Home / News & Videos / News / Leadership, Awards & Events /

After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry

After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry

June 24, 2016

Leadership, Awards & Events

By Seth M. Siegel (On Twitter at @sethmsiegel and LetThereBeWater.com)

How does one overcome almost unimaginable horror and trauma? For Holocaust survivors Howard and Lottie Marcus, the healing came, in part, from the hope that they could help to provide refuge for other Jews who might find themselves at risk.

Lottie and Howard Marcus at BGU in 2005

Lottie and Howard Marcus at BGU in 2005

But after restarting their broken lives in America, this modest couple could never have imagined that they would end up giving what is likely the largest single charitable gift in Israel’s history—$400 million—to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Howard and Lottie were born in pre-Hitler Germany—he in 1909, she in 1916. But they met in America. With the rise of Nazism, both had the foresight, courage and good fortune to leave their native land before it was too late. In 1934, after Nazi goons murdered her brother outside their home in Nuremberg, Germany, the 17-year-old Lottie persuaded her parents to allow her to go to the U.S.

Lottie’s future husband was, by all accounts, a gifted dentist. After the election of Hitler in 1933, Howard made his way to Naples and a professional life there, only to find himself in jeopardy again in 1936, when Mussolini agreed to Hitler’s demand that Italy expel all foreign Jews. As luck would have it, one of Howard’s patients was the U.S. consul general and, in an act of kindness, the official broke U.S. law by backdating the visa request to a period when transit papers were still available.