Early June experienced some significant passings, including:

Mietek Pemper

Mietek Pemper:
Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Pemper passed away in Augsberg, Germany this month at the age of 91. Pemper was a prisoner in the Plaszow concentration camp, a few miles south of Krakow, Poland. He served as the secretary to the infamous commandant, Amon Goeth, who was later hanged for his crimes against humanity. Pemper was the person who recommended that Oskar Schindler start making armaments for Germany, and the person who compiled the list that later became known as “Schindler’s List,” a list of workers and other prisoners who were saved from the death camps. The story of Pemper and the camp accountant, Itzhak Stern, were combined to create a character, “Stern,” that was player by Ben Kingsley in the Steven Spielberg film, “Schindler’s List.” His book, The Road to Rescue, is available here. Read the New York Times Obituary here, the Jerusalem Post obituary here, or an obituary from the Hamburg AbendBlatt, here.

Sammy Ofer:
Sammy Ofer passed away at the age of 89. A resident of Monaco and Tel Aviv, Ofer was believed to be Israel wealthiest businessman. The Ofer family reportedly has assets worth $10.3 billion; it is among about two dozen families who together control 25 percent of Israel’s publicly traded corporations. But who is counting? Sammy Hershkovitz was born in Romania and moved with his family to Palestine in the early 1920s. As an adult, he entered the shipping industry, and his businesses became dominant players. Ever heard of ZIM? Ofer donated over $100 million to charities in recent years, mainly to hospitals and arts institutions. A controversial figure in Israel, due to commercial dealings with Iran, and accusations of his profiting from government connections, discounted government assets, and other relationships, his family withdrew a planned $20 million donation to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art some patrons objected to the planned renaming the museum for the Ofers. Sammy and his wife placed advertisements in Israeli newspapers under the headline: “Excuse us for wanting to make a donation.”

Speaking of Haifa and Iran, Al Schwimmer passed away in Israel at the age of 94:
Schwimmer was a former TWA aircraft engineer and WWII veteran who smuggled U.S. airplanes to Israel for the 1948 war of independence. Later, he founded Israel’s aerospace industry. Adolph “Al” Schwimmer, who was born in New York. Schwimmer recruited fellow Jewish WWII veterans to help him and they established two aircraft companies to buy and restore a few dozen used transport planes. The planes were flown to the new State of Israel Jewish state via Florida and Czechoslovakia. Hunted by the FBI, Schwimmer fled to Canada and then to Israel, where he volunteered in Israel’s War of Independence. In 1950, he was convicted in the USA of breaking certain laws and stripped of his citizenship and kicked out of the Air Force Reserves. In 1951, he therefore made aliyah and and started Israel Aircraft Industries (now Israel Aerospace Industries). In the 1980s, Mr. Schwimmer was accused of serving as a middleman in the Iran Contra armaments operation. In 2001, Schwimmer was pardoned by President Bill Clinton for his role in smuggling planes to Israel five decades earlier. Schwimmer said he had never sought a U.S. pardon because he did not regret his crimes. “I guess I should be happy,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2001 after learning of Clinton’s action. “I’ve lived most of my life without a pardon, so don’t expect me to throw a party now.”

Elena Georgievna Bonner, a pediatrician, passed away last week in Boston at the age of 88. A Soviet dissident and human-rights activist, Bonner was the wife of the USSR’s most famous activist, nuclear physicist Andrei D. Sakharov. Dr. Sakharov passed away in 1989. Her father, an Armenian, founded the Armenian Communist Party and disappeared in 1937 in Stalin’s prison system. Her mother, Ruth Bonner, was a Siberian Jew. Bonner was therefore a target of anti-Semitism during her life in the USSR.

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