November 22, 2006
Broke but hopeful, one survivor says it’s ‘better than Auschwitz’
(Page 2 - Previous Page)He was given only one week to leave. With little money, using rented trucks and day laborers, he hastily evacuated thousands of pounds of equipment into four storage units. In the rush, he left behind -- completely inadvertently, he claims -- $75,000 worth of equipment and about 20 gallons of chemicals, resulting in the recent conviction.
"Walter is a good man," said Barbara Creme, his "significant other" and the former director of Valley Alliance's Jewish Community Relations Council. But he said he feels abandoned by some parts of the Jewish community and his relationships with his own children are conflicted.
Recently, Essinger discovered four Swiss bank accounts that belonged to members of his father's family. He is working with the office of Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) to try to expedite these funds, but, according to Berman's district director, Robert Blumenfield, the money may not amount to more than 43,000 Swiss francs, the equivalent of $36,000. And that needs to be split among Essinger, a half-brother and a cousin.
Essinger said he has also found at least $250,000 in Holland, which belonged to his mother's family. However, he doesn't have the financial means to travel to Holland and to pay the court costs, which he says are $25,000 up front. His mother, who died a recluse in Switzerland at age 86, disinherited him. And he is estranged from his De Beer half-siblings, who now live in Switzerland and Florida.
"I know money is evil. I saw it with my parents. They had millions, but wouldn't give me 25 cents," he said.
In addition, working through Bet Tzedek's Holocaust Services Project, he is looking into what other Holocaust reparations might be available.
Meanwhile, Essinger is working. He has relocated his company to Oxnard and, with one employee, hopes to rebuild his semiconductor business. Plus, he still finds comfort in his radio collection.
"I'm not complaining. I'll be OK," he said. And he compares himself to others who were sent to the death camps. "If I think of one day spent in Auschwitz, my life is nothing compared to that."
Essinger in 1983
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