EASTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Jack Polak, a longtime Eastchester resident, founder of Anne Frank Center USA and founding board member of the Westchester Holocaust Education Center in Purchase, died on Friday, Jan. 9, at the age of 102.
He was born in Amsterdam on Dec. 31, 1912. When the Germans invaded The Netherlands, he was deported to Westerbork, a transit camp where he worked as a school principal.
He married Catharina (Ina) Soep (1923-2014), whom he had courted in the camps.
He immigrated to the United States in 1951 with his wife and two small sons, and began building an investment firm and working for many organizations to teach the lessons of the Holocaust through his own experiences.
Polak was a founder and served as president and chairman of the Anne Frank Center USA for many years, and has been the keynote speaker nationwide for over 100 openings of the Anne Frank traveling exhibitions.
He was the chairman emeritus of the AFC-USA, and worked in that capacity as a speaker in schools, churches, synagogues and private organizations.
He was a founding board member of the Westchester Holocaust Education Center in Purchase and a member of the New York state Commission on the Holocaust.
In 2004, Polak received an honorary doctorate from Hofstra University, and he has received the Louis E. Yavner Award, an honor for a New York state resident who has demonstrated distinguished contributions related to teaching the Holocaust and human rights.
On his 80th birthday, he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for his work as the president of the AFC-USA and for speaking about the decimated Jewish population of the Netherlands at universities and myriad organizations in the United States.
He and Ina are survived by three children, Frederick B. Polak (Carrie), Anthony Polak (Amy) and Margrit Polak Shield (Harvey); five grandchildren, Joshua (Sarah), Jamie (Abbie), Ann (Jordan), Emily and Sofia; and seven great-grandchildren, Ava, Isabel, Eden, Owen, Miles, Lilah and Jocelyn.
Polak is also survived by sisters Betty Bausch, who lives in The Netherlands and Israel, and Liesje Auerbach, who lives in Israel.
Polak's family seeks donations to the Anne Frank Center USA as gestures to help carry on his legacy at www.annefrank.com.
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