testimony about his survival during the Nazi occupation of Lodz and his concentration camp experiences. He never failed to remind us of the devotion of his dog Lala who followed the family into the ghetto. He talked with humor and love about the years after the war, when he came to the United States as an orphan, lived with a foster family in Atlanta and was able to continue his education at Emory University.

Roman’s generosity was boundless. In his last years he made sure the teacher program would continue through personally funding “last dollars” when the program was in financial straits. He was a lively presence at our alumni reunions, regaling groups with his stories and jokes.  He came to the teacher send-offs in recent years though it was increasingly difficult for him to travel and emotionally draining for him to speak. He always held the audience in the palm of his hand with his gentle manner and his insistent warning that we should teach children not to be bystanders.

Roman’s beautiful wife Hannah who was also a survivor and friend of HAJRTP died in 2017. He is survived by his daughter Susan Avjian and his son Jeffrey Kent. Also surviving are his son-in-law Robert, his grandchildren Dara, Eryn and Sean, and his great-granddaughter Hannah.

May his memory be for a blessing..

Roman Kent, Who Reminded the World of the Holocaust, Dies at 92

He galvanized survivors into a movement to memorialize the Holocaust and spoke often of his experience. “I didn’t want our past to become our children’s future,” he said.

Roman Kent in 2019. While many Holocaust survivors kept quiet about their experiences, he felt that the world needed to be reminded of them.Credit…Michael George for The New York Times

Roman Kent, who as an orphaned teenager endured the horrors of Auschwitz and other hellish camps and later channeled his sorrow and rage into helping to lead an American movement to memorialize the Holocaust and provide reparations for aging Jewish survivors, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Susan.

While many Holocaust survivors have chosen to stay quiet about their experiences or share them only with close friends and other survivors, Mr. Kent believed that the world needed to be reminded of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators, and that Germany needed to repay the remnants of European Jewry for what they suffered and whom they lost.

A young Roman, left, with his brother, Leon, at right, in 1946 on a ship en route to the United States. They entered the country under a special directive from President Harry S. Truman.

Elie Wiesel, with his eloquent speeches and vivid writings, compelled the world to recognize the enormity of what had happened and appealed for an end to silence and indifference in the face of persecution. A handful of others, like Benjamin and Vladka MeedErnest MichelJosef and Hadassah RosensaftSigmund StrochlitzSam BlochNorbert Wollheim and Mr. Kent did the painstaking work of galvanizing and organizing survivors into a movement.

Several times each year the survivors would gather in large numbers at cavernous temples or local arenas and, by their presence and the shattering power of their stories, remind the world of how it had stood by for years while millions of Jews were oppressed, humiliated and eventually slaughtered.

Mr. Kent did not attend Mr. Michel’s world gathering of 6,000 survivors in Jerusalem in 1981, but he was so inspired by the event’s scale and impact that he helped organize succeeding convocations in Washington and Philadelphia. Along the way, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants was formed. Mr. Kent was its chairman at his death.

In 1988, he joined the board of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which has negotiated most of the $80 billion that Germany has paid in assistance to survivors and for educational and memorial programs. He eventually served as the organization’s treasurer and co-chairman of its negotiating committee.

Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former deputy secretary of the Treasury and the conference’s chief negotiator, said Mr. Kent had used his visceral knowledge of the enduring problems of survivors when prodding Germany to augment monthly pensions, provide $9 billion for survivors still living in the former Soviet Union and Iron Curtain countries, and, as survivors lived into their 90s, set aside $554 million for home care.

“I had some talent as a negotiator, but Roman was able to add that personal commitment, that drama, that passion,” Mr. Eizenstat said, “He understood the issues from the perspective of the survivor, which I couldn’t.”

At various times Mr. Kent was president of the International Auschwitz Committee, whose purpose is to inform the world about the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where 1.1 million people — almost one million of them Jews — were slaughtered in gas chambers or perished from hunger and disease. He also served as president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which provides aid to non-Jews who had hid Jews or helped them escape.

“He was not seeking revenge, he was seeking justice,” said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, who worked with Mr. Kent on Auschwitz remembrance efforts, in a phone interview. “He was a person who looked to the future instead of the past.”

On a visit in 2019 to the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Kent seemed to explain his zeal for immersing himself so fully in Holocaust remembrance.

Mr. Kent in 2019, when he took an emotional tour of the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan.Credit…Michael George for The New York Times

“How can I forget the smell of burning flesh that constantly filled the air?” he said in a trembling voice as tears rolled down his cheeks. “Or the heartbreak of children torn from their mothers? Those shouts of terror will ring in my ears until I am laid to rest.”

Roman Kniker was born on April 18, 1929, in the manufacturing center of Lodz, Poland’s second largest city, with 600,000 people, one third of them Jews. His father, Emanuel, was a textile manufacturer, and his mother, Sonia (Lipszytz) Kniker, tended to the home and the four children, including Roman’s two older sisters, Dasza and Renia, and his younger brother, Leon.

The family lived comfortably, spending summers horseback riding and bicycling at a villa they owned 30 miles outside Lodz. Roman attended a private school for Jews with a Hebrew curriculum. When he walked past a public school he was often the target of slurs and sometimes stones. He and his brother spent much of their free time kicking a soccer ball in a courtyard in his father’s factory.

The German army invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and the occupiers confiscated the factory and the apartments across the street. Roman’s family squeezed into a small side building on the factory grounds. By the end of the year, they and the city’s other Jews were forced into a squalid ghetto that had no electricity, running water or medication, though in the early days gentile workers at his father’s factory slipped food to the family, Mr. Kent recalled in a video interview. Thousands succumbed to malnutrition, disease and cold temperatures. Among them was Roman’s father, who died in 1943.

The ghetto was emptied in the fall of 1944, its inhabitants crammed into cattle cars and deported to concentration camps, mainly the sprawling Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. When they arrived, Roman was separated from his mother and two sisters. He would never see his mother again.

Roman and Leon were assigned to a work detail and transferred to other labor camps to feed the ravenous industrial and military needs of the German army as it lost battle after battle. The brothers were interned in Gross-Rosen and Flossenburg, and from there forced at gunpoint on a death march to Dachau in Germany. They were liberated along the way by the United States Army in April 1945.

They searched for their relatives and learned that their mother had died at Auschwitz but that their sisters were alive in Sweden. The four siblings were briefly reunited, but Dasza, still sick from her wartime ordeal, died a few months later. Renia remained in Sweden and married there.

Mr. Kent in the 1950s with his wife, Hannah, a Lodz native who had survived three concentration camps.

In the postwar years, when the American government was reluctant to lift immigration quotas, even for the 250,000 Jewish survivors who had been deported to concentration camps or otherwise displaced, Mr. Kent was among the first to enter the United States. He and Leon did so as a result of a special directive by President Harry S. Truman that admitted a few thousand orphans.
The brothers lived with foster families in Atlanta and attended Emory University. Leon studied medicine and became a neurosurgeon, while Mr. Kent studied business and started successful companies that imported cookware, dinnerware, guitars, hospital gowns and other products from Europe and China.

After Emory, the brothers moved to New York and simplified their last name to Kent. Roman met Hannah Starkman, a Lodz native who had survived three concentration camps, on a visit to the New York area; they married in 1957. They had two children, Jeffrey and Susan, who survive him, as do three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Mrs. Kent died in 2017.

Mr. Kent was a vigorous supporter of Holocaust education, and in a speech he gave in 2015, on the 71st anniversary of the Lodz ghetto’s liquidation, he explained why. It was the obligation of adults, he said, to get children to understand “what happens when hatred and prejudice are allowed to flourish.”

Holocaust survivor Roman Kent who negotiated billions in restitution, dies at 92

Auschwitz and Lodz Ghetto survivor who worked tirelessly to get compensation for Jewish victims of the Nazis, dies in New York

Roman Kent stands outside Auschwitz. (Courtesy of Jewish Foundation for the Righteous via JTA)

Roman Kent stands outside Auschwitz. (Courtesy of Jewish Foundation for the Righteous via JTA)

JTA — Roman Kent, a Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz survivor who would negotiate with the postwar German government for billions of dollars in compensation for Jewish Holocaust survivors, died Friday at his home in New York City. He was 92.

Kent, who immigrated to the United States in 1946, was a longtime board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, where he served variously as treasurer, co-chair of its negotiating committee and special adviser to its president.

In those roles, said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, Kent negotiated billions of dollars in pensions and compensation for Jewish survivors from the German government and championed survivor interests with insurance companies, German industry and Eastern European governments.

Just last year, Kent recorded a video as part of a campaign to demand that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg remove Holocaust denial content from his entire social media network.

“Roman made himself available for every cause that we put in front of him, tirelessly giving of his time and energy,” said Gideon Taylor, the Claims Conference president, in a statement. “He will be remembered as an unwavering force of good will and an undeniable advocate for the global Jewish community.”

Kent also served as the chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants; as president of the International Auschwitz Committee; and also as president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which assists non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1929, Roman Kniker survived its ghetto and several camps including Merzbachtal, Dornau, Flossenburg and Auschwitz. His father died of malnutrition in the Lodz Ghetto and his mother was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Holocaust survivor Roman Kent speaks during the International Holocaust Survivors Night on December 4, 2018, in South Orange, New Jersey. (Don EMMERT / AFP)

In June 1946, the brothers immigrated to the United States as part of a government program to admit 5,000 orphans. Kent lived in Atlanta with foster parents and attended Emory University in that Georgia city, going on to start a successful international trade company.

In 1988, he joined the board of the Claims Conference, which had been tasked with securing the restitution that Germany has paid through direct assistance to survivors and for educational and memorial programs.

Diplomat Stuart Eizenstat, who worked with Kent as the Claims Conference’s special negotiator, said his co-chair on the negotiating committee “made it his personal mission to advocate for his fellow survivors to the very end, participating on negotiations calls as recently as last week. His strength and fortitude were unmatched, and his drive and determination to see justice served knew no bounds.”

In 2016, in an interview marking UNESCO’s Holocaust Remembrance Day event, Kent warned about the abuse of language to deny the past.

“I have noticed over the years that in relation to the Holocaust in the media, there is a tendency to sanitize the past,” he said. “People say that 6 million people were ‘lost’ or ‘perished.’ They were not lost. They were not misplaced. They were imprisoned, starved, tortured, murdered and burned. It is hard to hear but that is the truth that we must preserve to prevent the Holocaust happening again.”

Kent married Hannah Starkman, a Lodz native and fellow survivor, in 1957. Hannah Kent died in 2017. They are survived by their two children, Jeffrey and Susan, as well as three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Nonprofit Leases Brooklyn Office To Serve Holocaust Survivors

NEW YORK CITY—Selfhelp Community Services secured a 14,889-square foot lease at 626 Sheepshead Bay Road in Brooklyn. Transwestern’s Stephen Powers, Lindsay Ornstein, Thomas Hines and Jake Cinti provided Occupier Solutions services for Selfhelp. The nonprofit will consolidate two facilities into the new Sheepshead Bay location, which will house two programs that offer services to Holocaust survivors and the elderly.

“By consolidating our Brooklyn Holocaust survivor and home health aide training programs at our new office at 626 Sheepshead Bay Road, we will be able to provide better and more robust access to these critical services,” said Russell Lusak, Chief Operating Officer at Selfhelp in prepared remarks.

Located in Coney Island, 626 Sheepshead Bay Road was built in 2018 and features seven floors of office and retail space. The building, which is home to many nonprofit organizations, is near several public transit options, including the D, F, B and Q trains. Building ownership, Cammeby’s International, was represented by David Ofman of The Lawrence Group.

Powers, who leads Transwestern’s national Nonprofit Advisory Services group noted that the Transwestern team conducted a lengthy site search, including significant location analytics, to help Selfhelp find a location that met its needs.

Kiss frontman Simmons learns about Holocaust survivor mother’s ordeal

German newspaper presents Israel-born rock star with 100 pages of documents about his late mother’s experiences to mark 75th anniversary of her liberation

Gene Simmons of Kiss performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 4, 2020. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA via JTA)

Gene Simmons of Kiss performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 4, 2020. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ABA via JTA)

JTA — Kiss frontman Gene Simmons said his mother almost never spoke about her Holocaust ordeal, including time in Nazi camps.

A German newspaper has provided him with plenty more information.

Flora Klein, a native of Hungary, was 19 when American troops liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 5, 1945. She died at 93 in the United States.

In her statement to the former Restitution Office in Koblenz, Klein wrote: “In November 1944, I was brought to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I lived there in block no. 21 and worked in the fields, gathering potatoes outside the camp. I wore old civilian clothes with a white oil (paint) cross painted on the back, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the SS.”

Klein was transferred to the Venusberg subcamp of the Flossenburg concentration camp in January 1945, and arrived at Mauthausen in March that year.

“She was strong,” Simmons told Bild in an interview published Sunday as he read the documents. “She fought all of this on her own.”

He also found his grandmother’s name among the documents. Ester Blau died in the Nazi gas chambers

His mother married a carpenter, Jechiel Weitz, in 1946 and a year later they immigrated to Israel. Simmons was born Chaim Weitz in Haifa in 1949. His parents later divorced and Simmons’ mother brought him to New York in 1958.

Simmons warned that people should not forget the about the Holocaust.

“It can happen again and again. That’s why you have to talk about everything,” he said. “When Jews are advised to no longer wear the kippah on the streets. At least this is being addressed. The same applies to the Muslims. As long as you talk about things, there is a chance. When you see cockroaches in the kitchen, you must point the light at them so you can see them clearly. And you must drive them out of the light.”

Millions going to Holocaust survivors for coronavirus help

The organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis says it is making millions of extra dollars available for elderly Holocaust survivors who are particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus

BERLIN — Millions of dollars in additional funds are being made available to agencies around the world that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, whose advanced age and health issues makes them particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus, the organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis announced Monday.

The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Monday the $4.3 million in initial funding would be made available to agencies around the world providing care for some 120,000 survivors.

The emergency funding includes 200,000 euros ($215,000) from the Alfred Landecker Foundation, established last year by one of Germany’s richest families, whose assets include Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, as a way to help atone for its use of forced laborers during the Nazi era and support of Adolf Hitler’s regime.

All survivors are elderly, with the end of World War II now 75 years in the past, and many suffered from illness, malnutrition and other deprivations either at the hands of the Nazis or as they hid from them, which continues to affect their health today.

There are no statistics yet as to how many Holocaust survivors have been infected by the new coronavirus, but Israel’s first reported COVID-19 fatality was 88-year-old survivor Aryeh Even, and about a third of the elderly population in Israel are survivors, according to the Claims Conference.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a frightening time for Holocaust survivors as this is a population, like many elderly, that already tends to experience too much social isolation,” said Claims Conference President Julius Berman. “The social isolation caused by this health crisis can take a serious emotional toll which, if unchecked can lead to physical ailments.”

The additional funds will be used to “address critical gaps” in providing survivors help with home care, food, medicine and other assistance as it is needed.

It is in addition to approximately $350 million in direct compensation the Claims Conference is providing to more than 60,000 survivors in 83 countries this year, and some $610 million in grants to more than 300 social service agencies.

The Claims Conference is also providing advances of previously committed funds and taking other steps to help the agencies that support survivors.

“Agencies are going to have a cash flow problem and fundraising is going to be difficult,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “We want them to do what they do best and go save lives.”

As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $80 billion in Holocaust reparations.

Holocaust Center to host virtual events for Genocide Awareness Month


JOE NAPSHA|TRIBUNE-REVIEW Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, next to a prisoner’s uniform.

In a time of social distancing, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh is promoting a national series of virtual events for the month of April, Genocide Awareness Month.

April 1 is the start of #TogetherWeRemember, including 30 days of free, all-digital content and workshops from leaders around the country in the fight against genocide and hatred.

Originally, the kickoff of the 2020 #TogetherWeRemember program was to take the form of a daylong summit hosted by the Holocaust Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, followed by a series of vigils in selected cities across the country.

With the coronavirus outbreak causing events around the world to be canceled or postponed, the Holocaust Center reorganized the summit to become an online event.

Each day in April, programs will include teacher trainings, workshops, lectures and a variety of virtual experiences for Yom Hashoah on April 21, an international day of Holocaust Remembrance, coordinated between organizations across the country. (It officially begins on sundown on April 20.)

“Now, instead of one day for organizations across the city to come together, there are 30 days for organizations around the globe to come together,” said Lauren Bairnsfather, Holocaust Center director.

“The level of collaboration we are already seeing in developing the program is exponentially greater than anything we could have imagined, and we look forward to engaging with new audiences throughout April.”

Coronavirus: Jews deliver food to Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust

From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation.

As a teenager in Warsaw during the Holocaust, Krystyna Kowalska helped save a Jewish family of four who hid at her family’s bakery.
She does not remember being afraid, even though if they had been discovered her whole family would have almost certainly been shot dead on the spot along with the Jews they hid.
But now, at the age of 88, Kowalska is fearing for her life because of the coronavirus, the fatality rate of which is especially high in individuals older than 70.
“It’s a scary time for me to be outside as I see the impact of this virus on my age group,” said Kowalska, a widow whose son has died and who lives alone in a third-story apartment without an elevator.
Across the world, people from her generation have minimized their interaction with the outside world to avoid contracting COVID-19.
For rescuers of Jews in Warsaw, that task became considerably easier this week.
The From the Depths commemoration group, which last year began offering free taxi rides to these rescuers, converted its small fleet of four cars into a delivery service that is designed to fulfill the recipients’ basic needs at their homes while taking care to expose them to as little risk as possible.
Since Sunday, the foundation has delivered groceries to about 20 people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the genocide. The cabs are disinfected after each delivery and the group’s founder, Jonny Daniels, said he delivers the groceries personally to the recipients wearing a mask and gloves.
“After the pandemic broke out, we started seeing more demand, not less, for the taxi,” he said.
The Righteous became more reliant on the taxis to get around because it was less risky than public transportation, Daniels said.
“But they still need to buy food, often at several supermarkets because of hoarding,” which has created shortages in basic products, he added.
So From the Depths made a list of 40 addresses and plans to make home deliveries to all of them by Saturday.
To keep the cabs virus free, From the Depths paid for overpriced disinfectants, which its staffers – the association has several drivers, an administrator and dozens of volunteers — apply between rides.
By Tuesday, Poland had more than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and five fatalities from it.
“We consulted medical staff and the technique we use is basically the same as what they do in ambulances,” Daniels said.
Daniels said some recipients of his deliveries have become his friends over the years, inviting him in for tea. Some are lonely.
“I politely refuse the invitations,” he said. “These are people I usually hug and kiss on the cheek at events, but these days I just carry the bags into their apartments and I’m out of there.”
Kowalska, who is one of just a few dozen living rescuers in Poland, said she understands the situation.
“It’s a kind service. It means that I don’t have to go outside and risk my health. The fact that I can trust them means the world to me,” she said.
From the Depths staff has started to set aside time for phone chats with the Righteous to help combat their sense of isolation, said Oliver Wangart, the chief driver and head of logistics for a service the association calls Silent Hero.
The delivery and taxi service is only available in Warsaw, which is already straining the From the Depths budget, Daniels said.
“But these are people who stood up for the Jews in our people’s hour of need,” he said. “Well, now this is their hour of need and we need to stand up for them.”