Eliezer (Eli) Zborowski, a Holocaust survivor who made it his mission in life to ensure that the memory of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis would never be forgotten, died Monday from cardiac arrest at the age of 86 in Queens, New York.
Zborowski founded the American and International Societies for Yad Vashem in 1953, a year after he arrived in the United States as a penniless Jewish immigrant from Poland with little knowledge of the English language.
He founded the American Federation of Jewish Fighters, Camp Inmates and Nazi Victims, as well as a newspaper on Holocaust issues, which has been published for 37 years.
As early as the mid-1950s, Zborowski succeeded in getting Jewish schools to require Holocaust studies and in 1976, together with his wife, Diana, established a chair in Holocaust studies at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, the first such professorship in the country.
He also started a program for younger members of the American Society for Yad Vashem, to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Zborowski was born in Zarki, Poland, on Sept. 20, 1925. In 1942, his family was hidden by Christians in an attic and a chicken coop. His father, who had been separated from the family, was shot while trying to escape from a German work camp.
Following the war, Zborowski was active in the Aliyah Bet organization, which smuggled Jews into British Mandate Palestine until the founding of the State of Israel.
In their biography, “A Life of Leadership: Eli Zborowski,” Rochel and George Berman, the book’s authors, said that Zborowski had taken up the cause of Holocaust remembrance because he believed that few survivors wanted to talk about it and that few Americans wanted to hear about it.
Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem said that, “Eli devoted his life to Yad Vashem and to Holocaust Remembrance and worked with us in solidarity and close partnership to commemorate the victims and impart the legacy of the survivors.
“On behalf of the Yad Vashem family, I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to the entire Zborowski family,” said Shalev. “Eli Zborowski was a fighter and a leader. Eli was my friend – a true partner, who labored unceasingly to help ensure that Yad Vashem would achieve its goals. May his memory be blessed.”