The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has 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 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’s goal is to raise an additional $200 million for its endowment fund.
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.
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.