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Abram Shnaper; dedicated to telling of Holocaust experience

Abram Shnaper, 95, of Philadelphia, a Holocaust survivor, died Monday, April 28, of a stroke at Arden Courts of Allentown.

Abram Shnaper
Abram ShnaperRead more

Abram Shnaper, 95, of Philadelphia, a Holocaust survivor, died Monday, April 28, of a stroke at Arden Courts of Allentown.

Mr. Shnaper narrowly escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, and dedicated his life to telling the story so that what he experienced might never happen again.

In 2007, he told the Jewish Exponent that the Jewish people would be safe only if future generations remembered the Holocaust and remained vigilant.

"This is what we still have to do," he said. "The children and grandchildren have to help us - to stay and watch."

Born in Lodz, Poland, Mr. Shnaper grew up in Vilna, now in Lithuania. During World War II, he was shuttled among seven labor camps, including the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz, Stutthof, and Bergen-Belsen.

In 1944, Mr. Shnaper, then in his 20s, escaped with his cousin from the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia just as Nazi soldiers shot a group of Jews and burned their bodies on wooden pyres, he told the Exponent.

The two men were rescued when the Soviets liberated the area. They were among only 100 to survive out of 3,500 prisoners incarcerated at Klooga, he told the newspaper.

The first thing he did after being liberated was to write down his experiences in a black-and-white notebook. "He said that it felt crazy, but he simply had to get everything on paper," the article said.

He spent time in Vilna and then Warsaw before marrying Luba Koenigsburg in 1947. The couple lived in a displaced-persons camp at the former Bergen-Belsen site, where a daughter, Sara, was born in 1948.

The family moved to Philadelphia a year later. Mr. Shnaper made his living as a bookbinder.

In 1952, he helped found a group now known as the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The organization provides a place to learn, plus comfort and support for survivors. Mr. Shnaper was its president until several years ago.

In the 1960s, the survivors group and the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia raised funds to build a Holocaust memorial. The monument, at 16th Street and the Parkway, was commissioned in April 1964 and given to the city.

Mr. Shnaper organized a committee to stage a yearly Holocaust remembrance ceremony. He also visited schools and colleges to share his story with students, and worked to ensure the survival of the State of Israel.

In addition to daughter Sara Shnaper Schonbach, he is survived by four grandchildren and two great-grandsons. His wife died in 1993, and a daughter, Marion Gershman, died in 2011.

Funeral services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 1, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Suburban North, 310 Second Street Pike, Southampton. Interment will follow in Shalom Memorial Park.

Donations may be made to Jewish National Fund via