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

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

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

Roman Kent, who as an orphaned teenager endured the horrors of Auschwitz and different hellish camps and later channeled his sorrow and rage into serving to to steer an American motion to memorialize the Holocaust and supply reparations for getting older Jewish survivors, died on Friday at his house in Manhattan. He was 92.

His demise was confirmed by his daughter, Susan.

Whereas many Holocaust survivors have chosen to remain quiet about their experiences or share them solely with shut pals and different survivors, Mr. Kent believed that the world wanted to be reminded of the six million Jews who perished at the fingers of the Germans and their collaborators, and that Germany wanted to repay the remnants of European Jewry for what they suffered and whom they misplaced.

“I didn’t need our previous to turn into our kids’s future,” Mr. Kent would typically say.

A number of instances every year the survivors would collect in massive numbers at cavernous temples or native arenas and, by their presence and the shattering energy of their tales, remind the world of the way it had stood by for years whereas thousands and thousands of Jews have been oppressed, humiliated and finally slaughtered.

Mr. Kent didn’t attend Mr. Michel’s world gathering of 6,000 survivors in Jerusalem in 1981, however he was so impressed by the occasion’s scale and affect that he helped set up succeeding convocations in Washington and Philadelphia. Alongside the method, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants was fashioned. Mr. Kent was its chairman at his demise.

In 1988, he joined the board of the Convention of Jewish Materials Claims In opposition to Germany, which has negotiated most of the $80 billion that Germany has paid in help to survivors and for academic and memorial applications. He finally served as the group’s treasurer and co-chairman of its negotiating committee.

Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former deputy secretary of the Treasury and the convention’s chief negotiator, stated Mr. Kent had used his visceral data of the enduring issues of survivors when prodding Germany to enhance month-to-month pensions, present $9 billion for survivors nonetheless residing in the former Soviet Union and Iron Curtain nations, and, as survivors lived into their 90s, put aside $554 million for house care.

“I had some expertise as a negotiator, however Roman was ready so as to add that non-public dedication, that drama, that keenness,” Mr. Eizenstat stated, “He understood the points from the perspective of the survivor, which I couldn’t.”

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a second-generation Holocaust activist, stated that Mr. Kent “had the potential to have interaction the German authorities officers and persuade them to transcend their unique commitments.”

At numerous instances Mr. Kent was president of the Worldwide Auschwitz Committee, whose function is to tell the world about the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the place 1.1 million individuals — virtually a million of them Jews — have been slaughtered in fuel chambers or perished from starvation and illness. He additionally served as president of the Jewish Basis for the Righteous, which offers help to non-Jews who had hid Jews or helped them escape.

“He was not searching for revenge, he was searching for justice,” stated Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, who labored with Mr. Kent on Auschwitz remembrance efforts, in a telephone interview. “He was an individual who seemed to the future as an alternative of the previous.”

On a go to in 2019 to the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Decrease Manhattan, Mr. Kent appeared to clarify his zeal for immersing himself so totally in Holocaust remembrance.

“How can I overlook the scent of burning flesh that consistently stuffed the air?” he stated in a trembling voice as tears rolled down his cheeks. “Or the heartbreak of youngsters torn from their moms? These shouts of terror will ring in my ears till I’m laid to relaxation.”

Roman Kniker was born on April 18, 1929, in the manufacturing middle of Lodz, Poland’s second largest metropolis, with 600,000 individuals, one third of them Jews. His father, Emanuel, was a textile producer, and his mom, Sonia (Lipszytz) Kniker, tended to the house and the 4 youngsters, together with Roman’s two older sisters, Dasza and Renia, and his youthful brother, Leon.

The household lived comfortably, spending summers horseback driving and bicycling at a villa they owned 30 miles outdoors Lodz. Roman attended a non-public college for Jews with a Hebrew curriculum. When he walked previous a public college he was typically the goal of slurs and typically stones. He and his brother spent a lot of their free time kicking a soccer ball in a courtyard in his father’s manufacturing facility.

The German military invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and the occupiers confiscated the manufacturing facility and the flats throughout the avenue. Roman’s household squeezed right into a small aspect constructing on the manufacturing facility grounds. By the finish of the 12 months, they and the metropolis’s different Jews have been compelled right into a squalid ghetto that had no electrical energy, operating water or remedy, although in the early days gentile employees at his father’s manufacturing facility slipped meals to the household, Mr. Kent recalled in a video interview. Hundreds succumbed to malnutrition, illness and chilly temperatures. Amongst the was Roman’s father, who died in 1943.

The ghetto was emptied in the fall of 1944, its inhabitants crammed into cattle vehicles and deported to focus camps, primarily the sprawling Auschwitz-Birkenau complicated. Once they arrived, Roman was separated from his mom and two sisters. He would by no means see his mom once more.

Roman and Leon have been assigned to a piece element and transferred to different labor camps to feed the ravenous industrial and navy wants of the German military because it misplaced battle after battle. The brothers have been interned in Gross-Rosen and Flossenburg, and from there compelled at gunpoint on a demise march to Dachau in Germany. They have been liberated alongside the method by the United States Military in April 1945.

They searched for his or her kin and discovered that their mom had died at Auschwitz however that their sisters have been alive in Sweden. The 4 siblings have been briefly reunited, however Dasza, nonetheless sick from her wartime ordeal, died a couple of months later. Renia remained in Sweden and married there.

In the postwar years, when the American authorities was reluctant to carry immigration quotas, even for the 250,000 Jewish survivors who had been deported to focus camps or in any other case displaced, Mr. Kent was amongst the first to enter the United States. He and Leon did so in consequence of a particular directive by President Harry S. Truman that admitted a couple of thousand orphans.

The brothers lived with foster households in Atlanta and attended Emory College. Leon studied drugs and have become a neurosurgeon, whereas Mr. Kent studied enterprise and began profitable firms that imported cookware, dinnerware, guitars, hospital robes and different merchandise from Europe and China.

After Emory, the brothers moved to New York and simplified their final identify to Kent. Roman met Hannah Starkman, a Lodz native who had survived three focus camps, on a go to to the New York space; they married in 1957. They’d two youngsters, 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 schooling, and in a speech he gave in 2015, on the 71st anniversary of the Lodz ghetto’s liquidation, he defined why. It was the obligation of adults, he stated, to get youngsters to grasp “what occurs when hatred and prejudice are allowed to flourish.”

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