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Sigmund Strochlitz, 89; Urged National Holocaust Remembrance Ceremonies

October 18, 2006|From Times Wire Reports

Sigmund Strochlitz, a Holocaust survivor and member of the council that established the National Holocaust Memorial and Museum, died Monday at his home in New London, Conn. He was 89 and had been ill for several months.

Strochlitz, who also owned a car dealership, led the effort to persuade every state and Washington, D.C., to hold an annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony for victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Strochlitz had traveled the world with close friend Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

"He was extremely sensitive to memory and remembrance," Wiesel said. "When the president appointed me" to the Holocaust Memorial and Museum commission in 1978, Strochlitz "immediately became my right-hand man. He was instrumental in all of our accomplishments," Wiesel said.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed Strochlitz to the Presidential Commission on the Preservation of Americans' Heritage Abroad, and the next year French President Francois Mitterand named him a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic.

He also was a recipient of the Elie Wiesel Remembrance Award, the National Holocaust Remembrance Tribute and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Born in Bedzin, Poland, Strochlitz studied economics at the University of Krakow until World War II broke out in 1939. He lost his parents, two sisters and first wife before he was freed. Surviving the Holocaust, he often said, didn't make him a hero.

"It was luck. That's all," he said. "Everyone who survived, even the ones who hid, were just lucky they weren't taken away."

Strochlitz picked weeds, made clothes and dug ditches at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, among other concentration camps.

"I was angry for a time after, but I realized I could not be that way forever," he told an interviewer in 2004.

"The human being has an incredible will to live."

Strochlitz immigrated to the United States in 1951 and learned English by using a dictionary to read newspapers. Wiesel is expected to deliver a eulogy at Strochlitz's funeral today in New London.

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