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Abraham Lewent papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1989.242.32

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    Abraham Lewent papers

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    The Abraham Lewent papers include biographical materials, correspondence, immigration materials, poems, and personal narratives documenting Abraham Lewent, the concentration camps he survived during the Holocaust, his refugee and displaced person status and job training after liberation, and his immigration to the United States.
    Biographical materials include a list of the places Lewent was incarcerated, a certificate documenting his detention in Dachau, an identification card from the Feldafing displaced persons camp, a membership card for the Council of Warsaw Jews in the American Zone of Germany, a Munich public transportation pass, a notice indicating that a lung condition would delay Lewent’s Alijah, a Jewish Agency for Palestine certificate of registration, an ORT school identification card and professional testing certificate, an International Refugee Organization professional testing certificate and affidavit attesting to Lewent’s identity, Munich Jewish Community membership card, a work card, and a hospital canteen card.
    Correspondence includes tracing materials from the Jewish Agency and International Refugee Organization documenting Lewent’s efforts to trace his relatives and a letter from the Yiddish Workers’ Committee in New York City documenting Yiddish books Lewent had given the Committee.
    Immigration materials include correspondence with the Displaced Persons Commission, Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, and International Refugee Organization; an affidavit of support; baggage checks and tags; a news bulletin from Lewent’s transatlantic crossing; and an application initiating the naturalization process.
    Writings consist of two notebooks containing Lewent’s personal poems, notes, and observations about Jewish life in Warsaw, the ghetto, and antifascist resistance. Most are in Yiddish and some are in Polish.
    inclusive:  1945-1950
    Collection Creator
    Abraham Lewent
    Abraham Lewent was born on July 27, 1924, to Raphael Nachman and Hena Lea Rozbruch Lewent in Warsaw, Poland, where both families had lived for several generations. He had three younger sisters: Pola, b. March 1926, Chava, b. October 1928, and Chaia, b. June 1930. His father Raphael was born July 1902 to Mordechai and Esther Eibeshitz Lewent, and had four siblings: Shlomo, Moshe, Yaakov, and Chava. Mordechai owned a hardware store. Abraham’s mother Hena was born September 1904 to Elchonan and Deborah Rozbruch, and had a brother Shmuel. Elchonan owned a clothing factory and retail store, Firma Baranek. Raphael managed the factory and Shmuel the store. The family lived in a Jewish neighborhood, spoke Yiddish and Polish, and had a live-in maid. Abraham attended a Polish school and a Jewish cheder. The large, extended family was very close and, in 1938, Abraham’s paternal great-grandmother, Rivka Eibeshitz, moved in with them.
    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Warsaw was bombed and they had no water, heat, or food. For weeks, they ate only rice and sour pickles that Abraham stole from a destroyed pickle factory. German troops occupied the city on September 29. They distributed bread, but when Abraham and his sister stood in line, a Polish boy identified them as Jews and they were tossed out of line. A German soldier was killed and 53 Jewish men, women, and children were taken from a nearby building and shot in the streets. In October, the Germans confiscated the family factory. Abraham’s father and grandfather took fabric and hid it at home. Abraham’s great grandmother Rivka died circa November. On November 23, Jews were required to wear Star of David armbands. The ghetto was established on October 12, 1940, in the area where the Lewent family lived, and sealed in November. People taken away for work details were unrecognizable from beatings and malnutrition when they returned. Raphael bartered cloth and cigarettes made from stolen tobacco for bread. So many people died daily from starvation that they were picked up by wagonloads off the street for burial in mass graves. Raphael was chief mechanic in Toebbens factory and had a paper exempting him and his family from deportation because of his importance to the German war effort. On July 22, 1942, the Germans began mass deportations. As the Jews in their building were rounded up, Abraham hid in the false ceiling. His mother Hena took his sisters downstairs, thinking the paper would protect them, but the Germans tore it up and they were taken away.
    In early August, Abraham paid someone to get a job at the labor camp at the Warsaw-Okecie airfield. He unloaded coal wagons and stole coal to exchange for food. In December, Raphael sent a message that he was going to smuggle Abraham back to the ghetto. Too impatient to wait, Abraham, on December 30, took coal, exchanged it for money, took off his armband, and walked to the streetcar. A passenger said he would report him as a Jew unless Abraham paid him, so Abraham got off the streetcar with him, hit him with a brick, and ran to the next streetcar. He found Raphael, who got him a job at the factory. On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. Armed Jews fought deportations, but the Germans crushed the resistance after a month. Abraham and Raphael stayed hidden and saw the ghetto burning and heard the shooting.

    The Germans proceeded to liquidate the ghetto. Around the end of May, Abraham and Raphael were sent to Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin. They were issued a striped uniform and wooden shoes and Abraham was assigned prisoner number 9979. Beatings and hangings were common, daily events. Some inmates committed suicide by drowning themselves in the latrine. They did nothing or broke large stones into small stones and dug and refilled ditches. Abraham and Raphael were digging a ditch when a Polish political prisoner walked by and threw a large stone at Raphael, severely injuring his leg. Raphael could not walk and was taken to the hospital. He did not come back. Abraham heard that the Germans killed all those in the hospital. Organization Todt was recruiting laborers for a munitions factory and Abraham volunteered. After two months in Majdanek, he was sent to Skarzysko-Kamienna slave labor camp, a munitions factory near Radom. He was now prisoner number 1673. Abraham said he was a mechanic and worked a machine that cut steel for bullets. He was not allowed to stop the machine and, when he ran out of steel, he was hit in the face by the foreman. He got typhus and was hospitalized. He feared he would be killed, but was too weak to leave. After two days, he convinced the doctor to release him. He then worked outdoors, unloading bricks. Another inmate taught him how to steal soup from the kitchens, so he ate well and sold the rest, but was caught and beaten. As the Soviets advanced, the camp was evacuated.
    On September 9, 1944, Abraham arrived in Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and was now prisoner 84548. There were fewer beatings and hangings. Circa late September, Abraham was sent to Schlieben, a munitions factory near Leipzig. He packed and loaded panzerfaust antitank weapons. Sometime in November, a foreman saw him looking at planes overhead and threw a panzerfaust at him, badly cutting his arm. That night, the factory was bombed. The wounded inmates were taken to Buchenwald for treatment, and Abraham used his bandaged arm to get taken as well. The wounded were photographed being fed and well treated. After a few days, Abraham was put in a regular barrack with very little food. In late 1944 or early 1945, he was transferred to Bisingen, a subcamp of Natzweiler-Struthof. He dug shale for a shale oil factory. Conditions were bad and other inmates tried to steal his bread. Around March, he was sent to Allach, a Dachau subcamp. Housed with no food or water. Abraham became ill. In early April, the prisoners were sent on a death march; anyone who fell behind was shot. They were put on a train with German guards, who removed their SS insignia. On April 30, the train stopped in Staltach, near Starnberg. The guards threw away their rifles and ran. Abraham and the other inmates were too weak to stand but pushed each other out of the train and rolled down the hill where there were American tanks. An American Jewish soldier gave Abraham water and the mezuzah from around his neck. The Red Cross gave them care packages, but the man next to Abraham told him not to eat the food, because he so was malnourished, eating it would kill him. Abraham weighed about 80 pounds and was kept in the Red Cross tent for several days. On May 7, Germany surrendered.
    Abraham was taken to Feldafing displaced persons camp. He had pleurisy and was hospitalized in Gauting in July. After recovering, he moved to Munich and went to an ORT school. Abraham’s mother, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were murdered in Treblinka. His only living relative was a paternal uncle Moshe, who had immigrated to Palestine in 1924. Abraham sailed from Bremerhaven on the General Haan on September 17, 1949, arriving in New York on September 26. He worked as a mechanic. He took night classes, where he met Miriam Storch (1926-2006), who was born in Zamosc, Poland, and survived the war in Siberia and Uzbekistan. In August 1950, Abraham and Miriam married. They settled in New Jersey and had two children. Abraham never stopped searching for family members. In 1998, using a Survivors Registry, Abraham found and met a distant cousin. Abraham, 78, died on November 30, 2002.

    Physical Details

    6 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Abraham Lewent papers are arranged as a single series: I. Abraham Lewent papers, 1945-1950

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Abraham Lewent donated the Abraham Lewent papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 and 1991. The accession formerly cataloged as 1991.301 has been incorporated into this collection.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-30 12:03:59
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