September 27, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received a gift of $17.2 million from the estate of Eric F. Ross of Palm Beach, FL, and West Orange, NJ. It is the largest single gift to the institution. Eric and his late wife, Lore, both of whom were refugees from Nazi Germany, donated more than $12 million to the institution during their lifetimes. In total, they have contributed more than $30 million to the Museum.
This gift will support the Museum’s endowment fund, which will provide vital permanent resources to secure the Museum’s future and global impact, ensuring that the timeless lessons of the Holocaust remain a transformative force in the 21st century. Over the next eight years, the Museum aims to raise an additional $200 million for its endowment fund.
“Having experienced firsthand Nazi antisemitism and hatred, Eric and Lore Ross became determined and generous investors in Holocaust education,” says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “Their loss and suffering inspired remarkable generosity.”
The Rosses were the inaugural members of the Museum’s Chairman’s Circle, comprising individuals and organizations who donated at least $10 million to the Museum. In 1998, they made a $5 million gift to dedicate the Museum’s Ross Administrative Center in memory of Eric’s parents, Albert and Regina Rosenberg, who were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In addition to these unparalleled gifts, during their lifetimes, they made a unique contribution to the Museum by sponsoring four challenge grants, offering to match others’ donations to the Museum. These challenge grants raised more than $4 million and resulted in 1,500 new Museum donors.
“Inspiring others to give was a central tenet of the Rosses’ philanthropic efforts,” continues Bloomfield. “While remarkably generous, they also knew much more remains to be done to ensure the institution’s continued ability to make an impact. They truly led by example.”
Eric Ross also held a leadership role in the institution, having been appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 2003 by President George W. Bush.
Eric Ross was born in Dortmund, Germany. In 1938, he fled Nazi Germany and arrived in the U.S. on November 9, the day of Kristallnacht. Shortly after that, Lore Blumenthal, whom Eric had known in Germany, left for Paris. As a stateless person, she was sent to a camp at Gurs in southern France. She was able to escape and fled over the Pyrenees Mountains, ending up in Lisbon, and from there made it to America. Eric and Lore were reunited as young refugees in New York.
Eric returned to Europe in 1942 as a soldier in the U.S. Army. He was one of the “Ritchie Boys,” a group of German-speaking soldiers who received special training at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, and was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. After the war, he founded Alpha Chemical & Plastics in Newark, and ten years later founded Mercer Plastics Company, based in Florida. He sold both companies in 1985. He and Lore devoted their lives to family and extensive philanthropy.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.