Photos: Chazzan Avrohom Shlomo Antman z”l


It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Chazzan Avrohom Shlomo Antman z”l, one of the popular longtime members of the Beth Medrash Govoha Alumni Minyan in Lakewood, NJ.

The numbers on Chazzan Antman’s left arm were perpetual reminders of the horrors he endured during World War II, when he lost nearly his entire family. In fact, one of the yahrtzeits that he observed his entire life was not just for family members, but for, in his words, “der shtut” – his entire city.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo lived in his younger years in the town of Zavirtza, near Bendin and Kattowitz, close to the German border. The city had a kehillah of about 5,000 Yidden and was home to about 45,000 Poles. It was a decent-sized town with lots of businesses and a college. There were plenty of butchers, shoemakers and all sorts of businesses there. In essence, it was a vibrant city with a large Yiddishe kehillah.

The day the war broke out, Reb Avrohom Shlomo was in the Polish army as part of a Jewish regimen. The Polish army basically gave up after the first day and retreated eastward. Reb Avrohom Shlomo returned home on Erev Rosh Hashanah, about 10 days after the war began.

In Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s town, the Germans immediately set up a Judenrat, a Jewish council, consisting of 10 Jews, to do their bidding. They made sure the Germans got their money and everything else they needed while ransacking the town. Eventually, they all got killed and all the shuls were shuttered.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo and others organized secret minyanim for Shabbos and worked in a factory right outside the town, which was run by a high-ranking officer in the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) who didn’t want to fight the war. He opened a business to work for the army. Every day, Reb Avrohom Shlomo would leave the city, work for the day, and come back at night. While there were no deportations at that time, the Germans would grab people at random off the streets.

This lasted for about 1-1/2 years, until 1941, when the Germans set up a ghetto.

One year, on Rosh Hashanah, Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s father-in-law z”l was the baal Mussaf and Reb Avrohom Shlomo was to be the baal tokea. Reb Avrohom Shlomo had made the brachos before blowing and was ready to blow, but nothing came out of the shofar. Reb Avrohom Shlomo couldn’t blow. He thought of all the people who were with them the previous year and were no longer alive and it was too much for him. Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s father-in-law blew instead and then Reb Avrohom Shlomo blew the tekios during chazoras hashatz.

The Germans took the biggest houses in the town and squeezed all the Yidden into them. They divided the houses to make sure that as many people fit in as possible.

People realized what the end result was going to be and were desperate for any avenue of escape. One enterprising fellow by the name of Moshe Merin from the town of Sisnowitz came into town one day.. He wanted to save others and save himself. He gathered the townsfolk in the shul plaza and announced that he’s Moshe Rabbeinu and he has come to save Yidden. “I can’t be here to help you, since I’m going from town to town,” he said. “Get me a Judenrat and we’ll deal with them.” People listened to him but of course nothing materialized.

Once the Yidden were confined to the ghetto, the Germans would knock on doors and forcibly remove people from their homes. Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s family – his mother, wife and brother – hid in a basement. This basement was a place where one could last for a few hours maximum and so they hid there. The basements were cold, and people stored meat and other perishables throughout the winter there so that they shouldn’t get spoiled. The basement had no facilities, but Reb Avrohom Shlomo was alive.

In 1943, Reb Avrohom Shlomo got the feeling that it was the end. It had gotten quiet – too quiet. On Rosh Hashanah that year, the Germans got 10 Yidden to walk around to all the corners of the ghetto, telling them, “There’s no reason to hide. It’s all over anyway, so you might as well come out.” The Germans were very smart about it, using Yidden, who other Yidden instinctively trusted, to get people out of their hideouts.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo was sent to the same factory where he had previously worked. He and others were set up with straw-filled beds and pillows. The older people were on one side and the younger more able-bodied people were on the other side.

On Isru Chag Sukkos, Reb Avrohom Shlomo and the others were put on trains. They weren’t cattle cars, but trains with windows. Guards were positioned to make sure that nobody escaped through the windows.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo and the others got off the train at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where they were greeted by the evil Dr. Mengele, yemach shemo. Those who were sent to the left were never seen again, and those who were sent to the right had a chance to make it. Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s wife and mother were sent to the left, and that was the last he saw of them. Reb Avrohom Shlomo had his brother with him, and they remained together throughout the war and beyond.

The Germans’ motivation was to dehumanize them, to rip out any semblance of humanness. They gave them soap to use, and they quickly realized that the soap was made from their Yiddishe brothers and sisters. They took the fat off the bodies and made soap from them, and this is what they made the Jews use. They barely had any food to eat, and they got a bit of water in the morning that they called tea.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo was sent out to work in a cement factory in Golishuv, where there was a mountain of stones that was good for making cement. He worked 12-hour days shlepping huge stones and cutting them down. He had no shoes, and leather shoes weren’t even practical, since they got ruined once they got wet. Reb Avrohom Shlomo ended up with wooden shoes, which were a blessing, since even though they got wet, they dried out overnight.

At one point, Reb Avrohom Shlomo was hitting the stones and nothing was going. He couldn’t break them apart into smaller pieces, aside from the fact that the hammer was extremely heavy and difficult to pick up. A Yid from Lodz showed Reb Avrohom Shlomo how to do it. He said that it’s just like diamonds; you have to find the vein in the stone. He showed Reb Avrohom Shlomo how to find the vein and then he was able to cut the stones.

One Friday night, a small stone fell on Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s hand and it bloodied it up. Reb Avrohom Shlomo went to the “doctor” of the camp and he wrapped it in toilet paper and told Reb Avrohom Shlomo to go to the head doctor. Reb Avrohom Shlomo felt that this may be his chance to get out of there. He banged his hand all night and his hand became very swollen. When the head doctor saw Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s number, he said that with that number, there’s nothing he can do. Reb Avrohom Shlomo had a high number, which meant that he wasn’t one of the better workers in the camp. He said, “Ich ken gornisht ton – I can’t do anything.”

Reb Avrohom Shlomo went to the doctor’s assistant and told him that the doctor had said that he can’t make three cuts to heal it, but maybe he – the assistant – can ask the doctor to make one cut which may heal the wound. Of course, Reb Avrohom Shlomo didn’t tell him that it was swollen because of what he did. The doctor agreed to make one cut, but he had no tools. Reb Avrohom Shlomo told him to take a razor. He made a cut with a razor and found no puss. Reb Avrohom Shlomo had a scar on his hand all his life from that cut. The doctor eventually wrapped it in toilet paper and got warm water from the laundry. Reb Avrohom Shlomo was given a couple of days off to heal and wandered around in the factory and got some more food to eat. Reb Avrohom Shlomo couldn’t continue like this, because they would ask too many questions, so he was sent to another commandant to work on train tracks. The work was only until nightfall, so it was much easier and they gave Reb Avrohom Shlomo more food to eat.

One day, Reb Avrohom Shlomo and the others got an order to liquidate the camp. They walked for 13 days on a death march and were bombarded from all sides. One of the guards had a dog with him and had food prepared for the dog. Reb Avrohom Shlomo took the dog’s food and ate it.

One day, at around twilight, Reb Avrohom Shlomo and his group were in a forest. They felt that this is our opportunity to escape. They ran into the forest and hid for the night. In the morning, they got up and walked to a house in the middle of the forest. The owner of the house told them that he has no food or anything for us, but he can put them in the attic. Reb Avrohom Shlomo stayed there for six weeks. One day, Americans appeared, and that’s how Reb Avrohom Shlomo knew that he was free.

By Rosh Hashanah, Reb Avrohom Shlomo had made it to Nuremberg, Germany, with the help of a goy who took them there. The Americans needed a chazzan on Rosh Hashanah for the Jewish soldiers stationed there. The city had a shul, so Reb Avrohom Shlomo had a place to daven. Reb Avrohom Shlomo’s friends told someone that he’s a chazzan, so they asked him to be the chazzan for Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah. The Joint had sent machzorim, but they were Reform machzorim. Reb Avrohom Shlomo had a kosher shofar, which he had for the rest of his life in his house.

It was a bittersweet davening. Reb Avrohom Shlomo was free, but he had nothing. But he kept on going and rebuilding with emunah and bitachon.

Ultimately, Reb Avrohom Shlomo immigrated, living in the Bronx for many years and moving to Lakewood, NJ, toward the end of his life.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo was beloved to all who knew him. He regaled others with his rich memories and anecdotes, and shared his koach haneginah with others throughout his life.

For years, he attended every simcha he was able to, especially at the Bais Faiga Hall in Lakewood, NJ, where he would give a lengthy and personal heartfelt bracha to every chosson. He would recall his trying younger years and would mention his age, bentching the baalei simcha for them to merit reaching the golden years of life as he had.

Reb Avrohom Shlomo passed away today at the ripe old age 103. With his petirah, Klal Yisroel has lost one of the few remaining connections to an era long gone.

The levayah will be held tomorrow, at 10 a.m., at Schwartz Brothers-Jeffer Memorial Chapel, located at 114-03 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills, NY. Kevurah will follow at Beth David Cemetery, located at 300 Elmont Road in Elmont, NY.

Yehi zichro boruch.

PHOTOS: [(C) Flash 87 Images]

Chazzan Antman 1Chazzan Antman 2Chazzan Antman 3 Chazzan Antman 4 Chazzan Antman 5 Chazzan Antman 6 Chazzan Antman 7 Chazzan Antman 8 Chazzan Antman 9 Chazzan Antman 10 Chazzan Antman 11 Chazzan Antman 12

Chazzan Antman 15 Chazzan Antman 16 Chazzan Antman

Chazzan Antman 13Chazzan Antman 14{Gavriel / Photos (C) 2016 Flash 87 Images}


  1. Thank you to whoever wrote this. It is a kovod for the niftar, who went through so much, to have his story told.