Shapell, Nathan 1922-2007

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Shapell, Nathan 1922-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born March 6, 1922, in Sosnowitz, Poland; died March 11, 2007. Builder and author. A Holocaust survivor who immigrated to California, Shapell became a prominent commercial and home developer. He was born Natan Schapelski and was just a teenager when the Nazis invaded and sent his mother to a ghetto. For some time he smuggled Jews out of Poland until he was captured and sent to Auschwitz. His brother-in-law Max Webb was there and, along with help from others, hid Shapell from the Nazi guards, thus saving his life. Shapell would eventually spend time in two other concentration camps until the Allies liberated them. After the war, he lived in Munchberg, where he helped build houses for homeless Jewish refugees. After marrying, he moved to Los Angeles in 1952, changed his last name, and established a construction business in Beverly Hills with Webb and his brother David. The company prospered, and over the next decades Shapell Industries built communities all up and down the California coastline. They specialized in high-quality homes, including those on the former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ranch in Thousand Oaks. In addition to this business, he served for many years on the Little Hoover Commission, which worked to reform nursing home standards and education spending, and to lower taxes. He chaired the commission from 1979 until 1997. He also served on other state and local advisory boards, as well as on the board of nonprofit organizations, such as Project Hope and the Jewish Federation Council. Shapell wrote about his wartime experiences in Witness to the Truth (1974). He passed away while on a ship heading home to San Pedro, California.



Shapell, Nathan, Witness to the Truth, McKay, 1974.


Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2007, p. B8.