The American Dream is predicated upon the idea anyone from anywhere can become anything they want to be. Deep within the Jewish soul is the idea of a “promised land” of renewal. For Siggi Wilzig, subject of the new biography Unstoppable, these two ideas were deeply intertwined as he survived Auschwitz and immigrated to America to become a highly successful Jewish entrepreneur.
Born in 1926 in Krojanke (now Krajenka) on the western edge of Prussia (now part of Poland), Wilzig was just a teenager when the Holocaust began. Emigrating to America after surviving the horrors of Auschwitz, Wilzig worked whatever odd jobs he could, including several sales positions.
In 1952, Wilzig met his future wife, Naomi Sisselman, the daughter of a prominent Jewish businessman. The marriage produced three children, while the business connection helped set Wilzig on the path to becoming a successful Jewish entrepreneur himself.
Starting in the early 1960s, Wilzig began using the commission he got from his sales work to purchase shares in the Wilshire Oil Company. A couple years later, Wilzig went from a mere investor to the head of a successful takeover effort, and by 1965 the company’s board had elected him President and CEO.
But Wilzig didn’t stop there. He went on to lead Wilshire through a takeover of the Trust Company of New Jersey, and he was shortly thereafter elected the President and CEO there, too.
By the time he stepped down due to health concerns in 2002, the bank’s assets had grown from $181 million to an excess of $4 billion.
For Wilzig and countless other Jews fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust, the Americas proved to be a promised land, with American Dreams like these at the core of the Jewish-American experience.