In a case that likely has more than a few people checking their own personal genealogy, New York authorities say that a 97-year old who died last year left behind an estate valued at nearly $40 million but no heirs and no will.
Roman Blum survived the Holocaust and came to the US after World War II, where he became a successful real estate developer.
Blum married another Holocaust survivor, but she died in 1992 and the couple had no children.
Despite the advice of numerous friends, Blum declined to make a will for himself, leaving the largest unclaimed estate in New York State history, according to the state comptroller’s office.
A friend summed up the situation as only a New Yorker can:
“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Blum after doing carpentry work for him in the 1970s.
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I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this was not put together by the typical Facebook user.
Many nations suffered horribly during the carnage of World War II: China, the USSR and Yugoslavia were among those that suffered massive destruction and population loss at the hands of the Axis powers during the conflict.
While it’s impossible to say which country got the worst of it, no one will dispute that putting Poland near the top of the list is a safe bet.
The Poles had the misfortune of not only being involved in the Second World War from Day 1 on Sept. 1, 1939, when the Nazis invaded, until Germany’s capitulation in May 1945, it also lost a staggering 20 percent of its population.
Many histories deal with the greatest crime of the war years: the annihilation of Europe’s Jews. That chiefly took place in occupied Poland, and the largest number of its victims were citizens of the pre-war republic. But these are books about the Holocaust, not about Poland. Books about Poland abound too. Some deal with the spectacular military events of the war: the Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Others have highlighted the great neglected scandals of the war, such as the Soviet massacre of 20,000 captured Polish officers. A book called “Dark Side of the Moon” tried to alert the West to the Soviet deportation of hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians to privation and death. There are even books about Wojtek, a bear cub adopted by Polish soldiers, who drank beer, ate cigarettes, carried ammunition and died in a zoo in Scotland.
For decades Soviet officials blamed the massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war during World War II on the Nazis. The truth didn’t officially come out until 50 years later, when Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admitted his nation’s responsibility for the mass slaughter.
However, recently declassified documents, released Monday, show that American POWs sent secret coded messages to Washington, DC, with news regarding the massacre at the Katyn Forest that offered proof that the Germans could not have committed the killings.
The information, though, was suppressed by the US government, possibly because President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t want to draw the ire of Soviet leader Josef Stalin, whom the Americans needed to help defeat Germany and Japan, according to The Associated Press.
The Katyn massacre was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the Soviet secret police the spring of 1940. The victims were murdered with pistol shots to the back of the head, killed in the Katyn Forest in Russia, Kalinin and Kharkiv prisons, and elsewhere.
Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the remainder were Polish intelligentsia arrested for allegedly being “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.”
The Soviets’ aim was to eliminate a military and intellectual elite that would have put up stiff resistance to Soviet control, according to The Associated Press.
A 2004 report by the Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation said the killings were specifically intended destroy the strength of the Polish nation: “The physical elimination of these people was meant to prevent the rebirth of Polish statehood based on their intellectual potential.”
August Kowalczyk, the last surviving member of a small group of prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz in 1942, died earlier this week at age 90.
As a Polish soldier fighting the Nazis, Kowalczyk was captured and sent to the German concentration camp in December 1940, when it was used mainly for Polish military and political prisoners.
He was among a group of 50 prisoners who attempted an escape in June 1942.
All but nine were killed, and Kowalczyk was believed to be the last survivor of the group, according to jewishjournal.com.
Kowalczyk may have benefitted from being born in Oświęcim, very near where the Auschwitz camp was built.
The substance alleged to have been used to assassinate Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 is a radioactive element discovered by the famed scientific duo of Marie and Pierre Curie more than a century ago.
Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qidwa claimed Thursday that Israel poisoned the former Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman with the lethal dose of polonium, discovered by the Curies in 1898 and named for Marie Curie’s native land of Poland.
Polonium was the first element discovered by the Curies while they were investigating the cause of radioactivity in pitchblende, a uranium-rich mineral and ore.
Pitchblende, after removal of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium, was found to be more radioactive than both the uranium and thorium combined. This spurred the Curies to find additional radioactive elements.
The Curies first culled out polonium from the pitchblende, and a few years later also isolated radium, according to science writer John Emsley in his book Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements.
The choice of the name Polonium was not without controversy.
It now appears that the aircraft German researchers have been working to recover from the floor of the Baltic Sea over the past week is not a Stuka dive bomber, as originally thought, but a Junkers Ju88 bomber (see example above).
Researchers say that in addition to reclassifying the German aircraft, they’ve also found human remains in the wreckage.
Enough of the plane has now been recovered to make clear it is not a single-engine Stuka, but a twin-engine Junkers Ju88, according to German Military Historical Museum spokesman Capt. Sebastian Bangert.
The two Junkers-manufactured planes shared several parts – including the engines on many models – and from the way the aircraft in question sat on the seabed, it appeared to have been a Stuka, according to an Associated Press report.
However, now that a wing section has been recovered, it’s clearly part of a larger Ju88, Bangert said.
“It looked just like the Stuka in the underwater pictures – everything that we had brought up had been pieces that were used in the Ju87 – so there was no reason to doubt it,” he said. “But this find is perhaps historically even more important.”
Among the remains found by divers is a partial skull, which researchers hope to be able to identify, according to the wire service.
The Stuka dive bomber gained notoriety in the opening hours of World War II when the German aircraft, with sirens wailing, dropped bombs on the Polish town of Wielun, killing some 1,200 civilians in what is considered one of the first terror bombings in history.
Stukas produced a distinctive wail as they dove nearly vertical to release their payload or strafe civilians or military targets with their machine guns. The piercing siren is still a mainstay of World War II videos shown today.
This week, German military divers are working to hoist the wreck of a Stuka dive bomber from the floor of the Baltic Sea, one of the few known Stukas still in existence in any condition, according to The Associated Press.
Divers have been working over the past week to prepare the bomber to be hoisted to the surface, using fire hoses to carefully free it from the sand. They have already brought up smaller pieces and also hauled up its motor over the weekend, the wire service reported.
They are now working to free the main 30-foot fuselage piece and expect to bring it up on today if weather permits, said Capt. Sebastian Bangert, a spokesman from the German Military Historical Museum in Dresden, which is running the recovery operation.
Initial reports are that the fuselage is in good condition despite having spent the last seven decades at the bottom of the sea, he said.
One of the most interesting features that WordPress offers is the ability of users to determine what countries they’re generating traffic from.
Beginning in late February, WordPress, the platform on which I host this site, added a feature which allows bloggers to track visits by country on a daily, weekly, monthly and overall basis.
Some of the viewership statistics for this blog have been rather astonishing, not to mention mystifying, to say the least. It’s not so much total numbers that have me scratching my head, but where the figures are coming from.
The five countries where the Cotton Boll Conspiracy has generated the most traffic is hardly a surprise; the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and India are all English-speaking nations, or, in the case of India, has a significant portion of its population that speaks English.
The next five countries are a little less predictable: Germany, France, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands. However, English is a popular secondary language in most, if not all, those nations.
Then with Nos. 11-15 it starts to get a bit odd. Visitors from Spain, the Philippines, Brazil, Sweden and Poland have tallied over 1,250 visits between them in less than three months.
More than 90 years after first enlisting, a 112-year-old Polish officer has been promoted to captain.
Poland’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that Józef Kowalski, a veteran of both the 1919-21 Polish-Soviet War and World War II, had been promoted from lieutenant to captain.
In a statement, the ministry said that Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak visited Kowalski in a nursing home in Tursk, in western Poland, on Thursday to award him his promotion, according to The Associated Press.
Kowalski was born Feb. 2, 1900, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He fought in a Polish cavalry unit formed during World War I, the 22nd Uhlan Regiment, but given that Kowalski is not listed as a veteran of the Great War, he apparently did not see action during the bloody 1914-18 conflict.
Kowalski is listed as the only survivor of Poland’s victorious war against Bolshevik Russia, which broke out in February 1919. It said that after the war he studied at a cavalry school but chose to return to his family farm.
The Polish-Soviet War pitted the newly formed Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine against the Poland and the Ukrainian People’s Republic.