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Yad Vashem Mourns the Passing of Eli Zborowski

Chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem had dedicated his life to Holocaust Remembrance

11 September 2012

Yad Vashem mourns the passing of Holocaust survivor Eli Zborowski, on September 10, 2012 in New York. Zborowski was founder and Chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem, who dedicated his life to ensuring the future of Holocaust commemoration, research and education.

“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. Eli's pioneering vision and inspiring leadership generated extensive and innovative commemorative activities - including the establishment of the Valley of the Communities in the 1980s, and the Monument to the Jewish Soldiers and Partisans who fought against Nazi Germany, both at Yad Vashem, and in his strategic partnership in Yad Vashem's comprehensive development plan at the turn of the century - and have motivated younger generations to find meaning in lasting Holocaust remembrance. He spearheaded many projects that helped ensure Yad Vashem’s continuing ability to be at the forefront of Holocaust commemoration, research and education. 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.”

Eli Zborowski was born in 1925, in Zarki, Poland. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Eli and his family were incarcerated in the town ghetto. Eli managed to secure false papers, and he was thus able to leave the ghetto and serve as its liaison with the non-Jewish underground. The Zborowskis were hidden by the Placzek and Kolacz families. Eli’s father Moshe was separated from the family, and he was murdered by local Poles. Eli, his mother, brother and sister survived the war, and the Placzeks and Kolaczs were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Following the War, Zborowski was active in the Aliyah Bet organization (the smuggling of Jews into British-Mandate Palestine) until the founding of the State of Israel.

In early 1952, Eli emigrated with his wife Diana (nee Wilf), also a Holocaust survivor, to the United States, where they settled in New York. Zborowski prospered in business, and simultaneously assumed his lifelong commitment to Holocaust remembrance and Yad Vashem. A genuine initiator, leader and visionary, Eli can be credited with essential “firsts” in the field of Holocaust remembrance. In 1963, he organized the first United States Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration. In 1970, he founded the first umbrella organization for all survivors. In 1974, he founded Martyrdom & Resistance, a periodical devoted to the Holocaust. That same year, the Zborowskis endowed the United States’ first academic chair in Holocaust Studies, at Yeshiva University, New York. He was appointed to the US Holocaust Memorial Council by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed by President Reagan. He was also appointed to the NY permanent Commission on the Holocaust by Mayor Edward Koch.

In 1981 Zborowski founded the American Society for Yad Vashem and served as its Chairman until his death. Under his dynamic leadership, the American Society was the first among Holocaust organizations to establish a young leadership and to encourage the third generation to be involved in Holocaust remembrance. In addition, Zborowski was a long-time member of the Yad Vashem Directorate. Beit HaKihilot, a center of research and education in the Valley of Communities, was established through the generosity of Eli and Diana Zborowski, and in 2008 he endowed The Diana Zborowski Center for the Study of the Aftermath of the Holocaust, in the International Institute for Holocaust Research. Eli served on the boards of a number of organizations including the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Eli was married to Diana, who passed away in 2004. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Mundlak (whom he married in 2006), a Holocaust survivor from Czestochowa, Poland, his children Dr. Lilly Zborowski Naveh and Murry Zborowski, his brother Marvin Zborowoski, sister Tzila Listenberg, and seven grandchildren.