Abraham Zuckerman was born and raised in the Polish city of Cracow. He
spent his teenage years in Nazi concentration camps and at the end of
World War II came to the United States, where he began a new life. He
grew up as a religious observant Jew, and his experiences of evil and
suffering during the holocaust years strengthened rather than weakened
his faith. His survival was due to his being assigned to a factory run
Oscar Schindler, the German industrialist who at great personal
risk saved twelve hundred Jews from extermination.
In recent years Abraham Zuckerman has devoted himself to memorializing
this noble act. Zuckerman published his memoirs in 1991. His "A
Voice in the Chorus" is a moving and powerful addition to the
library of works on the holocaust.
Zuckerman spent time during the war in a total of seven concentration
camps, never hearing about Oscar Schindler until he was sent as a worker
to his factory in Emalia in 1943.
"The moment that I arrived, I knew that my life had changed,"
Abraham Zuckerman later recalls. "There was food and mountains of
potatoes. One never went hungry ..."
"The movie showed one thing, but there were other things that he
did in camp, little things," says Zuckerman. "He was a chain
smoker, so he used to take a puff and throw it away, a puff and throw it
away. For the survivors, the people who were smoking, it meant a lot to
them to pick it up and have a puff. He would do it on purpose, knowing
that people would pick it up."
He couldn't just give them cigarettes or extra food because there were
Nazi guards in the factory who might squeal if they witnessed behavior
deemed too humane; indeed, says Zuckerman, Schindler was arrested a
couple of times because somebody reported him.
Despite the conditions, Oscar Schindler was always a perfect gentleman
to the inmates, he says. "He bowed to you, and he said good morning
to you," Zuckerman says, which may not sound like much of a favor,
but to those beaten-down Jews, that small acknowledgement of their
dignity gave them enormous hope.
After World War II, Zuckerman re-established contact with Oscar
Schindler in the 1950s, when he began his career as real estate
developer in New Jersey together with Murray Pantirer. They have named
more than 25 streets for Schindler in their developments in New Jersey.
They also sponsored visits by Schindler to the U.S., treating him as a
member of their families and helping him financially during the post-war
period when he found it difficult to re-establish himself.
For Abraham Zuckerman's daughter, Ruth Katz, that history was a living
history. She remembers Oscar Schindler, "Uncle Oscar", coming
to visit when she was a child and staying at her home, where she would
talk to him in Yiddish while he would answer in German. "He would
always pat the back of my head," she says. "He loved children;
he would always call us 'kinder, kinder.'"
Katz says though she grew up as a child of Holocaust survivors, in her
house there was no sadness and there were no horror stories.
"Everything was music, happiness, they never talked about the bad
things. And then the movie comes out, and I say to myself, 'My God! This
is what they went through! This man really did save their lives.' When I
tell people now that my father was a Schindler Jew, they can't believe
it, they're in awe: 'Your father was really saved by Schindler?'
"The stories were always told to us when we were little, how he
saved them, and what he did. But when you're a kid, you think they're
stories. Some people's parents put their kids on their lap and told them
bedtime stories; my father put us on his lap and told us how wonderful
this man was to him.
"I remember the day Oscar Schindler died, I was a freshman in
college in my dorm. It was one of the saddest days, because I had never
really experienced any sadness with my parents. I had never seen my
father mourn anyone, because he didn't have anyone to mourn. And he
really mourned him. It was a really really traumatic time for him. They
were really sad, they had a loss that they hadn't experienced since the
Zuckerman, who always visits Schindler's grave on Jerusalem's Mount Zion
when he comes here, maintains that "there's still not enough being
done for Oscar Schindler, because of the enormous thing that he did. If
you talk to any of the
Schindler survivors, they'll all tell you that."
Abraham Zuckerman is the father of three children and grandfather of
eight. He holds leadership positions with a number of Holocaust
organizations and museums. He is satisfied that he at least kept his
hero solvent towards the end of his life, and that now everyone knows
the story he'd been trying to tell for so many years.
"Every time he came to America, I took him around to the real
estate projects, I showed him the streets named after him, and to the
engineers, the architects, just to introduce him. Today they tell me,
'If I'd only known who you brought to my place ...."