Strochlitz, Sigmund

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STROCHLITZ, SIGMUND (1916– ), Holocaust survivor, businessman, and major figure in institutionalizing Holocaust commemoration. The eldest of three children, Strochlitz was raised in a Zionist home in Bendzin, Poland, and in 1936 graduated from the Furstenberg School, a Hebrew high school. He enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, but his studies were interrupted by the war in 1939. During the partition of Poland, Strochlitz escaped into the Soviet zone but then secretly crossed back into the German zone to be with his family in Bendzin. In August 1943, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Strochlitz's parents, sisters, and wife were killed upon arrival. Strochlitz spent 15 months in Birkenau. He was then deported to the concentration camps at Stuthoff, Hailfingen, Dautmergen, and ultimately Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated by the British army in April 1945.

After liberation, Strochlitz married Rose Grinberg (1913–2001), a Polish-born Holocaust survivor from the Radziner ḥasidic family. They emigrated to New York in 1951. In 1957, Strochlitz bought a Ford dealership in New London, Connecticut, naming it Whaling City Ford. He moved to New London, and the dealership became his principal business.

Strochlitz and the writer Elie *Wiesel formed a close working relationship after the war, undertaking many Holocaust commemoration projects as well as other Jewish and humanitarian ventures. In 1978, when President Jimmy Carter created the President's Commission on the Holocaust, he appointed Wiesel as chairman and Strochlitz as a Commission member. The two continued in those roles on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, which established and oversees the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Strochlitz was the first chairman of the Commission's and later the Council's Days of Remembrance committee. He organized the first National Commemoration of the Holocaust, held in the Capitol Rotunda on Yom ha-Shoah. President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, the speaker of the House, and the Senate majority leader participated in the first commemoration. It became the model of the annual ceremony held in Washington. Strochlitz persuaded state and federal officials to hold annual Holocaust commemorations in all 50 state capitals and in Washington, d.c. Strochlitz also led the international campaign in support of Wiesel's candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Among other distinctions, Strochlitz served as the president of the American Friends of Haifa University, a governor of Bar-Ilan University, a founding member of the American Society for Yad Vashem, a trustee of the American Jewish Congress, a member of the board of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, and, at the appointment of President George H.W. Bush, a member of the United States Commission on the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad. He endowed the Strochlitz Institute of Holocaust Studies at Haifa University and the Strochlitz Judaic Teaching Fellowship at Bar-Ilan.

[Richard Primus (2nd ed.)]