Holocaust survivor Lou Dunst could have lived life consumed by anger and resentment after his horrific experiences during World War II. He had been left for dead in the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria when United States troops broke through the gates with a military tank. Soon after his liberation and recovery, Dunst made a conscious decision to turn the hate, violence and inhumanity that he had witnessed into feelings of peace, compassion and love.
Over the years, with prompting from his wife, Estelle, Dunst began sharing his story with others. By the time of his death in 2015, at the age of 89, the businessman and educator had spoken to thousands—from schoolchildren and community members to dignitaries and judges—sharing his philosophy of love and compassion to ensure that atrocities like the Holocaust never happened again.
In honor of Dunst’s legacy of education and tolerance, Estelle Dunst has made a gift to the University of California San Diego, through the Lou Dunst Trust, in support of the Holocaust Living History Workshop, a joint program hosted by the UC San Diego Library and the campus’ Jewish Studies Program. The gift establishes the Lou Dunst Memorial Endowment, which will provide funding for the annual Lou Dunst Memorial Lecture. The Dunst Lecture will be held as part of the Holocaust Living History Workshop annual lecture series, in which Dunst had been a frequent participant. The workshop was established to preserve the memory of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to engage the community in thoughtful considerations of events surrounding the Holocaust and their continued relevance in the world today.
In addition, the gift will provide funding to support ongoing access to the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive through the UC San Diego Library. The subscription ensures that students and community members can continue to benefit from eyewitness testimonies of Holocaust survivors, including Dunst.
“Lou helped so many people. He was constantly helping others,” said Estelle Dunst. “This gift is a way to carry on his legacy and make sure that Lou and his message of love are remembered in perpetuity.”
In recognition of the gift, the UC San Diego Library will name a classroom in the Geisel Library building for Dunst. The “Lou Dunst Classroom” will be used for Holocaust education and instructional activities, as well as other general library educational purposes.
“We are so appreciative of this generous gift from Estelle Dunst,” said Brian E. C. Schottlaender, The Audrey Geisel University Librarian. “It is a great honor for the Library to be home to the Lou Dunst Memorial Lecture, and to recognize this amazing man with this classroom naming. Mr. Dunst left a legacy of kindness, compassion and understanding. By teaching his core values, he touched the lives of so many people. Now, his impact will continue to be felt here on campus and beyond.”
In his book, My Bargain with God, Dunst wrote that “Every day, every moment of my life has been geared to spread the word to the rest of the world about the Holocaust, the worst man-made catastrophe of the human race. Every generation must learn about how intolerance, hatred and violence led to the mass murder of six million Jewish men, women and children so that it shall not happen again.”
A special program to recognize Lou Dunst and his legacy will be held November 20. This event is open to the public but reservations are required. Please go to LouDunstCelebration.eventbrite.com to RSVP. Gifts can be made in Lou Dunst's honor to the Lou Dunst Memorial Endowment here.