Kent, Roman R.

views updated


KENT, ROMAN R. (1925– ), Holocaust survivor and activist. Born in Lodz, Kent was the son of a textile manufacturer. He was confined to the Lodz ghetto with his family in 1939, deported to Auschwitz, transferred to Gross-Rosen and its satellite camps and Flossenberg, and liberated by the Third Army while on a death march. He immigrated to the United States in 1946, under the Orphaned Children's Quota, as a ward of the U.S. government.

Kent and his younger brother, Leon, were sent to live in Atlanta, Georgia, where Kent graduated from Henry Grady High School with honors and went on to take liberal arts courses at Emory University. He began his successful business as a merchant from the trunk of his car to sharecropper families in the boondocks. He eventually expanded his business and moved to the Empire State Building in New York City and sold houseware on the qvc Network.

An active and important leader of the Holocaust survivor movement, Kent worked on a number of major survivor events, including the *American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Washington, d.c., in 1983. Kent also produced a movie called Children of the Holocaust in 1980, which won the International Film Festival Award in New York City. The film was narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Liv Ullman.

Kent also served as a negotiator for the *Conference on Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference), where he was also the treasurer and a member of the executive board. He was also chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Inc., the umbrella organization for survivors in North America. He was vice president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that supports non-Jews who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

As a member of the Claims Conference, Kent was one of 12 commissioners of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims created by President Bill Clinton. The commission is chaired by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Kent was also a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States that settled the claims of the Hungarian Gold Train suit filed by survivors against the United States government.

Kent was always known for his outspoken criticism of those who do not understand the urgent needs of impoverished Holocaust survivors living in the United States, Israel, and the rest of the world. He is concerned about monies being misdirected at a time when survivors, he says, "Need to die with dignity." He has also been a vocal and visible advocate of Holocaust and tolerance education around the world and a supporter of humanitarian causes for all.

He wrote a memoir called Strictly Business: Ruminations from Auschwitz to Atlanta, New York and Berlin and a children's book called Lala: The True Story of a Boy and His Dog during the Holocaust.

[Jeanette Friedman (2nd ed.)]