In Memory of Steve Ausnit, TOLI Board Member

The Board of Directors of The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI) mourns the loss of Steve Ausnit, 95, one of its founding directors. He passed away on November 8 in New York.
“Steve was truly a great man and one of the major forces behind the growth and success of TOLI,” said David Field, Chairman of the Board of TOLI. “He was passionate about education and human rights.”
Steven Ausnit was a successful businessman and innovator. He is regarded as the developer of the Ziploc bag, which has become a household staple in the US and around the world.
He was born March 21,1924 in Galați, Romania. His father, Max Ausnit, owned one of the largest steel producing companies in Romania. Known as “The Steel King,” he was falsely convicted of charges brought by a rival and sent to prison and later house arrest from which he escaped. When Romania allied with Nazi Germany during World War II, Max, a Jew, had to flee the country. He returned after the war, only to flee again when Romania fell under Soviet communist influence. He was condemned to death in absentia.
Steve was sent by his family to the US in 1941, leaving Romania before the Holocaust, which claimed over 270,000 Romanian Jewish lives. He graduated from Harvard in 1945 and joined the U.S. Army where he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He spent a long career in business in the plastics industry as both an executive and an inventor, and is best known for creating the Ziploc bag, with many related inventions around plastic packaging using reclosable fasteners.
He held over 140 patents, the latest having been filed in 2017.
In his later years, Mr. Ausnit devoted his life to philanthropic causes. He was an active supporter of TOLI until his passing. “It was because of Steve that TOLI brought its programs on Holocaust education for teachers to Europe,” said Mark Berez, President of TOLI. “Steve wanted to do a seminar in Romania for teachers in his native country.” The first seminar for teachers in Europe took place in 2012 in Romania, near Timisoara. It has continued annually with his active participation. Now TOLI has programs in nine European countries.
Steve had endowed scholarships at Harvard for Romanian students, a bursary at Stowe, and with his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, helped found the Liceul Teoretic Harul in Lugoj, Romania, teaching children from kindergarten through high school.
He is survived by his wife Anne, daughters Christine and Suzanne, and three grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing.


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