Elan Steinberg, a longtime advocate for Holocaust survivors, died Friday from complications of lymphatic cancer, the New York Times reported. He was 59. The former World Jewish Congress head won more than $1 billion from Swiss banks for Holocaust victims.
Steinberg was known for his powerful leadership of the congress, ruffling a few feathers during his 26-year tenure. He led the effort to win the $1.2 billion for holocaust victims in the late 1990s, and earlier intervened in Austrian elections to attempt to prevent presidential hopeful Kurt Waldheim (who had hidden his membership in a Nazi unit) from winning. Waldheim later won the presidency.
His leadership was seen as a departure from the Congress’s typical approach.
“For a long time,” Steinberg said, “the World Jewish Congress was meant to be the greatest secret of Jewish life, because the nature of diplomacy after the war was quiet diplomacy. This is a newer, American-style leadership—less timid, more forceful, unashamedly Jewish.”
Steinberg is survived by his wife, three children, and brother.