It took almost a decade in legal battles, but Moriah College (in Sydney’s eastern suburbs) will soon receive a bequest of approximately $11 million from a World War II holocaust survivor who had no children and no direct connection with the college.
In December 2004, two adjoining properties comprising 24 apartments from the estate of Malke Bilfeld were sold for $11.6 million.
“We believe this is the largest bequest to any Australian Jewish School,” said Moriah College president Robert Gavshon.
The properties, originally valued at about $6 million, were left to the school by the late Malke Bilfeld who had written a number of contradictory wills that were contested by at least two people.
In 2001 though, the NSW Supreme Court ruled in favour of Moriah. Sydney doctor Stephen Muller, one of the contestants, said he had received “less than one hopes for,” but that “one has to accept the law and what the judge ruled.”
“I knew her all my life. She was a surprising woman,” he said.
“She came to a ghetto in Poland in 1941 called Bochnia … and she and her husband became friendly with my parents. My dad organised for us all to escape the ghetto to Hungary.
“We were liberated by the Russians and came to Australia in 1948. I knew her since I was six – now I am 68.”
(Adapted from the Australian Jewish News, December 17, 2004)