In commemoration of Yom Hashoah, the community is invited to hear the captivating story of Roman Kent, a survivor of the Holocaust, on Sunday, April 23, at 8 p.m. at Great Neck Synagogue, 26 Old Mill Rd. Kent will enable all to become witnesses to his first-hand account of the Holocaust.
Kent is a survivor—in every sense of the word. Born Roman Kniker and raised in Lodz, Poland, in the years just prior to World War II, his happy, carefree youth was turned upside down in September 1939 with the arrival of the German army at the doorsteps of his family’s country house. For the next six years, he and his family would suffer the indignities, deprivation and loss that defined the existence of Eastern European Jews during that terrible period. Only he, his sister Renia and his brother, Leon, would survive the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and other German concentration camps. Even the adored family dog, Lala, would fall victim to Nazi cruelty.
His parents and one sister did not survive. It was a miracle that Leon was able to remain at his side throughout the war, which helped him endure the atrocities he experienced in the camps. After arriving in the United States as teenagers, the brothers were cared for in a loving home in Atlanta, GA. Leon went on to become a prominent neurosurgeon but died quite young a number of years ago. Renia settled in Sweden, where she still resides today.
Kent entered the business world after attending Emory University in Atlanta. In classic rags-to-riches style, he used the hard-learned lessons of his youth to become first a successful businessman in many import/export enterprises and then an internationally known voice for Holocaust survivors worldwide. He became involved with helping needy survivors after reading a New York Times column many years ago listing names of Holocaust survivors among the neediest individuals in the area. He is a philanthropist and humanitarian who has dedicated his life to helping survivors in need, as well as the community at large.
He remains active in a number of organizations commemorating the memory of the Holocaust and Holocaust-related issues. Among other positions, he is currently chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and treasurer and key negotiator of the Claims Conference, where he continues to fight for moral justice on behalf of his fellow survivors. He has worked with presidents, senators, congressmen, ambassadors and a foreign dignitaries while fighting to restore the rights, stolen property and, most importantly, lost dignity of fellow survivors.
He lives in New York City with his wife, Hannah, with whom he has been married for more than 50 years. They have two children and three grandchildren. Kent is also the author of two books, his autobiography entitled Courage Was My Only Option and My Dog Lala. He also produced an award-winning documentary, Children of the Holocaust, partially filmed in Auschwitz, which was honored at the 1980 New York International Film Festival.
For his heartfelt dedication to helping needy survivors and the community at large, he has received countless prestigious tributes and awards. In 1996, the borough president of Manhattan issued the Proclamation of Roman R. Kent Day. His many accomplishments have been acknowledged with accolades, such as the Recognition of Goodness Award in 1995, the Elie Wiesel Holocaust Remembrance Award in 2000 and the Schulweis Award from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in 2000. The Commander’s Cross of Merit, the highest civilian award given by the Polish government, was bestowed upon him in 2005.
Kent is a self-made man who is an inspiration to all who know him and will become an inspiration to all who hear his life story. For more information, call the Great Neck Synagogue at 516-487-6100.