Yeshiva University had prepared, through its June 16 corporate dinner here, to honor prominent industrialist J. Peter Grace whose connection with one of the most notorious “desk murderers” of the Holocaust Otto Ambros, a director of the I.G. Farben Chemical Co. during World War II, has been public knowledge for some time.
A spokesman for the university told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the dinner was cancelled this morning and that refunds were being made to holders of reservations for the $150-a-plate affair. But another person identified as a spokesman for Yeshiva University’s fundraising department told the JTA that the event has been “postponed.” He said he had no idea when the dinner would be re-scheduled.
According to advance publicity, Grace, chief executive officer of W.R. Grace and Co., an international chemical concern, was to “receive the University’s Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding leadership in civic and humanitarian endeavors.”
There is documentation that Grace has both personally and corporately utilized and interceded in behalf of convicted war criminal Ambros, who for years has been a highly paid consultant of W.R. Grace and Co. According to a January 13, 1980 ABC-TV Network documentary entitled “Escape from Justice: Nazi War Criminals in America,” Ambros “was helped in a bid to enter the United States by this man, J. Peter Grace, President of W.R. Grace and Company … Grace officials confirmed a business relationship between their corporation and Ambros. Today, Otto Ambros does consulting work for W.R. Grace and Company ….”
The ABC script also says: “Ambros was a chemist and director of the notorious I.G. Farben Chemical Company which supplied gasoline and rubber for Hitler’s war effort. Ambros is credited with developing a form of synthetic rubber, called buna, and he played a supervisory role in the construction of Farben’s buna plant in the Polish village of Auschwitz …. For his role there, Otto Ambros was convicted of slavery and mass murder and sentenced to eight years in prison.”
Ambros served less than three years of his sentence, and then was able to enter the United States through Project Paperclip, a high level intelligence operation begun by the U.S. as early as 1944 to bring German and Austrian scientists and technicians here.
The ABC program presented actual documents to viewers and stated: “This copy of an internal State Department document describes how J. Peter Grace helped Otto Ambros in his efforts to enter the United States. In a memorandum to the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Grace acknowledges that Ambros was a war criminal. But he adds that in the years he’s known Ambros, and I quote here, ‘we have developed a very deep admiration, not only for his ability but more important for his character in terms of truthfulness and integrity.'”
As a consequence of individual protests regarding the scheduled dinner to honor Grace, a spokesman for Yeshiva University told JTA on Thursday that the dinner had been cancelled. “We are not sitting in judgement of Mr. Grace — that’s not our role,” he said. “But a lot of us are shocked to discover what we did. There are Holocaust survivors among our top people, and a goodly number of people at Yeshiva University have strong feelings. Until this became unraveled, we had no idea. We feel it is in the best interests of what Yeshiva University stands for to cancel the dinner.”
LETTER TO LAMM
The JTA first learned of the individual protests regarding the honor to Grace from Charles R. Allen, Jr., whom the media has described as the “preeminent authority on Nazi war criminals in America.” On May 21, Allen wrote a letter to Dr. Norman Lamm, Yeshiva University President, expressing his shock at the school’s announcement of the award to Grace.
Calling Yeshiva University a “center of learning and scholarship” and “a living symbol ot intellectual, scientific and artistic gifts which the Jewish people have brought to all peoples,” Allen said in the letter, “I protest this award to Mr. Grace …. Evidence shows indisputably that Ambros was given a special visitor’s visa on at least three other occasions (plus the one documented on ABC-TV) in 1968, 1969 and 1971 at the behest of J. Peter Grace.”
In addition to the Grace connection with Ambros, Allen cited “recently increased participation in Grace equity by the Flick interests of Germany (the Federal Republic) …..(See Case V, U.S. Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, for the record of its officials’ guilt in war crimes, spoilation, deportation and mass murder, as well as extensive financing of Hitler, the NSDAP (Nazi Party) and Himmler’s ‘Circle of Friends.’)”
Allen pointed out further, in his letter to Lamm, that Ambros was Nazi Germany’s “authority on poison gas” and I.G. Farben held a majority interest in the company which manufactured and delivered deadly zyklon B gas to the SS.
A substantial corporate contributor to Yeshiva University protested the announcement of the award, and told the JTA: “If the dinner is on, there will not only be a demonstration outside, but a disruption inside, from people who will buy tickets. I feel it is a disgrace for one Jewish organization to picket another one, but it is more of a disgrace to honor this man.”
Yeshiva University officials had been in touch with W.R. Grace and Company before their decision to cancel the dinner the JTA learned. A Yeshiva spokesman told JTA that the Grace Company officials claimed Grace had been honored two years earlier by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Abraham Foxman, ADL Associate Director, “absolutely” denied this claim, adding that the possibility was discussed and vetoed because of allegations of Grace’s connection with Ambros.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.