Best Business Book 2021: An Irresistible Power

Irresistible: Sigi b. Wonderful Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Peniless Immigrant to the Wall Street Legend
By Joshua M. Greene (Insight Edition, 2021)

Every word in the long title of the wonderful new book by Holocaust scholar Joshua M. Green resonates in the subtle text: Irresistible: Sigi b. Wonderful Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Peniless Immigrant to the Wall Street Legend. This is why this forcible story of suffering, oppression and victory is the best business book in the form of a historical narrative this year. Born in Poland in 1926, Wilzig lost his parents, three brothers and a sister to the Nazis, and barely survived Auschwitz before coming to the United States and rising to great heights in two industries where anti-Semitism was common.

Wilzig’s survival comes at a time when many people died – almost all Jews were deported to Auschwitz within four months of his arrival – due to his bravery, realism, a certain tendency towards bulls, and a miracle with fate that would mark his whole being. After arriving at Life Camp, the 16-year-old declared himself a master toolmaker, although he had never worked in business. As a result, he was immediately ordered to stand in the line of those who would be sent to work instead of the dead.

After the war, he went to work for the Americans, helping the Nazis hunt. His captives included Hans Goebbels, the younger brother of Joseph Goebbels. And his work gave him a visa to the United States. He brought in just 24 240 in 1947 at the age of 21 and had no education outside of grade school. “The Almighty saved him, and now his job is to pick up what was left of the ruins of his life and assemble them into a building of a still-defined size and shape,” one of Green described. There are many examples of beautiful writing in his book. Wilzig got his first job dropping snow at 2 a day.

America was a great haven for Jews who wanted to go into certain kinds of business. “As a significant point, in the 1960s Jews made up about 1% of high-level executives in finance, heavy industry, communications, transportation, and public utilities,” Green wrote. “A survey by the American Jewish Committee of the 25 largest banks in the United States in the 1970s found a Jew among the senior management positions of 377 commercial banks.”

Wilzig created opportunities for himself. A “world-class storyteller, comedian and charmer” who is not afraid of failure or hard work, he can tell people with the perfect punch that he would be a quarterback or track star depending on his audience. They will believe him. She will then show them her Auschwitz tattoos.

Wilzig can tell people in the perfect panache that he was a quarterback or track star, depending on his audience. They will believe him. She will then show them her Auschwitz tattoos.

“If business students study Sigi B. Wilzig’s business practices, they may conclude that success was consistent with bile and stress,” Green wrote. However, the opportunities that Wilzig created for himself filled a very prepared mind.

At a dinner for Soul Diamond in the early 1960’s, Wilzig, a prominent entrepreneur from New York, NJ, then a novice investor, discovered that he and Diamond had both started buying a small oil concern stock called Wilshire Oil Company of Texas. There was plenty of land in Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, and California. The company was badly run, and both Wilzig and Diamond found opportunities – but Diamond said he was too old to lead a takeover. Wilzig would consider doing it instead?

Wilzig listed friends, family and others who could raise enough stock to threaten the board with a takeover. Within a year, after he impressed the board with his plans and the previous president died of a heart attack, Wilzig became president and CEO.

Shortly afterwards, in 1969, Wilzig Trust used a similar tactic to take over a bank called the Company of New Jersey – at which time he was CEO of both an oil company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and a multibillion-dollar commercial bank. “In two of the most anti-Semitic industries in post-war America, he did what makes his achievements even more astonishing,” Green wrote.

A bank acquisition in Wilzig was not random at all. In fact, Wilzig was managing his contemporary Warren Buffett, who bought his first insurance business in 1967. Buffett’s brilliant insight was to use “float” from insurance premiums to finance other businesses; Willzig saw how he could use the bank’s cash for similar purposes. If Wilshire could acquire 80% or more of the bank’s stock, the bank could pay Wilshire “upwards” of tax dollars which was otherwise due to the government. This money could help Wilshire finance its growth. (Perhaps not accidentally, Wilzig was ahead of his time in other ways too: the Trust Company of New Jersey may be the first bank to offer stock options to everyone, including entry-level administrative staff.)

Wilzig could not accept saying no. The announcement came just as the Nixon administration was taking urgent action to tackle inflation, led by a tough new Federal Reserve chairman named Paul Volker. One of the rules was that any non-banking entity that owns or operates any bank must disconnect either banking or non-banking operations. It took a decade for Wilzig and all the other bankers to comply. When the time comes, the Fed tells him that they have informed about 400 parent companies that they need to get rid of their banking subsidiaries. Wilzig was the only one who refused to do so.

At this point, Wilzig sued the Federal Reserve. Of course, he eventually lost this invincible battle. Meanwhile, he puts his daughter, Sherry, in charge of the oil business, meaning the transfer was in name only.

His bank improved. In 2004, the year after Willzig died of advanced multiple myeloma, it sold for $ 753 million, representing a “suffocating” 6,755% profit since the spin-off date in 1983.

The book is certainly more of a story of a businessman who has succeeded in the face of adversity. This is a book about faith – not a simple belief, but a complex one. “I have a mixed relationship with God,” Wilzig told his son Alan. “I go to the synagogue on the Jewish holiday to thank the Almighty. Without the will of the Almighty, there is no way for a short man like me to survive the Holocaust. But I don’t go to the synagogue every week. I have a hard time being grateful for killing one and a half million Jewish children or for killing my innocent 7-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece. “

His success did not allow him to escape from his monsters. In 1979, the scholar Helen Epstein was published Children of the Holocaust, Where he said he “set out to find a group of people who, like me, had a history that they never lived in.” Wilzig demonstrated many of the features mentioned in Epstein’s book. “If we dare to question or disobey, he hurts in a cruel way, pretending to stop his love,” his son Evan once said. “He always loved us, but it doesn’t always feel that way.”

In an interview with Steven Spielberg for the USC Shoh Foundation, Wilzig said: “When people ask me this question, ‘How did you survive?’ I leave a small thing, which is not really small. For example, any living person who has a heart and a brain lives with the guilt that they lived and others did not live … I am here, and they are all dead. “

He never let go of his anger, even if it was suppressed by humor, gratitude and contempt. When he lectured at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point in 1975, the first Holocaust survivor to do so, he asked, “Why did the world stand by and do nothing? The government knew. They knew in early 1943.”

But he also knew who won. Once, he was asked what he would say to Hitler. “There is nothing more painful for him than to see the rebirth of the nation of Israel,” Wilzig replied. “We saved him … like we survived the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and Stalin and the murderous PLO. I used to show him beautiful little Jewish kids and I didn’t have to say anything. “

Honorable mention:

Revealed: The life and death of a garment
By Maxine Bidat (Portfolio, 2021)

This biography of a modest dress — a pair of jeans অফ offers a window into the world economy and sheds light on its effectiveness, inequality and interconnection. An executive at a nonprofit company whose goal is to green the fashion industry, from raw Texas to Chinese factories and raw cotton at South Asian garment plants এবং and finally to the African market where secondhand pants find a second life.

Perfection: Win-lose in one-click America
By Alec McGillis (Macmillan, 2021)

Clicking a single button on an e-commerce site triggers a huge chain of events – and over time, creates huge social and economic impact. Inside PerfectionMcGillis, a journalist at ProPublica, explores the ecosystem that has developed around Amazon, including Baltimore’s warehouse, Seattle’s office tower, and data centers and logistics outposts across the country.

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