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Jewish Journal

Atoning for Sins of the Past

by Steve Getzug

December 9, 1999 | 7:00 pm

As a successful entrepreneur and businessman, George Gregory understood the power of a deal.

For more than 30 years, Gregory had steered Products Research & Chemical Corp. to prominence with innovation after innovation. Hard-charging, intelligent and perseverant, Gregory took his chemical company public and global. Meetings with international business leaders were common, familiar and often profitable.

But it was during an unlikely meeting last September in a suite at the Los Angeles International Airport Hilton that Gregory struck a deal with a German businessman that has brought him much more than money.

It righted an injustice done more than 60 years ago to Gregory's dead father, Max Bergmann, when the Jewish businessman and his partner were forced, during the Nazis rise to power, to sell their Hamburg-based detinning company for 10 cents on the dollar.

"I beg you to accept our sincere apology," Hans-Joachim Kollmeier, the president and chief executive officer of Th. Goldschmidt AG, wrote in an Oct. 24 letter to Gregory that formalized their deal. "As a token of our regret for what occurred to your family at that time, and in accordance with our agreement, we have transferred the amount of 500,000 Deutsche marks to the account of The Jewish Federation/United Jewish Fund."

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