Nathan Shapell, chairman and chief executive of the Beverly Hills homebuilding and real estate firm Shapell Industries, died in his sleep while vacationing March 11. He was 85.


Shapell was a Holocaust survivor and devoted philanthropist. He served on several civic boards and was a founder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was appointed by President George H. W. Bush and reappointed twice by President Bill Clinton to the organization's governing council.


He began his career in Munchberg, Germany, building housing complexes for war refugees. Shapell spent World War II as a prisoner at the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps, where most of his family members, including his mother, were executed. Shapell, along with his wife Lilly and their daughter Vera, immigrated to America in 1952. He founded Shapell Industries three years later.


Shapell chronicled the early years of his life in his autobiography, "Witness to the Truth."


Mr. Shapell is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Vera and Paul Guerin; grand-children, Lisa, Dana, and Michael; and three great-grandchildren, as well as his brother, David Shapell, and brother-in-law Max Webb.


Services were held at Hillside Memorial Park & Mortuary. In lieu of flowers, the Guerin family requests that donations be made to either Friends of the Israel Defense Forces or to Women's Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Pulmonary Diseases Program.

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