Abe Landau’s near-idyllic life growing up in Wilczyn, Poland in the 1920s and ’30s was filled with all the joys of youth—attending cheder school, playing and picnicking with friends, working with his father and spending holidays with his loving family. Little did he know that his world would soon crumble around him. In 1940 the town’s Jewish families were rounded up and transported to a ghetto in Zagorow. The following year, an SS man burst into Abe’s home, grabbed him and threw him into the back of a truck bound for a labor camp in Inowroclaw. The sight of his mother chasing the truck and falling beneath the spray of machine-gun fire would be his final image of her or of anyone in his immediate family.
Abe spent the next five years in labor and concentration camps throughout the Reich—a slave for the Nazi machine committed to exterminating him and millions of other Jews. He emerged from the nightmare a man of faith and endurance, his spirit still alive after surviving death marches, starvation, beatings and brutal transports in cattle cars crisscrossing Europe. Starting anew in the United States, Abe rebuilt his life as a tailor—cantor, activist and founder of the Holocaust Memorial in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Abe’s journey is a bittersweet story of survival, a study of the strength of the human spirit and a graphic portrayal of man’s inhumanity to man. As the number of accounts that bear testimony to the horrors of the Holocaust grows increasingly finite, it becomes all the more important for us, now, to seek out stories such as Abe’s and learn what we can from them.