A $40 million fortune belonging to a Holocaust survivor is currently heir-less, and may end up going to New York State if no relative is found.
Roman Blum died at age 97 in January of 2012 after working as a real estate developer most of his life. Blum emigrated from Poland to New York after World War II with his wife Eva -- who was also a Holocaust survivor -- in 1949. Eva died back in 1992, and the couple had no children, either.
According to a New York Times profile, Blum was a mysterious man with a mysterious past. Though he had an immense fortune, Blum did not leave a will. He also claimed to come from Warsaw, Poland, but those close to him say Chelm, Poland was where he grew up. Also, his birthday seems to be on two conflicting dates: Sept. 16, 1914, according to U.S. records, or Sept. 15, according to German records.
Others close to him claim that Blum had a wife and child who died during the Holocaust, but he never spoke of them; the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany does not have record of his alleged wife and child either.
During the war, Blum was living in Poland but then ran into bordering Russia, fearing capture. There, he served a prison sentence and then was enlisted by the Russians to fight the Nazis. After the war, Blum lived in a displaced person’s camp, where he met his wife Eva, who had been in Auschwitz.
Then, in 1949, the Blums moved to New York, where Roman became an extremely successful developer and built hundreds of houses around Staten Island.
“He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot,” said Paul Skurka, a friend of Blum’s and fellow Holocaust survivor. The two met back in the 1970s when Skurka was doing carpentry work for Blum.
As of now, Blum’s fortune is being handled by a public administrator, Gary Gotlin, who is selling all of Blum’s jewelry, furniture and properties. Gotlin is using the funds to pay Blum’s taxes as well as to pay for an extensive search for an heir. If no heir is found, the money will go to the state of New York.
“I spoke to Roman many times before he passed away, and he knew what to do, how to name beneficiaries,” said Mason D. Corn, his accountant and friend for 30 years. “Two weeks before he died, I had finally gotten him to sit down. He saw the end was coming. He was becoming mentally feeble. We agreed. I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘O.K., when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close, but we missed the boat.”