Real estate developer Abraham Zuckerman of Livingston — who credited German industrialist Oskar Schindler with his survival during the Holocaust — died on Dec. 12 at age 89.
He was a founding member, with two fellow “Schindlerjuden,” of the real estate development company LPZ Associates.
Zuckerman was born in Cracow, Poland, in 1924. His parents and two sisters were rounded up in a village square in Dukla, Poland, when he was 14, shipped off, and murdered. He spent time in six different concentration camps. He was assigned to a factory run by Schindler, who defied the Nazi authorities by sheltering some 1,200 Jews through various acts of subterfuge.
Zuckerman documented his experiences during the Holocaust in his memoir, A Voice in the Chorus: Memories of a Teenager Saved by Schindler, published by Ktav in 1991. In Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s 1993 adaptation of a book by Thomas Keneally, Zuckerman was among the survivors depicted at the end of the movie. According to Zuckerman’s son-in-law, Steven Katz, who spoke with NJJN by phone on Dec. 16, Zuckerman often said, “Everything in the movie was 100 percent accurate. Everything was real, not Hollywood. Except in the movie, you couldn’t smell the crematorium, the smell of death, and you couldn’t feel the anguish they felt every day.”
After the war, he spent four years in a displaced persons’ camp in Bindermichl, Austria, where he met and married Mina Mark, who was known as Millie. The Zuckermans immigrated to the United States in 1949, moved to Passaic, where Zuckerman had relatives, and settled in the Hillside/Elizabeth area, joining the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth.
After several months, Zuckerman and his boyhood friend, Murray Pantirer, with whom he had been reunited in Schindler’s factory and who had emigrated at the same time as Zuckerman, decided to start a business together building homes. A third partner, Pantirer’s uncle, Isak Levenstein, also credited Schindler with his survival.
According to Katz, the partners built their first home in the early 1950s entirely by themselves, except for the plumbing and electricity, working out of the trunk of a used car.
“One house became three, and that became six, and they built a business. It was the quintessential American dream,” said Katz. To pay tribute to Oskar Schindler, they named streets in his honor in many of their developments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Zuckerman was predeceased by his partners. Their company continues to be run by their families.
A major donor to Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, Zuckerman and his wife were members of both the JEC, where he was a former president, and Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston. He was a member of the board of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, a founding member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, a trustee of the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City, a fellow of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and a founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
Zuckerman was a founding member of the Holocaust Resource Center at Kean University and a supporter of the Jerusalem Foundation, the New Cracow Friendship Society, and the Rabbinical College of America.
He is survived by Millie, his wife of 66 years; his daughter Ann and son-in-law Bernard Sklar; his daughter Ruth and son-in-law Steven Katz; his son Wayne and daughter-in-law Deborah; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held Dec. 13 at the JEC in Elizabeth.