Gizella Abramson, 85, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who charged teachers and students across North Carolina not to hate, passed away Thursday at the Hospice House of Wake County. She had suffered from ovarian cancer.
The only member of her immediate family to survive the Nazis, Mrs. Abramson will be remembered for her frequent ap¬pearances in the public schools. She often said she survived the Holocaust in order to share her experience with young people. Since 1973, Mrs. Abramson became a highly sought-after speaker who visited middle and high schools, teacher workshops, military bases, college campuses, churches, and police academies throughout the state.
Teaching tolerance and compassion wherever she spoke, Mrs. Abramson exuded natural warmth that left her audiences profoundly moved. Standing just 4 feet 10 inches, she could silence the chattiest of teenagers.
Born in Tarnopol, Poland, she was 13 at the outbreak of World War II. Mrs. Abramson escaped the Luck ghetto posing as a Christian with false papers. She joined the partisans until her capture and deportation to the Majdanek concentration camp where she performed slave labor in a stone quarry and as a translator. Forced into a death march in the final months of the war, she was liberated in May 1945.
After surviving the Holocaust, Mrs. Abramson joined her aunt in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1946. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., in 1951 with a B.A. in Education. On September 7, 1952, she married her beloved husband Paul Abramson, who survives.
After relocating to Raleigh in 1970, Mrs. Abramson became an active member of Temple Beth Or, working as the Director of Education for 19 years. She also served as a charter member of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust from 1981 to 1996. She was a devoted volunteer for Meals on Wheels of Wake County for 25 years as well.
Above and beyond her communal commitments, Mrs. Abramson was a dedicated mother and mother-in-law to Michael and Stephanie Abramson and Holly and Michael Zendels. She cherished and regularly doted on her four grandchildren – Stanton, Rachel, Philip, and Eric – who affectionately called her "Zee." We will forever remember her contagious smile and love of life.
The funeral will be held Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Or at 5315 Creedmoor Road in Raleigh. Burial will take place at the Hebrew Cemetery located on the corner of State Street and Oakwood Avenue. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the N.C. Holocaust Foundation or Temple Beth Or.