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United States Holocaust Museum receives $17 million gift from estate of refugee
Visitors to the Museum pass under this gate, a cast taken from the original entrance to the Auschwitz death camp, inscribed with the ironic phrase Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes One Free). Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

By: Brett Zongker, Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP).- The estate of a Holocaust refugee who fled to the United States from Germany announced a $17.2 million gift to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday, the museum's largest gift ever.

The gift from the estate of Eric F. Ross of Palm Beach, Fla., and West Orange, N.J., will help build the museum's endowment fund. The museum, located on the National Mall in Washington, announced that it aims to raise $200 million more over the next eight years. It receives federal funding for its operations and raises private funds for programs.

Ross, who died in 2010, and his late wife Lore, previously donated more than $12 million to the museum. In total, they have given more than $30 million.

"Having experienced firsthand Nazi anti-Semitism and hatred, Eric and Lore Ross became determined and generous investors in Holocaust education," museum director Sara Bloomfield said in announcing the gift. "Their loss and suffering inspired remarkable generosity."

After fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Eric Ross returned to Europe in 1942 as a U.S. Army soldier with a group of German-speaking soldiers trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland. They were known as the "Ritchie Boys." Ross was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

After the war, he founded Alpha Chemical and Plastics in Newark, N.J., and later Mercer Plastics Co. in Florida. Ross sold the companies in 1985.

In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Eric Ross to serve on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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