How much do we know about Frank Lowy and his beloved Israel?

In my book My Israel Question I discuss the role of Australian Jewish billionaire Frank Lowy and his closeness to Israel.

This story, in Haaretz yesterday, reveals both his unhealthy relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and largely unreported role in supporting the Zionist state:

The event on Thursday afternoon at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland was extraordinary and unprecedented in the history of that place. Its existence had been kept under wraps and no official invitation was sent out. The organizers were uneasy about talking about it and forbade participants from talking to the media. However, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was supposed to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the event, gave away the secret.

Auschwitz supplied the answer to the question where Olmert was while an investigation connected with him was under way in Israel (the Holyland affair), and in doing so publicized the ceremony’s existence. On Wednesday afternoon, a day before the ceremony, it transpired that Olmert had canceled his participation. The official reason: He was returning to Israel because of the investigation.

What was the secret and why did the organizers, headed by Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal, decide to keep the event quiet? It turns out that the monument – an authentic freight car that was used to transport Jews to the death camps – was supposed to commemorate the members of a private family, in return for a tidy sum. This type of commemoration is contrary to the clear policy of the memorial site, which is devoted to perpetuating the suffering and memory of all the camp’s inmates and not only those whose relatives who can afford a private memorial.

The donor is Frank Lowy, an Australian tycoon and a friend of Olmert. That is why the former prime minister was invited to the ceremony. Lowy’s name was mentioned prominently in the Bank Leumi affair, in which Olmert was suspected of trying to tilt a tender in his friend’s favor. The case was closed for lack of evidence.

Lowy’s father, Hugo, was one of the 1,600,000 people murdered at the camp. Lowy paid for the memorial in his name in the form of a freight car that was used for transporting Jews to Birkenau. In addition, he committed himself to donating something to the Auschwitz site. The sign that was placed at the new memorial reads: “The train car was donated and restored by the sons of Hugo Lowy, who was put to death here in May 1944.”

Lowy has every right to ask to memorialize his father who was killed in the Holocaust, in any way he sees fit. However for fear of public criticism, or other reasons he does not wish to divulge, Lowy instructed Keren Hayesod – UIA head Greg Masel to keep a low profile over the matter. Lowy was not available for comment before publication.

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