The Family Jewels

In life, Paul Kalmanovitz controlled every business decision related to his $500million brewery/real estate dynasty.He even made detailed plans forthe governance of his estateafter he died. So why is the Kalmanovitz fortune the center of two vituperative

"[Mrs. Kalmanovitz] told me that [Mr. Paul] was very upset about what happened to his family in the camps," former Kalmanovitz cook Leslie Cross testified. "She said he was very anxious to get on the first flight into Poland to see about them."

When Mr. Paul arrived in Poland in 1946, he learned from his sister-in-law Alma that his brothers, Leon and Joseph, had died in Auschwitz. But he also learned that Sonia and Stanley Kalmanovitz, Joseph's teen-age children, had survived the camps.

Sonia was in love and wanted to stay in Europe, but Stanley wanted to come to America. Mr. Paul arranged for Stanley to get a visa, and he arrived in New York the year after the war ended. Mr. Paul's business partner, Nathan Sherry, met the skinny, chain-smoking 15-year-old and bought him a suit. The two then went to eat and Stanley, holding up his too-big underwear, learned that Americans ate corn. "I thought it was for just animals," Stanley said in court.

Later that night, Stanley was awakened by Mr. Paul, who looked at the numerals tattooed on his arm and cried.

The next day, Mr. Paul began educating his teen-age charge about America. Riding in a cab, Stanley mentioned that all Americans must be rich. "He told the cab driver to take us to the worst part of town, and he showed me the beggars," Stanley said in court. " 'That's lesson one,' he told me."

Then Mr. Paul threw the ratty bag Stanley was carrying out the window of the cab.

In Memphis the next day, Stanley continued his tutelage. Mr. Paul walked up to a desk clerk at a hotel and asked for a room. Told the inn was full, he walked to the end of a hall and looked at Stanley. "This is lesson number two," he said. He took a bill out of his wallet, slipped it in his palm, and after a quick handshake with the desk clerk, the two had a room.

By the end of the week, Stanley was ensconced in Tarzana, Calif., at Sleepy Hollow ranch, the home Mr. Paul had bought from the actor Robert Young. He soon went to work in Mr. Paul's Hollywood nightclubs.

Last month, Stanley, now 64, sat in Marin County court trying to convince Judge Dufficy that he wasn't the only thing Mr. Paul brought back from Europe. He and the other plaintiffs in the family-jewels case say Mr. Paul brought back $1 million in jewels and gold, too.

During lunch breaks in the family-jewels trial, Stanley Kalmanovitz goes out to the patio on the top floor of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Courthouse and soaks in the sun. There by the fountain, wearing his sunglasses, he drops hints, makes accusations, and plays the perfect Iago to my Othello.

"They bled this thing," he says, referring to the trustees and the estate. "Check the medication he was on [when he signed his last will]. Surely, he was on painkillers. He was in such pain."

He continues: "Here's a clue for you. Go to Colma and check the mausoleum. They say it cost six million dollars. But I'll bet it cost one million dollars."

They pocketed the rest? "Yeah," he says. "This guy here did." Just then one of the trustees walks by.

One gets used to this sort of thing hanging around the Kalmanovitz relatives. Wild accusations, unprovable calumny are their stock and trade. They traffic in it they way S&P traffics in cheap ale.

The claims that they've chosen to lay out in court papers are only a few degrees less fantastic. Stanley, who lives in Tel Aviv, along with two cousins from Poland, Karol and Pawel Kalmanovitz, and a sister, Sonia Rollbant from France, are asking the court to believe that Mr. Paul unearthed a $1 million family treasure from a cemetery plot in 1946 and transported it to America.

They further allege that the jewels were stolen from Mr. Paul's Los Angeles home in 1948 and that their erstwhile uncle was awarded $1 million from an unnamed insurance company. That money, the plaintiffs say, was poured into the budding Kalmanovitz beer dynasty.

The basic claims about the jewelry, why and where it was buried and how Mr. Paul came to have it, were told in court by Alma Kalmanovitz, the tycoon's sister-in-law.

Now 90, Alma still lives in Lodz, Poland. Her deposition, contained in seven hours of videotape, was played in court. Visibly feisty, and sometimes sobbing, Alma tells a riveting story.

In 1939, the Kalmanovitz family in Poland -- Alma and her husband, Mr. Paul's brother Leon -- feared losing their wealth to the Nazis. She testified that before the invasion the family converted its wealth -- the proceeds of a textile firm and other family businesses -- into gold bars, diamonds, rubies, pearls, Russian gold rubles, U.S. dollars, and German gold marks before the Nazi invasion.

The day before the Nazis locked the Jews into the Lodz ghetto, she and her family buried the jewels between two family plots in a local cemetery.

She said family members wrapped the treasure in cloth and stored it in a wooden box. "If we do not survive," Alma recalled her husband saying, "tell this to the oldest surviving person, and the ones left will divide it."

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