Swiss Jewish philanthropist, wife die in house fire

An elderly Jewish philanthropist from Switzerland and his wife died in a fire in their Zurich home.

Yosef Elbaum, 91, and his wife Raizel, 74, died from smoke inhalation on March 7 after a fire broke out in their attic apartment on Richard Wagner Street in southern Zurich, the Volks Blatt local newspaper reported.

Yosef Elbaum made his wealth in Switzerland’s banking industry and became a philanthropist, donating to Jewish institutions in his community and beyond, according to the Israel-based news website Behadrey Haredim.

When rescue forces arrived at the scene they found the couple dead in their bedroom.

The couple’s live-in caretaker required treatment for smoke inhalation. The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Yosef Elbaum was close to the Spinka Rebbe of Bnei Brak in Israel, according to Behadrey Haredim, and was brought with his wife for burial in Israel.

German neo-Nazi cell may be linked to rabbi’s murder

Police in Germany and Switzerland are investigating possible links between the murder of an Orthodox rabbi in Zurich, and a killing spree by a terrorist neo-Nazi cell.

According to the Swiss paper Tagesanzeiger, the Israeli-born rabbi, Abraham Grünbaum, age 70, was shot at point-blank range and instantly killed on June 7, 2001, in the Agudas Achim synagogue in Zurich. The crime was recorded on a security camera, but the image quality was low, the report said. Police found two bullet casings and cigarette butts at the site. The rabbi was not robbed, thus the motive was considered likely to be hate.

A rash of murders that followed shortly after the rabbi’s killing now have been attributed to a German neo-Nazi gang, the National Socialist Underground. In all, the gang is
suspected of involvement at least ten killings over a decade, and police are now investigating whether the gang was involved in the rabbi’s death.

The main weapon, which has been found, was registered in Switzerland and reportedly also was used at Swiss shooting ranges.

The German group, based in Zwickau, is suspected to have had connections with Swiss right-wing extremists: German security forces had tapped phone conversations between the two countries, and witnesses in Germany have said the group used a vehicle with Swiss plates, according to the Swiss daily, the Basler Zeitung.