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Stephan Ross (2020), New England Holocaust Memorial founder

by Kirk Fox

Stephan Ross survived 10 Nazi concentration camps as a boy and was the founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial. Ross was born Szmulek Rozental in Lodz, Poland. As a boy, he was sent to concentration camps after the Nazi’s invaded Poland. He spent time in 10 different camps, surviving beatings, illness, and starvation, and escaped twice after being chosen for death at the camps. One time, he ran from the death line under a train and grabbed on to the axle when the train started to move. He held on and when the train stopped, he was at another camp.  

Once in the United States, he became a social worker, living in his car during graduate school. The New England Holocaust Memorial opened in Union Street Park in 1995. Ross would speak often at high schools to talk about his Holocaust experience and his story was told in the 2017 film, “Etched in Glass: The Legacy of Steve Ross.” 

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Died: Monday, February 24, 2020 (Who else died on February 24?)

Details of death: Believed to have died at the age of 88 but birth records are not verifiable.


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Ross on why he told his story: “The history of my childhood is beyond what you can tell civilized people.”

But he did so to keep alive the memories of his relatives and the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.

“What I had to endure is beyond what many people can understand. Surviving was a relentless struggle day to day, hour to hour.” —Boston Globe interview in 1995

Ross on the importance of the New England Holocaust Memorial: He told the Boston Globe in 1995 that it offered a message for the future — “for our children, and their children, and their children.”

The memorial, he said, reminds future generations that “they must not allow hatred and racism to rise.”

Ross’s long search for the U.S. soldier that liberated him: Ross spent years trying to reunite with the American soldier who showed him kindness when troops liberated Dachau in 1945. Ross remembered that a soldier hugged him, gave him food and a handkerchief. Ross later realized the handkerchief was an American flag and he kept it in a velvet pouch. Ross tried for years to find that soldier. Then he told his story on the television show “Unsolved Mysteries.” One of the soldier’s daughters saw the episode and connected the dots. The soldier, Steve Sattler, had died but his daughters and granddaughters met with Ross in 2012.

What they said about him: “Today Boston lost a giant, and the world quite honestly lost a giant. Here’s a man who could have given up several times in his life and he didn’t. I’m very sad today at the loss of Steve Ross.” —Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

Full obituary: Boston Globe

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