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Sigmund Rolat, Who Used His Wealth to Memorialize Polish Jews, Dies at 93

WorldSigmund Rolat, Who Used His Wealth to Memorialize Polish Jews, Dies at 93

Sigmund Rolat, a Polish Holocaust survivor who tapped the wealth he accumulated as a businessman in the United States to support cultural projects in his homeland, most notably a museum devoted to the history of Jews in Poland that stands on the grounds of the Warsaw Ghetto, died on May 19 at his home in Alpine, N.J. He was 93.

His son, Geoffrey, confirmed the death.

Mr. Rolat believed that except for the dark chapter of World War II, with Nazi atrocities at concentration camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka in occupied Poland, the history of Polish Jewry was a mystery to most Jews, and most Americans. He donated millions of dollars to help build the interior and other elements of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened in 2014, and he became a major fund-raiser and an influential voice on its board.

“I want the gate of our museum, and not the ‘Arbeit macht frei’ gate, to be the first gate that will be seen by Jews visiting Poland,” Mr. Rolat told Forbes magazine in 2014, referring to the cynical inscription (“Work sets you free”) that greeted inmates when they entered the main Auschwitz concentration camp.

“The Jews should first learn our shared history,” he added. “And then, of course, they should see Auschwitz, but with a better understanding of what happened there.”

The main exhibition at the museum tells the story of Poland’s Jews over 1,000 years, from the Middle Ages to the present, using artifacts, paintings, replicas and interactive installations.


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