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Arno Lustiger, historian and Holocaust survivor, dies at 88

JTA

May 16, 2012 | 12:04 pm

Arno Lustiger in 2005.

Arno Lustiger in 2005.

Arno Lustiger, a Holocaust survivor and historian who put a spotlight on Jewish resistance against the Nazis, has died.

Lustiger died Tuesday in Frankfurt, Germany, at the age of 88.

Lustiger’s “greatest contribution for all time” was in “rescuing from oblivion the story of Jewish resistance in the Shoah,” Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement Wednesday. “Not only did Arno Lustiger contribute greatly to the return of Jewish life in Frankfurt, he also made an important contribution to education and analysis about the darkest chapter of German history through his research on Jewish resistance and on non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during World War II.”

Lustiger, a native of Bendzin, survived six concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. His father and brother were murdered.

In April 1945, Lustiger escaped a death march and was rescued by U.S. soldiers. He and his mother and sisters ended up in a displaced persons camp in Frankfurt, where Lustiger became a reporter for the Yiddish newspaper. His plans to go to America fell through, and he ended up staying in Frankfurt, where he helped build the postwar Jewish community as well as a successful women’s fashion business.

He sold the business in the 1980s to focus on academic work, for which he received international praise. From 2004 to 2006 he was a guest professor at the Fritz Bauer Institute, the Frankfurt-based study and documentation center on the Holocaust. Among his contributions are works on Jewish volunteers fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War; Stalin’s persecution of Jews; and non-Jewish rescuers as well as Jewish heroism during World War II.

In his work on the rescuers and heroism, titled “Fighting to the Death,” Lustiger vehemently countered the common notion that Jews went “like sheep to the slaughter.”

According to reports, Lustiger for decades avoided talking about his own history, even with family. In 2007 he famously said Kaddish at the funeral in Paris of his cousin, French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who had converted to Catholicism in Nazi-occupied France.

In 2005, addressing the German Parliament on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lustiger warned that today’s anti-Semitism often comes in the guise of exaggerated criticism of Israel.

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