Avraham Perlmutter was born in Vienna, Austria in August 1927 and raised in an Orthodox family. As a child before the war, he enjoyed going to school and playing soccer. On March 13, 1938 his life was changed as Hitler announced the Anschluss with Austria. After that, he and his family began to feel the rising antisemitism more sharply and decided to try and emigrate. By January of 1939 they were desperate to escape the Nazis and so Avraham and his sister were sent to the unoccupied Netherlands to live with an aunt. After going through four refugee camps and recovering from diphtheria, he was released to relatives in December 1939.
While in the Netherlands Avraham studied Dutch, which would help him later. In May 1940 the Germans invaded the Netherlands and in October 1942, as the roundups became more and more common, Avraham was sent to live with a Jewish widow in Amsterdam. In March of 1943 he was discovered and arrested, but he managed to escape before he could be put on a train to a concentration camp. Avraham met members of an underground organization, the Westerweel group, and they secured him a hiding place with a man in the country. When the Nazi’s arrived, he hid and was sent to the farm where his sister was also in hiding. However, they were separated and he was sent to Rotterdam. Avraham found himself in transit again, when the Westerweel group moved him to Grubbenvorst, a Dutch village three miles from the German border. With a help of a priest he made it to Grubbenvorst undetected and hid in the home of a Catholic family. Over the next months, his hiding place was changed frequently as the Germans moved around the village. After the British liberated the village in November 1944 Avraham became a translator between the local Dutch population and the British. Eventually he immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine where he was reunited with his father, and later, with his sister. After serving in the Israeli army, he decided to return to school to study aerodynamics and engineering. He attended Georgia Tech and Princeton University before receiving his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. Avraham and his wife moved to Los Angeles in 1969 where they raised their family.
Surviving the Holocaust: Stories of Life
An ongoing project of KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles
and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park