Herbert Katzski, lifelong employee of JDC, dies at 89

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NEW YORK — Herbert Katzki, a man who devoted his life to helping Jews around the world, has died.

He was 89.

A former associate executive vice president at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Katzki began working at the JDC in 1936 after a brief career in banking. He immediately decided the JDC was not for him and wanted to leave.

But the JDC convinced him to commit to the organization for one year. He stayed for the rest of his life.

Katzki was "a quiet, modest, highly rational man, who at 89 remembered everything," said Marshall Weinberg, a member of the JDC board and executive committee.

"He brought to work a wisdom that comes from experience," said Ralph Goldman, honorary vice president of the JDC.

When World War II began, Katzki volunteered to work in Europe. He was dispatched to the JDC's Paris office. Three days before the Nazis entered the city, Katzki shut down the office and fled to Lisbon.

In Lisbon, he helped Jewish refugees get food and shelter — some he helped immigrate to Palestine. He also arranged to get food to Jews held in internment camps in Vichy, France.

Katzki served in the U.S. Army in 1944. While in the army he served as a representative of the U.S. War Refugee Board and as a special attaché to the U.S. Embassies in Turkey and Switzerland.

After the war, Katzki served as the JDC director in Germany where he helped survivors.

While working overseas, Katzki met and married follow JDC employee Kate Schiffmann in 1950.

Katzki retired from the JDC in December 1979 after 43 years of service. At his retirement, Edward M.M. Warburg, then-JDC honorary president, said Katzki "is the epitome of a Jewish public servant who, with modesty and selflessness, has served the Jewish people in war and peace."

But retirement did not stop Katzki from doing what he loved. He continued to report to work every day as a volunteer. He was at work as recently as the Monday before his recent death.

Katzki died of complications from hip-replacement surgery.