Michal Hornstein, Polish-born Canadian executive, Died at 95

Michal Hornstein was born on September 17, 1920, and died on April 25, 2016.

He was a Canadian businessman, art collector, and philanthropist.

Michal was captured by the German army during World War II forced onto a train and deported to Auschwitz.

But, soon before the train reached the notorious concentration camp, though, Hornstein jumped from its side.

Hornstein spent the rest of the war, that claimed the lives of innumerable of his family members and friends, hiding from the Nazis in the forests of Czechoslovakia and living in Budapest before decamping for Bratislava.

When he was in Bratislava, Michal met Renata Witelson, another Polish Jew fleeing Nazi persecution.

Michal had spent much of the war in hiding, in the Warsaw ghetto, in a convent, with a Polish family and in safe houses.

The couple met in a safe house.

The couple got married in Rome, in 1946.

Michal moved to Canada in 1951, with the support of the Canadian ambassador to Italy, whom they had befriended, and relocated to Montreal.

Hornstein became a citizen in 1957.

Hornstein founded Federal Construction Ltd., a real estate company, where he made his fortune and remained president of the company until his final days.

That company became prominent patrons of major Montreal institutions, including hospitals and universities.

However, the couple was most closely associated with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).

He had served on its board of trustees, almost continuously, since 1970.

Michal also played an important role raising funds for the museum’s collection, amassing a vast collection of Renaissance paintings and helped raise millions that went toward restoring and expanding the museum.

He contributed to the collection himself, donating some 420 works of art, and played a role in the acquisition of 23 others.

During 2012, the couple announced it was donating its collection of 75 Old Master paintings to the museum, a gift estimated to be worth $75 million.

Michal Hornstein was a member of the Order of Canada, a knight in the National Order of Quebec and sat on the board of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for 46 years.

Michal Hornstein passed away at 95 years old.