SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK (June 15, 2016) — Dr. George Elbaum of San Francisco, a businessman and aerospace engineer, who writes and speaks about his experience as a child survivor of the Holocaust, was awarded an Honorary Fellowship on June 5 from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The ceremony took place during the Technion Board of Governors (BOG) meeting (June 4-8, 2016) on the university campus in Haifa.
Accompanied by his wife, Mimi Jensen, Dr. Elbaum was recognized for “devotion to the Technion and Israel . . . business accomplishments that have spanned the globe and bridged countries . . . and for sharing (your) story, in order to impart the message of tolerance to present and future generations.”
A steadfast supporter of the Technion and Israel, Dr. Elbaum is an active member of the American Technion Society (ATS) National Board of Directors, the ATS North Pacific Region Board and the Technion Board of Governors.
Together with his wife, he is a Technion Guardian — an honor reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest level. The couple has supported the Technion with gifts that include the George J. Elbaum Fund for the Satell Technion-MIT Leadership Program, the Whiteman International Foundation Fellowships (named after Dr. Elbaum's mother) in the Grand Technion Energy Program, and the Formula Student Race Car project.
Dr. Elbaum was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1938. As a child, he was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto and lived with a series of Polish families who hid him and his Jewish identity from the Nazis. Only he and his mother survived, as they lost 10 family members to the Holocaust. In 1949, Dr. Elbaum immigrated to the U.S., and in 1955 he enrolled at MIT, where he earned four degrees — a bachelor’s and a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics, along with a second master’s and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.
He began his career in Los Angeles in the aerospace industry, and then moved into the international business arena. In 1972, he co-founded Intertorg, a consulting firm representing American and European corporations in the Soviet Union (including General Motors, U.S. Steel, Reebok, etc.), where he marketed their products and services. After 25 years, he switched gears again, turning to commercial real estate investment and development.
In 2010, he wrote and published Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows, a book of vignettes from his childhood during the Holocaust, and started speaking to student groups across the U.S. and in Poland about survival and tolerance. In 2014, he followed his first book with a second volume, Yesterdays Revisited, about the feedback/letters he’s received from students at the 100-plus venues where he’s spoken.
The five-day BOG meeting was comprised of award ceremonies and dedications, presentations by speakers that included Middle East expert Ambassador Dennis B. Ross, and other events such as an Innovation Panel Discussion, featuring Technion graduates such as Dov Moran, inventor of the DiskOnKey (USB flash drive). Other San Francisco-area participants included Ruth Owades and Lou Lenzen.
Photo: George Elbaum (right) receiving an Honorary Fellowship from Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie at an awards ceremony on the Haifa campus on June 5, 2016.
Betsy Touriel-Kapner, the daughter of Austrian Holocaust survivors, tells the stories of her parents escape from Austria to Bolivia.
Betsy Touriel-Kapner’s maternal grandparents, Gisela and Friedrich Aschkenasi, lived in Vienna, Austria, where they were married in 1924. Their daughter Gerda was born in 1932. In March 1938, the Nazis annexed Austria (an event termed “the Anschluss”) and soon enacted laws to strip Jews of their citizenship and careers. Jewish children, like Gerda, could no longer attend school. Betsy’s grandfather was sent to Dachau concentration camp, then Buchenwald, with other Austrian Jews who were prominent community members or businessmen. Gisela sold most of their belongings to bribe her husband out of Buchenwald.
The family of three managed to leave Austria by ship at the eve of World War II, traveling to Italy, then Chile, and overland to Bolivia with a visa from the Bolivian consulate. A German mining baron, Mauritz Hochschild, who operated tin mines in Bolivia, had convinced the Bolivian president to offer visas to Jews facing persecution in Austria and Germany. Some of these refugees, like Betsy’s grandparents, stayed in Bolivia permanently. Her grandfather became vice president of the mines run by Hochschild – who overall helped save nearly 20,000 Jews.
Betsy’s mother Gerda spent the rest of her childhood in Bolivia and attended high school and college there. Gerda travelled to Seattle to visit family in the 1950s, when she met a local man, Gabriel Touriel, who soon became her husband. They made their home in Tacoma, where Betsy and her brothers were born and raised.
After retiring from a career in the aerospace industry, Betsy felt a responsibility to share the story of her relatives and their unusual escape from Europe. Her grandparents and mother were refugees in South America, and her mother was later an immigrant to the United States. Their experiences of courage and rescue offer enduring lessons of resilience. Since 2020, Betsy has been a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity Speakers Bureau, telling this family history to students and community members.
Henry Friedman was born in 1928 to a Jewish family in Brody, Poland (present-day Ukraine). When the Nazis invaded Brody in 1941, they swiftly deprived Jews of their basic rights. One day in February 1942, a young woman named Julia Symchuck ran to the Friedman’s house and warned Henry's father that the Gestapo was coming for him. Thanks to Julia, Henry’s father was able to flee. In the fall of 1942, the Nazis forced the remaining Jews in the area into a ghetto in Brody. Henry, his mother, his younger brother, and their female teacher hid in a barn owned by Julia Symchuck's parents. The Friedmans remained in hiding for 18 months, freezing and slowly starving as food became scarce. Finally, in March 1944 they were liberated by the Russians. Julia Symchuck was later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Henry helped found the Holocaust Center for Humanity in 1989 and is an active member of the Speakers Bureau.
"When I was in hiding, I feared I would be the only Jew who survived. A terrible empty feeling came over me at the loss of so many cousins, and I felt as though I were standing all alone in a huge stadium." - Henry Friedman
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Henry Friedman. Read more about Henry, view photos, and watch video clips.
Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1935. In 1942, when Peter was 7, the Nazis seized Peter's entire family except for Peter and his mother. Peter's mother contacted the Dutch Underground for help. The Underground found Klaas and Roefina Post who agreed to shelter Peter and his mother on their small farm in northern Holland, putting their own lives at risk. For two years they lived with the Posts until it became too dangerous and they found another hiding place with two women in The Hague. Peter, his mother, and his aunt were the only survivors of his family. Klaas and Roefina Post have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
After the war, Peter and his mother immigrated to the United States in 1949, arriving in New York. Peter was 13 and didn't speak any English, but was placed in the 8th grade. Peter had a long career as a radiology technologist. He and his wife raised two children in California and moved to Seattle in 1997. Peter continues to be an active member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau.
"My mother and I slept together in a bed that was inside a closet. I remember lying in that bed trembling in fear at times." - Peter Metzelaar
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Peter Metzelaar. Read more about Peter, view photos and watch video clips.