Hiller Bell (formerly Hillel Belchatowski) died on October 9, 2003, just weeks after he organized and attended the annual Belchatower Hazkarah at Mt Hebron Cemetery in September. As President of the Independent Belchatower Benevolent Association [This society was originally the Independent Belchatower Young Men's Benevolent Association (New York), founded in 1911], Hiller was dedicated to recording and preserving the Jewish history of Belchatow and the memory of those who lived there, and relating the horrors endured during the Holocaust. In 1951, a Monument was dedicated to the memory of the Jewish martyrs of Belchatowers. Every year families gather round the Monument located in the Belchatower section 108 and hear Hiller read about the destruction of the Jews in his hometown (click here to see photos). In more recent years, he lived part of the year in Florida and was involved with the Belchatowers there, presenting at their annual meetings. Belchatow was never far from his thoughts.
Hiller was born on October 15, 1914. He lost most of his family during the Holocaust but managed to hold onto several photographs which are on this ShtetLinks site (click here). From the Chelmno Death Camp, one of his relatives wrote about his impending death and trusted that someone would deliver the words to Hiller. The letters are linked to from this site (click here). After the war, Hiller returned to Poland, but spent the night in the police station since the streets were too dangerous for Jews. He fled to Freising, Germany and attended the reunion of the Belchatowers, photos of which can be found on the Belchatow Survivors Website (click here and here for photos of Hiller Bell).
In 1950, Hiller moved to Paterson, New Jersey, and on September 18, 1954, married Phyllis Fastbinder, a charming girl from England. In 1957, their first daughter, Norma Pearl, was born, followed by Hazel Ava five years later. Working initially as a weaver, he eventually went into the real estate business with two partners. The family moved to Fair Lawn in 1967, but personal tragedy was soon to find Hiller again when his daughter Norma died in 1993.
Despite the tragedies that marked Hillerís life, he was an idealist. He loved reading the New York Times, was passionate when discussing politics and pondering ways to improve the world situation. In his later years, he delighted in his two darling grandchildren Arjun Norman and Nisha Pearl.
Hiller was overjoyed when he learned that a website about the Jewish history and people of Belchatow was being created. He contributed anniversary books, photographs, personal stories, official papers, contacts, and an enthusiasm that will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Phyllis and daughter Hazel Bell Puranapanda.
(Photograph provided by Phyllis & Hiller Bell.)
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