Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor, author, educator, and human rights activist from Williston Park, has passed away. He was 91.
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1929, he grew up playing soccer with his parents and brother, Bondi, until the Nazi invasion in 1938, when Jews were not permitted in the park, then the beach, and he was kicked out of school. His family fled to Hungary, but in 1944 when Roth was 14, he and his relatives were captured by the Nazis and forced into the Auschwitz concentration camp. Upon arrival, his grandparents, aunt, and cousin were sent to the gas chambers.
After surviving Auschwitz, Roth and his brother were forced on a death march to Buchenwald, another Nazi concentration camp. Bondi later died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but Roth and thousands of other prisoners were freed when Buchenwald was liberated in 1945.
Two years later, he and his parents emigrated to Brooklyn, where he completed high school in three semesters. In 1950, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After his military service, he attended Polytechnic University in Brooklyn to earn his master’s degree in engineering and worked in the electrical engineering field for years, retiring in the early 1990s.
Robert, Roth’s son, told the Press, “One word he never really knew the meaning of too well was leisure.” Robert continued, “Considering where he came from … he really did see good in people.”
He belonged to Temple Judea of Manhasset, where he served as director of the Holocaust Resource Center, traveling around the world to educate people of all ages about the Holocaust.
“We have chosen to honor Roth by changing the name of the center from the Temple Judea Holocaust Resource Center to the Irving Roth Holocaust Resource Center,” said the temple’s leader Rabbi Todd Chizner. “Every time he spoke it was new … It would be eye opening.”
One of the many educational programs Roth developed was the Adopt-A-Survivor program, which allows a student interview a Holocaust survivor. In 2045, 100 years after Auschwitz’s liberation, the interviewer will share the survivor’s story to continue the memory. The program has been adopted by Holocaust centers around the world with thousands of participants.
Roth also shared his story in a book, Bondi’s Brother: A Story of Love, Loss, Betrayal and Liberation and was featured in a 2020 documentary called Never Again? about the horrors of anti-Semitism.
Donna Rosenblum, who worked with Roth for years, spoke about his views on history.
“When you teach history, it’s not about the places and the events, it’s about the people…” she said. He would ask, “Will you do that for me? Will you speak for me when I cannot speak?”
Roth is survived by his partner Myrna, his sons Robert and Edward and many loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren.