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.
A report in the New York Times details Blum’s life, or at least attempts to do so.
- He claimed he was from Warsaw, but many who knew him said he actually came from Chelm, which is east-south-east of Warsaw;
- Several individuals who were close to Blum said that prior to the war he had a wife and child who ultimately perished in the Holocaust. However, Blum seems never to have talked of them, and the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has no record of them in its database; and
- Blum’s precise birthdate is not even clear: some records state it as Sept. 15, 1914, others as Sept. 16, 1914.
Public officials are conducting an in-depth search for a will and will hire a genealogist to search for relatives. If none are identified, the money will pass into the state’s coffers, according to the Times.
Details of Blum’s life prior to arriving in the US was pieced together by the Times through interviews with a circle of fellow Holocaust survivors who met in displaced persons camps after the war.
They said that when war broke out, Blum was in Poland and, fearing capture, ran alone across the border to Soviet Union, where he was briefly detained and placed in prison. The Soviets soon released him along with thousands of other prisoners to fight the Nazis.
If that account is true, than Blum likely would have crossed into Russia in the summer of 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, ending the alliance that had existed between the two countries and had allowed to invade and partition Poland.
In the months after the war, Blum met a family of survivors with two daughters. One of them, Eva, had been in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.
He married her and the following year the pair made their way to Zeilsheim, a displaced persons camp on the outskirts of Frankfurt.
The Blums came to New York in 1949 and settled in Queens. There, they joined a tight-knit community of survivors, many of whom they knew from the Zeilsheim camp, according to the Times.
Sadly, Blum was apparently close to finally making out a will when he died.
“I spoke to Roman many times before he passed away, and he knew what to do, how to name beneficiaries,” Mason D. Corn, Blum’s accountant and friend for 30 years, told the publication.
“Two weeks before he died, I had finally gotten him to sit down,” Corn said. “He saw the end was coming. He was becoming mentally feeble. We agreed. I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘OK, when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat.”