David Brenner, 78

David Brenner, a standup comedian whose observational humor is credited with inspiring many top comics, died on March 16 at his home in New York City after battling cancer. The Philadelphia native was 78.

A favorite of Johnny Carson, Brenner appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 150 times starting in the 1970s. The former documentary filmmaker was a regular on TV talk shows and starred in four HBO specials.

Several of his uncles became rabbis, but Brenner told the Philadelphia Jewish Voice in 2008, “I never had the calling.”

Brenner was performing his standup routine regularly as late as last year.

“David was one of the most respected and liked comedians by his peers,” said Jeff Abraham, his friend and former publicist. “He was always there helping a bright young comedian, whether it be Richard Lewis, Freddie Prinze or Jimmie Walker, and he was still doing it until the very end.” — jta


Refugee who saved husband from Dachau dies at 111

Gisela Kohn Dollinger tricked death twice.

Soon after Kristallnacht, when she was 36, Dollinger persuaded the Gestapo to release her husband from prison and the two of them fled Austria for Shanghai, where she almost died of typhoid.

Last week, Dollinger passed away peacefully at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was 111 years old.

Dollinger’s passing came just weeks after Alice Herz-Sommer, a pianist and the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary who was believed to be the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, died at 110.

Known by her friends and family as Gisa, Dollinger was born in Baden-be-Wien, a Vienna suburb, on Aug. 30, 1902.

Shortly after Kristallnacht, when her family-owned dry-goods store was destroyed and Bernard was arrested, Dollinger went to the Gestapo in Vienna — putting herself at risk — and asked for her husband’s release, arguing successfully that since he was not an Austrian citizen (he was Polish), he should not have been included in the roundup of men scheduled to be sent to Dachau or Buchenwald.

The couple fled to Shanghai, where they lived in the ghetto to which stateless refugees were restricted. Gisela worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which was distributing clothing and other aid there.

In December 1948, the Dollingers departed China for Israel. In 1950 they moved to New York.

Widowed in 1993 after more than 60 years of marriage, Dollinger never had children but leaves behind scores of nieces, nephews and their offspring in the United States, Israel and England.

Carole Vogel, a great-great-niece, told how in 2005, at the age of 103, Dollinger returned to Austria for the first time since 1938. She had been invited to speak at the rededication of the synagogue her father helped found in the 1880s. — jta