Transformers inventor, Holocaust survivor Henry Orenstein dies at 98

i24NEWS

3 min read
Poker players including Henry Orenstein (second from the left) attend Fox Sport Net's "Poker Superstar Invitational Tournament" in New York, United States, on August 10, 2004.
PETER KRAMER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFPPoker players including Henry Orenstein (second from the left) attend Fox Sport Net's "Poker Superstar Invitational Tournament" in New York, United States, on August 10, 2004.

Henry Orenstein founded the Orenstein project, an Israeli nonprofit that focuses on food insecurity

Henry Orenstein, a Holocaust survivor who invented the Transformers toy line and became a major donor to Jewish and Israeli causes, died on Tuesday at the age of 98.

With the creation of his Transformers toys in the early 1980s, Orenstein became a best-selling toymaker, following up with numerous other inventions and over 100 patents, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported.

He was later known as a star poker player, being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2008.

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Born in Poland to a Jewish family in 1923, Orenstein survived World War II due to a decision he made in 1944.

While imprisoned at the German labor camp Budzyn, the Nazis running the camp ordered all scientists and mathematicians to register as such. 

Despite being neither vocation nor knowing whether such registrants would be killed or not, Orenstein signed himself up along with his brothers. 

“I registered myself and my three brothers as scientists and mathematicians, even though we were not. Just gambling for time,” Orenstein told JTA in 2005.

“It turned out to be a good gamble.”

According to JTA, the Nazis were organizing a special unit of prisoners to develop a weapon that would help the German regime win the war, and those who registered were spared execution.

His parents, a sister, and a brother were killed during the war.

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After the war, Orenstein migrated to the United States, where he invented one of the most successful action figures in history.

The millionaire was a longtime donor of Jewish causes and founded the Orenstein Project, an Israeli nonprofit that focuses on food insecurity with special attention to Holocaust survivors. 

Orenstein is survived by his wife Susie.