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Roman Kent (1929–2021), Holocaust survivor who fought for reparations

by Linnea Crowther

Roman Kent was a Polish Holocaust survivor who led a movement seeking reparations from the German government.

Leading his fellow survivors

Kent was just a teen when he was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp and later moved to other labor camps. As he and his brother were being transferred to Dachau on a death march, they were liberated by U.S. soldiers. Kent lost his parents to the horrors of the Holocaust. He was able to come to America after the war, where he studied business and became an entrepreneur working in imports.

Kent became involved in gatherings of Holocaust survivors, and he eventually became a leader of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. The organization offers services and advocacy for Holocaust survivors, as well as organizing reunions. Kent was also a board member of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Here, he led the campaign for reparations for Holocaust survivors. Kent and other survivors were able to secure billions of dollars for survivors. He served as president of the International Auschwitz Committee, educating the world about the truth of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Kent was also president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

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Notable quote

“[I]n the end I knew that I had to leave a trace. Now if I had the power I would issue an Eleventh Commandment to the world which would be ‘Do not be a bystander.’ It was indifference and the silence of people which led to the Holocaust. I would tell people not to turn away, to say something. Words can be used for good too.” —from an interview for UNESCO

Tributes to Roman Kent

Full obituary: The New York Times

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