Peter, Avraham Haim

Avraham Peter grew up in the city of Lodz, Poland, where he was born August 12, 1926.  His parents had their own factory/business and the family was living a good, observant life, and the young Abe attended a Jewish school, and was raised in part by his grandparents.  Anti-Semitism was a reality in 1930s Lodz however, and when the young Abe was beaten up, his mother ventured to Palestine, looking at the possibility of relocating the family.  The war came too quickly for them to escape though, and as of September 1939 the family was trapped behind German lines.  The violence against the Jews of Lodz began immediately, ranging from public humiliation to murder.  Abe and his family were in the ghetto for over three years; they survived the hunger, disease, beatings and deportations, while they worked as forced labourers in the factories.  The liquidation of the ghetto came in August 1944, and while factories and people were packed up and sent away, Abe stayed behind as he was ordered to clean up the factory along with 17 other workers.  After a considerable argument, he managed to convince his mother and brother to stay too, while those who boarded the trains were despatched to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Abe’s job at this point was to clean the ghetto as the Nazis were searching for any valuables that might have been hidden, and he did this right up until the time of liberation, when the Soviet Red Army finally arrived.  It was plain that anti-Semitism still was the norm in Poland, so the family made plans to escape, and with the help of the Jewish Brigade they eventually boarded a ship to Israel, where they hoped to make a new life.  The British navy stopped them, and for a time Abe and his family were interned by the British on Cyprus before being allowed to go to Israel.  Once there, Abe pursued his education with all the energy he had, determined to make up for the six lost years of his young life.  War would intervene again though, and Abe enlisted to defend his new country, and his new life.  He met a young American girl during this time too, when he found himself in Oklahoma, learning about aeronautics.  They married after a memorable proposal on Tel Aviv’s Herzl Street.  Abe authored many scientific papers during this time, and one brought him to the attention of NASA, and he was consequently involved in the rescue of the Apollo 13 astronauts.  His personal journey is a true story of rising from the horror of the Shoah, illustrating the power of the human spirit.  Dr. Avraham Peter and his wife Marilyn were interviewed at their home in Jerusalem via zoom by Crestwood students during the pandemic winter of 2021.  We thank his granddaughter Tehila and Yad Vashem for their help in facilitating this.