[Congressional Record Volume 144, Number 46 (Thursday, April 23, 1998)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E648-E649]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                        TRIBUTE TO SIGI ZIERING


                            HON. TOM LANTOS

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, April 23, 1998

  Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, today representatives of the Congress, the 
Administration, and the Supreme Court gathered in the Great Rotunda of 
this historic building for the National Civic Commemoration to remember 
the victims of the Holocaust. This annual national memorial service 
pays tribute to the six million Jews who died through senseless and 
systematic Nazi terror and brutality. At this somber commemoration, we 
also honored those heroic American and other Allied forces who 
liberated the Nazi concentration camps over half a century ago.
  Mr. Speaker, this past week Fortune Magazine (April 13, 1998) devoted 
several pages to an article entitled ``Everything in History was 
Against Them,'' which profiles five survivors of Nazi savagery who came 
to the United States penniless and built fortunes here in their adopted 
homeland. It is significant, Mr. Speaker, that four of these five are 
residents of my home state of California. Mr. Sigi Ziering of Los 
Angeles was one of the five that Fortune Magazine selected to highlight 
in this extraordinary article, and I want to pay tribute to him today.
  Sigi Ziering, like the other four singled out by Fortune Magazine, 
has a unique story, but there are common threads to these five tales of 
personal success. The story of the penniless immigrant who succeeds in 
America is a familiar theme in our nation's lore, but these stories 
involve a degree of courage and determination unmatched in the most 
inspiring of Horatio Alger's stories.
  These men were, in the words of author Carol J. Loomis, ``Holocaust 
survivors in the most rigorous sense,'' they ``actually experienced the 
most awful horrors of the Holocaust, enduring a Nazi death camp or a 
concentration camp or one of the ghettos that were essentially holding 
pens for those camps.''
  They picked themselves up ``from the very cruelest of circumstances, 
they traveled to America and prospered as businessmen. They did it, to 
borrow a phrase from Elie Wiesel, when everything in history was 
against them.'' They were teenagers or younger when World War II began. 
They lost six years of their youth and six years of education. ``They 
were deprived of liberty and shorn of dignity. All lost relatives, and 
most lost one or both parents. Each . . . was forced to live constantly 
with the threat of death and the knowledge that next time he might be 
`thumbed' not into a line of prisoners allowed to live, but into 
another line headed for the gas chambers.'' Through luck and the sheer 
will to survive, these were some of the very fortunate who lived to 
tell the story of that horror.
  The second part of their stories is also similar--a variant of the 
American dream. These courageous men came to the United States with 
``little English and less money.'' Despite their lack of friends and 
mentors, they found the drive to succeed. As Loomis notes, ``many 
millions who were unencumbered by the heavy, exhausting baggage of the 
Holocaust had the same opportunities and never reached out to seize 
them as these men did.'' Their success in view of the immense obstacles 
that impeded their path makes their stories all the more remarkable.
  One other element that is also common to these five outstanding 
business leaders--they are ``Founders'' of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial 
Museum here in Washington, D.C. They have shown a strong commitment to 
remembering the brutal horrors of the Holocaust, paying honor to its 
victims, and working to prevent the repetition of this vicious 
  Mr. Speaker, Sigi Ziering is one of the five Holocaust survivors and 
leading American entrepreneurs highlighted in this article. Sigi is the 
Chairman of Diagnostic Products Corporation in Los Angeles. As we here 
in the Congress mark the annual Days of Remembrance in honor of the 
victims of Nazi terror, I am inserting the profile of Sigi Ziering from 
Fortune Magazine to be placed in the Record.

     Sigi Ziering, Los Angeles, Chairman, Diagnostic Products Corp.

       Holocaust survivors, the saying goes, are conditioned not 
     to cry. But on May 8, 1997, when the founders of the 
     Holocaust Memorial Museum met for a reunion--and when the 
     flags of 32 U.S. Army divisions that had liberated the 
     concentration camps were paraded into the rotunda of the U.S. 
     Capitol--Sigi Ziering, today a serious, reflective man of 70, 
     wept. He spoke of this moment in a speech: ``Today I cried 
     because the worst memory of the ghetto and the camps was the 
     feeling of total isolation and total abandonment by the rest 
     of the world. This feeling of utter despair and hopelessness 
     weighed more heavily on us than the constant hunger, the 
     beatings, and the imminent death facing us every minute.'' 
     His tears, he said, were for the millions who never got to 
     see the flags.
       His own ordeal began in Kassel, Germany, where his father, 
     a Polish citizen, was a clothing merchant. In 1939 the father 
     fled to England, expecting his wife and two children--Sigi 
     (then officially Siegfried), 11, and Herman, 12--to follow as 
     soon as they, too, could get visas. Instead, they became 
     trapped in Germany.
       The three scraped by until late 1941, when the Germans 
     summarily transported 1,000 Jews, the Zierings included, to 
     Rigi, Latvia. Some of the adult men in the group were sent 
     directly to a nearby death camp, and the rest of the Jews 
     were installed in a ghetto bloodstained from murders just 
     carried out. Of the entire 1,000, Sigi Ziering believes that 
     only 16 survived the war, among them, besides himself, his 
     mother and brother.
       In Riga the boys actually went to school for a while. But 
     their mother, wanting the Germans to think them useful, 
     required them to drop out and work. Once Sigi had a plum job 
     in a ``fish hall,'' from which he was able to smuggle food 
     back to the ghetto. As he sneaked in with the food, he would 
     sometimes pass dead Jews who had been caught doing the same 
     and been hanged in the streets as an example.

[[Page E649]]

       Toward war's end, with the Russians closing in on Riga, the 
     Germans began to move their Jewish captives around. Ziering 
     believes that the SS in fact connived to keep small groups of 
     Jews alive, so that the need to guard them would keep the 
     Germans from being sent to the front.
       The Zierings were moved to a German prison, Fuhlsbuttel, on 
     the outskirts of Hamburg. Prison living conditions were a 
     distinct step up. But every week the Germans would load eight 
     or ten Jews into a truck and transport them to Bergen-Belsen 
     for elimination. ``With German precision,'' says Ziering, the 
     guards went at their job alphabetically--and never got to 
       British troops then closed off Bergen-Belsen, and the 
     Germans marched their remaining Jews to a Kiel concentration 
     camp, whose commandant's first words upon seeing them were: 
     ``I can't believe that Jews still exist.'' The camps grisly 
     conditions killed 40 to 50 inmates daily. Another 35 males 
     were murdered when they could not run a kilometer while 
     carrying a heavy piece of wood. Sigi and his brother 
     passed that test.
       Then, as the Zierings heard the story, Count Folke 
     Bernadotte of Sweden offered to pay Heinrich Himmler $5 
     million for 1,000 Jews. (Whether the Count indeed made this 
     offer or paid the money is not clear.) A German officer told 
     the Ziering boys, who believed it not at all, that they were 
     to be included but were unpresentable in the striped clothing 
     they wore. Sigi and his brother were taken to a mortuary, 
     where they were directed to strip the clothes from the 
     corpses that lay there and make them their own. And on May 1, 
     1945, Red Cross workers arrived to take the 1,000 to Sweden. 
     The route lay through Copenhagen, and at its railroad 
     station, the Jews heard excited shouts: ``Hitler is dead.''
       As if he'd suddenly awakened from a nightmare of 
     unimaginable horror, Sigi then entered into a world of near-
     normalcy for a 17-year-old. His family managed to reunite in 
     London, where the father--``a fantastic businessman,'' says 
     Sigi--was doing well as a diamond merchant. Sigi, a bare five 
     years of elementary education behind him, entered a tutorial 
     school and then the University of London. He wished to be a 
     doctor but found that almost all medical school spots were 
     reserved for war veterans--the kind who'd worn military 
     insignia, not tattooted numbers.
       Hunting opportunity, the Ziering family made it to the U.S. 
     in 1949, settling in Brooklyn. Working part-time, Sigi earned 
     a physics degree at Brooklyn College and then two advanced 
     degrees at Syracuse University. In those college years, he 
     met the woman he soon married, Marilyn Brisman. When they 
     first met, she says, he was ``quiet, sweet, introspective,'' 
     and, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and accent, so resembled 
     the archetype of a young German that she briefly thought him 
       Exiting academe in 1957, Ziering did nuclear-reactor work 
     with Raytheon in Boston and then space projects at Allied 
     Research. The entrepreneurial urge hit, and with a friend he 
     started a company called Space Sciences to carry out cost-
     plus government contracts.
       It was the heyday of avaricious conglomerates, and in 1968 
     Whittaker Corp. bought Space Sciences for about $1.8 million. 
     That made Ziering, not yet 25 years removed from the 
     terrifying alphabetical lock step of Fuhlsbuttel prison, 
     well-to-do. But the deal also made him a California-based 
     research executive restless in Whittaker's conglomerate 
       He left and tried one entrepreneurial venture, the making 
     of fishmeal, that failed. Then, in 1973, he heard by chance 
     of a chemist working out of his Los Angeles kitchen, Robert 
     Ban, who'd developed radioimmunoassay (RIA) diagnostic kits 
     that permitted the measurement of infinitesimally low 
     concentrations of substances--drugs and hormones, for 
     example--in bodily fluids. Ban, a man with big ideas and a 
     corporate name to match them, Diagnostic Products Corp., had 
     been advertising in a professional journal that he had 
     upwards of 30 different RIA kits available. Some of these, 
     says Ziering, ``do not exist to this day,'' but that was 
     not known to the journal's readers, and sacks of orders--
     though only morsels of money--landed in Ban's kitchen.
       Ziering, warmed to the gamble by his long-standing interest 
     in medicine, put $50,000 into the business and moved the 
     chemist into a small factory that mainly produced one kit of 
     particular commercial value. The business took off. But the 
     partners were not getting along. So Ziering bought the 
     chemist out for $25,000 and settled back to working with a 
     more compatible partner, his wife, who has throughout the 
     years been a DPC marketing executive.
       Today their company, competing with such giants as Abbott 
     Laboratories, has more than 1,400 employees and is a leading 
     manufacturer of both diagnostic kits and the analytical 
     instruments needed to read their findings. The company had 
     1997 sales of $186 million and profits of $18 million. DPC 
     went public in 1982, though Ziering wishes it hadn't--the 
     company has never really needed the money it raised, and he 
     doesn't like the volatility of the market or the second-
     guessing of analysts--and he, his wife, their two sons (both 
     in the business), and two daughters own about 24% of its 
     stock, currently worth about $95 million.
       Through most of its years, DPC has done well 
     internationally, a fact that has required Ziering and his 
     wife to travel often to Germany. Yes, it bothers him to go 
     back, but he thinks that his encounters with young Germans 
     disturb them more than him. When they get a hint of how he 
     spent the war, he says, ``you can feel the static electricity 
     in the air.''
       In his business, says Marilyn Ziering, her husband is 
     patient and visionary, but also a risk taker when he needs to 
     be. He himself says he's a workaholic and muses as to why. He 
     wonders whether the ``training'' of the Holocaust--``unless 
     you work, you are destined for the gas chamber''--may not 
     have permanently bent him and many other survivors to work.
       The license plate on Ziering's Jaguar reads ``K9HORA.'' 
     That's a rough phonetic rendition of kayn aynhoreh, a Yiddish 
     expression meaning ``ward off the evil eye.'' It is 
     customarily tacked to the end of a thought, as a 
     superstitious precaution.
       For these five survivors, who picked themselves up from the 
     worst and darkest of beginnings and triumphed in the best 
     tradition of the American dream, we might say, for example: 
     ``Since the Holocaust, the lives of these men have been 
     good--kayn aynhoreh.''
       Or we might stitch those words to a larger thought. Of the 
     Holocaust, Jews and the world say, ``Never again.'' In the 
     histories of these five men, there is a ringing, opposite 
     kind of message: ``Ever again.'' Evil weighed down their 
     early lives. But it did not--and cannot--crush the human 
       Kayn aynhoreh.