Holocaust Survivor of Nine Concentration Camps, Purveyor of Message About Nazi Atrocities, Dies at Age 91
A Holocaust survivor who spent his teenage years in nine different concentration camps before moving to the US, becoming a successful businessman and attempting to educate his community about the atrocities committed by the Nazis, died last week of kidney failure at the age of 91, NorthJersey.com reported.
According to the report, Abraham Peck, a longtime resident of Fair Lawn, NJ, had been an inmate in several camps, including Auschwitz, between the ages of 15 and 20.
In a recently published biography, Abe-vs-Adolf: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Abe Peck — written by Maya Ross and based on extensive interviews she conducted with him over the course of four years — Peck recounted his tale of tribulation and triumph.
Ross called Peck’s story a victory over Hitler. “Living was winning,” she said.
In an interview conducted several months ago, Peck said that the worst day of his life was seeing his father die, according to NorthJersey.com. When he begged an SS soldier to allow him to help with the burial, the Nazi hit him with the barrel of a gun and ordered him back to work. Peck said, “Until this day, I don’t know where my father is buried.”
Peck was liberated from Dachau on April 30, 1945 by US forces. A year later, he met his wife, Helen, also a Holocaust survivor. Four years after that, their son, Jacob, was born and the family immigrated to Paterson, NJ, changing their last name from Pik to Peck. (Jacob said his father’s survival was due to an unwavering will to live and a lot of luck.)
Initially, Peck worked at an upholstery manufacturing company, which he eventually purchased, renamed and ran successfully for 25 years. After his retirement, according to the report, he regularly addressed schools and community groups to share his experiences. This endeavor was born out of frustration, which Ross described in the book. “[T]he American citizens he met did not have an inkling of the horrors which Holocaust survivors had experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Even worse, the Americans he encountered were not at all interested in learning about the tragic plight of European Jews,” she wrote.
During one visit to a high school, Peck told students:
It is up to all of us to speak up when we encounter injustice. Do not allow yourself to become a victim or a bystander. We must love and respect our fellow human beings regardless of differences in religion, nationality or color. With hope, let each of us take responsibility to build a better world. One life at a time. One day at a time.
Rabbi Simon Glustrom of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center, where Peck was a congregant, called the Holocaust survivor someone who “did not expect the world to look with great pity on him.” Eulogizing Peck on Monday at a Fair Lawn chapel, Glustrom, 92, said his own adolescence growing up in Atlanta during the Great Depression was “like a Garden of Eden compared to Abe’s.”
Peck is survived by his son, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2005.
According to the report, he was the only member of his immediate family — and one of seven relatives — to survive the Nazi genocide, and the last remaining Holocaust survivor from the Polish town of Szadek.