Family of Holocaust survivor claims antisemitism, threatens lawsuit against Manatee County

A courtesy photo taken in 2010 of a family reunion at the late Al Katz's former condominium, picturing him with his daughter Beverly Newman, her husband and other relatives.
A courtesy photo taken in 2010 of a family reunion at the late Al Katz's former condominium, picturing him with his daughter Beverly Newman, her husband and other relatives.

Many possessions owned by Holocaust survivor Al Katz could soon be sold publicly following foreclosure on his former Bradenton condominium in late March.

Katz is the namesake of The Al Katz Center, a nonprofit based in Bradenton that offers Jewish and Holocaust education. He was born in Paderborn, Germany, in 1920 and survived internment in German concentration camps during World War II that claimed the lives of the rest of his family. Katz escaped in 1945, and made it to the safety provided by American troops. The next year he immigrated to the United States and became a citizen.

During his later years, Katz was placed into the care of the state's guardianship system. His daughter, Beverly Newman, says it was done against his will and without her knowledge, and brought back past traumas from the Holocaust. After his death, Newman launched the "Al Katz Campaign to save Our Holocaust Survivors from Institutionalization." On June 6, 2011, the city of Sarasota approved a resolution in Katz's honor to urge agencies and professionals to exercise due diligence to keep Holocaust survivors in the homes of willing family members.

Many of Katz's possessions remained in his former Bradenton condo past a Wednesday deadline given to his relatives for removal. The unit was foreclosed on, and sold to the Heritage Village West Condominiums on March 27.

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Katz died in 2010 at the age of 90 while living at the condominium. Newman claims the later years of his life were marred by antisemitism and that her cries for help to authorities were ignored.

She told the Herald-Tribune that she has been barred from entering and removing Katz's belongings from the premises for years, and that when friends finally gained access on her behalf this week to help move them, "it was trashed."

She is now threatening to sue Manatee County for ignoring her reports over the circumstances that led to the situation, claiming antisemitism.

The condo association and its attorney criticize Newman's litigiousness, and claim the foreclosure was justified despite Newman's assertions, records show.

Manatee foreclosure lasts years

Katz's condo was purchased by the Heritage Village West Condominium Association for $100 at a foreclosure auction that lasted two minutes, but the case that resulted in the foreclosure dates to 2011.

The court ruled in favor of the Heritage Village West Condominium Association, Inc,. on Feb. 13, awarding the association $31,356 for the principal balance due on a 2012 to 2022 lien on the property, $67,305.30 in interest, $2,631 for Florida Power and Light, $4,872 for Manatee County taxes, $12,350 in attorney's fees, and $1,838 for expert witness fees, or a total of just over $120,350.

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Newman, who has contended the unpaid taxes were incurred during the guardianship period, appealed the decision, and filed motions for reconsideration after the sale but was denied.

The Heritage Village condo association gave Newman an April 10 deadline to remove any personal property, but she lives in Indiana with her husband and said neither of them were able to travel to Bradenton to move their belongings because of medical reasons. Instead she contracted moving companies and enlisted the help of friends to move some of the items inside.

Newman was able to remove one of the most valuable possessions from the property, a grand piano made in 1940 that she says was donated to the Al Katz Center that was never owned by Katz himself. Friends who helped her move other belongings also salvaged some items, although Newman is unsure what items were moved.

The rest, Newman says moving companies would not remove from the premises.

"We have lost of thousands and thousands of dollars because no one would pick it up because it was so trashed," Newman said.

"We lost virtually the entirety of what we owned in the world, other than what we had to buy when we moved back to Indiana to replace what was inside of that condo," she said. "There were tons of Jewish items in there. We had prayer books, we had artwork, we had special candles that you use when you are Jewish, we had jewelry."

On March 28, the day after the sale, attorney Peter Mackey emailed Newman in response to her appeals of the sale, according to court records. He represents the association, and claims Newman's accounts of the situation are inaccurate and an attempt to "create facts."

"First, you were judicially evicted from the subject condominium years ago," Mackey wrote to Newman. "In essence, you were squatters who refused to leave a piece of property that you had no title interest in. The subject condominium was Ms. Newman's deceased father's real estate, and he specifically disinherited Ms. Newman."

"The window is now closing on your years of antics, relative to Heritage and the subject condominium," Mackey wrote. "Remember, Heritage has entitlement to attorney's fee rulings against you, and Heritage could notice such for hearing and procure money judgements against the both of you. Be appreciative of Heritage's good nature and act in a reasonable manner."

Newman threatens lawsuit against Manatee County, claims antisemitism

Newman said she believes a former girlfriend and a group of caretakers took advantage of Katz's advanced age to split her from her father and lay claim to his property and possessions.

On March 25, just two days before the estate sale, Newman sent a notice of intent to sue to Manatee County government and the county attorney's office. Manatee County declined to comment on the potential litigation.

Newman and her husband, Lawrence, indicated in the notice that they intend to commence a lawsuit against Manatee County for $500,000 each over institutional antisemitism they claim has taken place since 2008. They claim county agencies did not step in nor investigate her claims.

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On Thursday Newman said she intends to follow through with the lawsuit, once she and her husband are able to financially recover from the costs associated with an appeal filed this month over the foreclosure case and the price paid to moving companies for removal of possessions from the Katz's former condo.

"Filing a lawsuit costs thousands of dollars, and we live on Social Security," Newman said. "So what we do is try to cut back on everything we can so that we can save up enough money to pay the fees.

"I don't know when we are going to be able to pull together the money, but it's not going to be years from now," she said. "We just wanted to make sure the county knew this is serious."

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Family says guardianship led to foreclosure on Bradenton elder's condo