Eli Zborowski, Founder of Yad Vashem Society, Dies

Polish Survivor Served on Claims Conference Board

By JTA

Published September 11, 2012.
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Eli Zborowski, a Holocaust survivor who founded and served as the chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem, has died.

Eli Zborowski
Karen Leon
Eli Zborowski

Zborowski, who founded the society in 1981 and served as its chairman until his death, died Monday in New York. He was 87.

Zborowski was born in Zarki, Poland. He was able to leave the town’s ghetto after the outbreak of World War II and serve as its liaison with the non-Jewish underground. His father was murdered by local Poles, but he, his mother, brother and sister survived the war. The families that hid them, the Placzeks and Kolaczs, were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Following the war, Zborowski was active in the Aliyah Bet organization, which smuggled Jews into British Mandate Palestine until the founding of the State of Israel.

Zborowski and his wife, Diana, immigrated to the United States in early 1952. In 1963 he organized the first U.S. Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration and, in 1970, he founded the first umbrella organization for all survivors. The Zborowskis in 1974 endowed the first academic chair in the United States in Holocaust Studies, at Yeshiva University in New York. He was appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed by President Ronald Reagan. He also was appointed to the New York permanent Commission on the Holocaust by Mayor Edward Koch.

He was a longtime member of the Yad Vashem Directorate. Beit HaKihilot, a center of research and education in Yad Vashem’s Valley of Communities, was established in part with a donation from Eli and Diana Zborowski, and in 2008 he endowed The Diana Zborowski Center for the Study of the Aftermath of the Holocaust at the International Institute for Holocaust Research.

Zborowski served on the boards of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

“Eli Zborowski was a dear friend and devoted partner in ensuring that the legacy of the Holocaust is not forgotten,” said Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem. “From a young age, Eli was instilled with the values of integrity, diligence and responsibility as well as a strong Zionist legacy by his beloved parents. These principles motivated him to ensure the future not only of his own family, to which he was profoundly dedicated, but also to that of Holocaust remembrance and education for generations to come. His determination and dynamic leadership serve as an inspiration for survivors around the world.

“We will miss his friendship, his leadership, his drive, his unwavering commitment and willingness to put his entire self into his mission to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is not forgotten.”


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