December 5, 2012
Leonora and Herbert Kolischer, Holocaust survivors and entrepreneurs, 88
Leonora Kolischer died in her home in Malibu on October 31, followed soon by her husband Herbert Kolischer on November 4. They were both 88.
They are survived by their adoring family: Leonora's daughter Amalia Klinger of Berkeley and her husband John, three grandchildren Adam, Leah and Sarah, son-in-law Arman and great-grandson Leo; Herbert's sister Irene Lieberberg of Westfield, NJ and her children with her late husband George, nephews Fred and Robert, their wives Jacqueline and Penny and grand nieces and nephews, Rachel, Michael, Madeline and James.
Leonora was born Leonora Holloschütz on March 19, 1924 in Rzeszow, Poland. Her father, Abraham, died before the War. After the War broke out, her mother, Amalia, fearing her teenaged daughter’s safety as German troops approached, sent Leonora to a girls boarding school in Soviet-occupied Poland. When Leonora applied to return home for a holiday visit, the Soviets charged her as a “spy” and sent her (and two school mates who also applied for the holiday visit) to a labor camp in Siberia. There she met her first husband Leon Laufbaum. After the German invasion of Russia, Polish prisoners were “released” and exiled to Samarkand, Uzbekistan where Leonora and Leon lived until the end of the War. Leonora and Leon tried unsuccessfully to repatriate to Poland after the war, and settled in Vienna, where their daughter Amalia was born. Leonora’s mother and two young brothers as well as most of Leon’s family were killed in the Holocaust, but they learned that Leon’s uncle had survived in southern France, and moved there in 1947 to join him in Le Pontet, near Avignon. They received US immigration visas in 1951 and settled in Los Angeles. Upon naturalization in 1957, they changed their name to Levand, an Americanized version of Levandel, the French version of Leon’s family’s patriarchal name. (Jewish marriages were not recognized in Poland, so children took their mother’s name.) Leon died in 1966.
Herbert was born Herman Kolischer on May 10, 1924 in Lvov, Poland (now Ukraine.) He and his sister Irene lost their parents to illness before the War. After being orphaned, the teenage siblings quickly learned survival. They hid their Jewish identity which allowed Irene to work in a German factory during the War, separating the two. They were not reunited until many years later in the United States. Herbert spent a long time moving around and in hiding and homeless until he was arrested by the Nazis. He spent several years imprisoned in concentration camps, Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald. He narrowly escaped death many times including during a death march just before liberation in 1945. He spent the next few years in Bruxelles, recovering strength and getting formally educated, and immigrated to Los Angeles in 1951. There, he obtained his architecture license and spent the next several decades building commercial and residential structures, including the Landmark Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and dozens of buildings and homes in Los Angeles and Malibu.
Herbert and Leonora were married in 1969. Together they built a home and moved to Malibu in 1975. They enjoyed the clean air, beautiful views, casual lifestyle and friendly neighbors. They enjoyed the company of their three grandchildren every summer. They had endless energy to walk to the beach, read stories from the library, enjoy zucchini and chives from the garden, teach their grandchildren how to drive in the local school parking lot and hit tennis balls against the driveway retaining wall. Despite all of the ugly things that each had encountered during their lives, they were always full of laughter and joy and had spirits that were endearing to everyone they met.
Although Leonora found it too painful to publically recount her experiences during the war, Herbert recorded his war history as part of the Shoah Foundation's Holocaust Remembrance Project. He also shared his experience with others at Malibu Jewish Synagogue in his later years.
The bond between Leonora and Herbert was so strong that one could not live without the other. They are loved and remembered dearly by their family, friends and acquaintances forever.