Irving Belfer, Shoah survivor who built a museum, dies at 97


Irving Belfer, a Holocaust survivor who built what had become a remarkable Holocaust-themed museum in his own home, died in Los Angeles at 97 on Jan. 20.

Belfer collected and constructed more than 400 items, including miniature buildings and personal artifacts that he showed to visitors for years until he moved into a senior citizens center. The collection will have a permanent home in a new Jewish school under construction in a Los Angeles suburb


Belfer was known as the “Museum Man.” His handmade collection included dozens of hanukkiot, flags, maps, and miniature buildings, including replica synagogues with working electric chandeliers, bimot, seats, and women’s sections.

A local website in Los Angeles offered this description of the rest of his collection:

A den in the back houses two heartbreaking Holocaust memorials. A replica concentration camp surrounded by barbed wire bears the ominous motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Makes You Free"), infamously built into the gate of the death camp at Auschwitz.

The 6 million murdered Jews are represented by 600 stars. Six guard towers containing six armed Nazi guards are lined up along one side. The names of 18 death camps are inscribed on the opposite wall. Six electric candles light the display.

On the opposite side of the room, in a glass case, is a construction that bears the names of the concentration camps and the number of Jews who died in each one. Six lighted chimneys illuminate the memorial.

See Belfer show a visitor around his personal museum in this video.

Belfer was born in Lodz, Poland. At 28, he was sent to a series of concentration camps. He first wife, Eva, and 4-year-old son, Baruch, died in Treblinka. His father and four of his five siblings were killed, as well. He spent five years in a German hospital after being liberated in 1945. He moved to the US in 1951 and settled in Pasadena, Calif., where he worked as an upholstery fabric cutter and then ran two liquor stores.

A shadchan matched Belfer with his second wife, Ruth, to whom he was married for 48 years. He is survived by a daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, one a rabbi, and two great-grandchildren.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at

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