- Joseph and Helen Foxman, Abe's parents, were married in Warsaw, Poland in 1935..
- In 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland and Warsaw was bombed.
- His parents fled eastward to Baranovich, Poland (now considered Belarus) to his father’s family home. Abe was born in Baranovich in 1940.
Shortly thereafter, in an effort to stay ahead of the advancing German armies the family moved east again to Lithuania.
- Lithuania was occupied by the Germans in the spring of 1941 and orders were issued that all Jews had to report to the ghetto in Vilna (the nation's capital city).
Abe's parents, fearing the danger of that order, decided that they would not bring their infant son into the ghetto and made short term arrangements to leave him with his Polish nanny outside the ghetto.
- Bronislawa Kurpi, Abe’s nanny, was a humble servant girl, poorly educated, and suffering from a number of health problems. She was deaf in one ear and had a weak heart. She was also a devout Catholic, a tough-minded woman, and she loved Abe profoundly. She was willing to do whatever it took too keep Abe safe from the Nazis and was willing to risk her life to do so.-"Righteous Gentile"
- Frau Kurpi understood that it was not safe to let Abe go to school or play with other children because he was circumcised. She guarded him carefully and soon Abe loved her as if she was his natural mother. She raised Abe as a Catholic, had him baptized, took him to church, taught him the prayers and gave him a cross to wear. Abe enjoyed sharing his nanny's faith and when he saw a priest in the street he would stop to kiss his hand. She also taught him to spit when a Jewish person walked by and call him "dirty Jew" and share the anti-Semitic ideas of her world.
- Abe's parents were in the Vilna ghetto for a few years. Sometimes, they were able to get out and visit him. He thought of them as some kind of aunt and uncle. The true situation was discovered by Lithuanian Gestapo, Court Examiner Julian Boyka ,who turned out to be Frau Kurpi's brother. Boyka confronted Abe's and demanded a ransom not to kill all involved. Abe's father was able to concoct a story that this was not his son. With the help of a lawyer, Abram Dimitrovsky, it was decided that Abe (whose name had been changed to Henryk by his nanny) and his nanny had to escape from the area, and they went into hiding at a summer house outside the city.
- Abe's mother escaped from ghetto, established a false identity as an Aryan, and did whatever she could to support Abe and the nanny. Abe's father was imprisoned in several concentration camps and was eventually liberated by the Allies.
In 1945 the Russians liberated Lithuania. Abe learned Russian and was enrolled in school. Due to a lack of housing, Abe's parents, his nanny and Abe moved into the same residence. Abe's father tried to wean Abe away from Catholicism and back to his Jewish heritage. The first time Abe entered a synagogue was Simchas Torah 1945. For a year Abe attended both synagogue and church.
- Frau Kurpi did not want to give up her "Catholic son" and a struggle between parents and nanny worsened. She made false accusations against his father who was repeatedly arrested by the communist authorities and questioned. Eventually a custody trial was going to decide to whom this child belonged. Abe was six years old, and the court did not ask him his preference. He thinks today that he would have chosen the nanny because he regarded her as his mother.
- When the court ruled in favor of Joseph and Helen, the nanny arranged for several of her relatives to kidnap him. His parents were able to get some Jewish acquaintances to kidnap him back. This made them realize that they had to get out of Europe. His parents were able to sneak into the American zone in Austria and stayed in a DP camp for three years until they got visas to come to the U.S.
- Abe's parents continued to write and send packages as well as money to Frau Kurpi. She never responded. The postal authorities informed them that she died in 1958.
Jews in Warsaw prior to WWII
Invasion of Poland
Polish refugees in Lithuania
Quest for Family
http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/ (put DP camps in search box)