April 25, 1917
Izbica Kujawska, Kingdom of Poland
November 22, 2017 (aged 100)|
Beverly Hills, California, US
|Place of burial||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Residence||Norco, California, US|
David (m. 1939)|
Harry Eisen (m. 1945–2012)
Hilda Eisen (née Gimpel; April 25, 1917 – November 22, 2017) was a Polish-American businessperson, philanthropist, and Holocaust survivor.
Early life[edit | edit source]
Hilda Gimpel was born on April 25, 1917 in Izbica Kujawska, then part of the Kingdom of Poland (1917–1918). She was the second of seven children. Her mother was a grain dealer and her father a baker. She later reflected that she had a "peaceful girlhood" and would often dance to Jewish music and go to the movies.
In 1939 Hilda Eisen was 22 years old when she and her first husband were taken from their Polish neighborhood which was invaded by Nazi soldiers and imprisoned in the Lublin ghetto. When she and her husband, David, were taken from their neighborhood they were taken by cattle truck to labor camps. A Nazi soldier helped Hilda to escape and join resistance fighters in The Parczew Forest. Later, Hilda was recaptured by German forces and taken to a police station where she was interrogated. Hilda counteracted and jumped from a second-story window, breaking her foot. In a reattempt at escaping, a Nazi soldier showed Hilda compassion by shooting lower than the high fence she and her grandson, Michael Rubinstein, were scrambling to get over.
After the war, Hilda learned she had lost her parents and all five siblings to the Holocaust. Her husband, David, died as a member of the resistance fighters searching for Hilda. Surviving for two winters and forced to sleep on the ground, Hilda hoped a Russian officer would escort her to visit her husband's grave. Cursing her, the officer said her husband was "lucky" to have someone weep for him. No one would cry for her. "So why was it important to visit graves?" the officer asked. Hilda realized the officer had a point and there was no time for crying. She simply said "You're going to see what the next day will bring." Hilda was to marry another survivor, Harry Eisen. They moved to California and became millionaires with a large chicken egg distribution. Hilda died on November 22, 2017 and was survived by her daughters Ruth Eisen, Mary Cramer, and Francis Miller, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. A son, Howard, had died in 2014.
Career[edit | edit source]
Egg distribution business[edit | edit source]
Eisen sold eggs and raised chickens while her husband also worked at a Vernon, California hot dog factory cleaning meat barrels. Eisen and her husband Harry saved money to purchase 100 chickens and start a business in Arcadia, California. In the 1950s, they moved their business operations to Norco. Their company was later named Norco Ranch Inc. The couple became multimillionaires and philanthropists after the company became the largest egg distributor west of the Rocky Mountains. They later sold the company to an agribusiness in Minnesota. At the time of the sale in 2000, the business had 450 employees and $100 million in annual sales.
Philanthropy[edit | edit source]
The Eisens were prominent members of the Norco community. They funded a resistance against developers for Norco to incorporate in 1964. They later donated $10,000 to the city to help keep it operational. Eisen was known as a "constant voice for the remembrance of the atrocities of World War II." Eisen and her husband were contributors to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and were present at its dedication in 1993. She was a leader of the Lodzer Organization of Southern California, a group of Holocaust survivors who donate to Jewish charities in Israel and locally. In 2016, she donated an ambulance to Magen David Adom for her 99th birthday and in honor of her late husband.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
In 1945, Hilda married a former high school classmate, Harry Eisen, in Munich. In an interview, Eisen stated "I'll tell you the truth: I got married out of fear, being scared to be alone in this world, no family, no friends ... He had the same feeling. He didn't love me, I didn't love him." The couple lived for three years in refugee camps before sailing to New York City in May 1948 on the SS Marine Flasher with no money nor English language skills. They took a train to Los Angeles where a cousin of Harry lived. They lived in Boyle Heights. In 1952, the family moved to Norco. They became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1953.
Eisen was interviewed about her experiences in the Holocaust by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education on June 18, 2001. She died at the age of 100 on November 22, 2017 in Beverly Hills. She had three daughters and a son. Her son predeceased her. She was survived by three daughters, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Eisen was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- "Hilda Eisen, Holocaust Survivor, Philanthropist, 100". Jewish Journal. December 7, 2017. http://jewishjournal.com/culture/lifestyle/obituaries/228445/hilda-eisen-holocaust-survivor-philanthropist-100.
- Hagerty, James R. (December 16, 2017). "Polish Holocaust Survivor Heeded Brutal Advice, Then Moved On". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. https://www.wsj.com/articles/polish-holocaust-survivor-heeded-brutal-advice-then-moved-on-1513350000.
- Marble, Steve. "Hilda Eisen, Holocaust survivor, California entrepreneur and philanthropist, dies at 100 - Los Angeles Times". http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-hilda-eisen-20171215-story.html.
- Hagerty, James R.. "Polish Holocaust Survivor Heeded Brutal Advice, Then Moved On" (in en-US). WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/polish-holocaust-survivor-heeded-brutal-advice-then-moved-on-1513350000.
- Marble, Steve (December 15, 2017). "Hilda Eisen, Holocaust survivor, California entrepreneur and philanthropist, dies at 100". http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-hilda-eisen-20171215-story.html.
- McLellan, Dennis (July 30, 2012). "Harry Eisen dies at 95; Norco Ranch founder". Los Angeles Times. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/la-me-harry-eisen-20120730-story.html.
- Bash, Kevin (2016). Legendary Locals of Norco. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4396-5559-7. OCLC 968017250. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/968017250.
- Hagen, Ryan (December 13, 2017). "Holocaust survivor, philanthropist and Norco Ranch co-founder Hilda Eisen dies" (in en-US). Press Enterprise. https://www.pe.com/2017/12/13/holocaust-survivor-philanthropist-and-norco-ranch-co-founder-hilda-eisen-dies/.
- "USC Shoah Foundation Institute testimony of Hilda Eisen". June 18, 2001. https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/vha51694.
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