Roman Kent (né Kniker) was born in Lodz, Poland in 1929 to Emanuel and Sonia Kniker. Emanuel owned a textile factory and the family lived a comfortable lifestyle until the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Roman and his family were forced to relocate to the Lodz Ghetto, where his father died in 1943 due to the terrible living conditions.

In 1944, the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated and its inhabitants were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where Roman and his younger brother Leon were separated from their mother and sisters. The brothers were transferred to two other camps and finally liberated in April 1945 on a death march to Dachau. Their mother, they learned later, died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but their sisters survived and were living in Sweden – but their sister Dasza died there from sickness she contracted at Auschwitz.

Roman and his brother immigrated to the United States in 1946 as part of a resettlement program for orphans after World War II. They moved to Atlanta and studied at Emory University. Leon became a neurosurgeon, and Roman became a businessman in the import-export trade. Roman met his wife Hannah on a visit to the New York area, where they eventually lived and raised a family. They had two children, three grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

In the later part of his life, Roman devoted himself to bearing witness to the Holocaust and to philanthropic causes focused on Holocaust education. He served as President of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and as Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and was a member of the Claims Conference Leadership Council  as well as its Board of Directors.

Roman believed in the power of education and of words. In 2016, he was featured at UNESCO’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration on January 27. In an article before the event, he said, “Now if I had the power I would issue an Eleventh Commandment to the world which would be ‘Do not be a bystander.’ It was indifference and the silence of people which led to the Holocaust. I would tell people not to turn away, to say something.”

Roman Kent died on May 21, 2021, at the age of 92. May his work to speak out and to educate others about intolerance live on, and may his memory be a blessing.

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous