Widow of Holocaust survivor donates $22 million to German zoo

Though history, time and distance had separated them, Elizabeth and Arnulf never forgot Cologne or the beloved zoo.

September 4, 2017 11:04
1 minute read.
Widow of Holocaust survivor donates $22 million to German zoo

UNESCO World Heritage Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern railway bridge along the Rhine. (photo credit: REUTERS/INA FASSBENDER)


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A zoo in Germany is about to receive a very special — and very large — gift.

Elizabeth Reichert, a German-native who lives in New Jersey, pledged $22 million to the Cologne Zoo in memory of her late husband Arnulf, who died in 1998.

“We never forgot Cologne,” Reichert, 93, told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper on Friday.

“It meant a lot to my husband,” she explained further to ABC News. “That was his wish — that whatever we have when we pass away should be donated to the zoo of Cologne.”

Both she and Arnulf grew up in Cologne before the start of the Second World War.

After Hitler's rise to power, Jews in Cologne — like all Jewish communities in Germany — were threatened both physically and economically. Reichert's aunt resisted Nazi ideology and hid one of their Jewish neighbors who was set to be deported to a concentration camp.

Soon after, Elizabeth joined the Resistance as a courier. That's how she met Arnulf, a Jewish man living in hiding, in 1944.

They married in 1945 after the Allies liberated Cologne and the couple moved to Israel some years later. After five years in the young Jewish state, the couple moved to and settled in New Jersey.

Though history, time and distance had separated them, Elizabeth and Arnulf never forgot Cologne or the beloved zoo.

In 1954, the couple even brought a little token of Israel to the zoo when they donated a soft-shelled turtle they found in the Jordan River.

Elizabeth's newest contribution is slightly larger. Elizabeth will donate 6000 euros every month to the zoo for the rest of her life.

The rest of the $22 million donation will go to the Arnulf Reichert Foundation, which will finance various zoo projects, including the addition of a South American pavilion that will bear his name.

“It’s in memory of my husband, who was a wonderful human being,” Elizabeth told ABC News.

“We have no children,” she added. “Our children are the zoo.”

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