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Widow of Holocaust survivor leaves $22 million to German Zoo in their home town: 'That was his wish'

The couple decided to donate all their assets to the Cologne Zoological Garden, their hometown in Germany.

Widow of Holocaust survivor leaves $22 million to German Zoo in their home town: 'That was his wish'
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Mike Bird

All good things come to an end but they also continue to linger on in some form or the other. The Holocaust, which is one of the deadliest periods for European Jews, took away at least 6 million lives. However, even in those horrific times, there were some stories of kindness and humanity that kept the hope alive. One such story is that of Elizabeth Reichert and her husband Arnulf. When Arnulf passed away in 1998, the couple decided to give all their assets to the Cologne Zoological Garden for a very heartwarming and inspiring reason. Elizabeth shared with ABC News in 2017, “It meant a lot to my husband. That was his wish, that whatever we have when we pass away should be donated to the Zoo of Cologne. Cologne is our hometown. It’s in memory of my husband, who was a wonderful human being.”

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Marcus Aurelius
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Marcus Aurelius

Elizabeth was 96 when she passed away in February 2021 and it was this year that her estate and will was settled. In her will, she has bequeathed $22 million to Cologne Zoological Garden in Germany. In her 2017 interview, she shared, “We have no children. Our children are the zoo.” The two met in 1944 when Elizabeth worked with the German underground Nazi resistance regime as a courier and Arnulf was in hiding. Elizabeth said, “We got together during the night.” The couple tied the knot in 1945 after the Allied forces liberated Cologne. After a few years, they moved to Israel and then to New Jersey in the United States where they opened a pet store business. They had always been passionate animal lovers. Elizabeth had said, “We are great animal lovers and we have always been concerned about the welfare of the animals.”

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Maria Isabella Bernotti
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Maria Isabella Bernotti

Elizabeth settled the deal with a foundation to which she donated $22 million and they in turn would invest the funds to pay out regularly to the zoo for eternity. The financial officer of the zoo, Christopher Landsberg, shared that the money would be used to “enlarge enclosures” and make it “nicer for animals and the people as well.” He also noted that such large philanthropic inheritances were uncommon in Germany, making it “very special.” Elizabeth also shared that the zoo will create a South American pavilion named after her husband. She had begun donating $6,000 every month when she pledged her inheritance to the zoo in 2017.

This is not an exclusive case of generosity and animal welfare in Arnulf and Elizabeth’s story. In 1954, the couple donated to the zoo a soft-shelled turtle that they carefully carried with them from the Jordon River. She shared that the turtle made it through a difficult journey in a burlap bag on a ship to Naples in Italy. She had said, “We tried to feed the turtle when we were on the boat with cold cuts from the table.” Even though Elizabeth and Arnulf are no more in the world, their legacy of loving animals and always showing kindness lives on. Irrespective of the cruel times of the holocaust that they survived, the couple didn't let the evils of the world harden the softness of their hearts and that is a great inspiration for the current time.

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