Abraham Foxman, the National Director Emeritus of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), was born in Baranowicz, Poland in 1940. His parents, Helen and Joseph Fuksman (the original family name), lived in Warsaw before the war. They moved East to Belarus after the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 and then fled to Vilnius in Lithuania, along with their newly hired Polish Catholic nanny, Bronislawa Kurpi, after Abraham was born. But German forces entered the city in June of 1941 and immediately began subjecting its Jewish population to forced labor, deportation and killing.
Abraham was saved from the Holocaust by his nanny, who took him in when his parents were moved into the Vilna Ghetto. She baptized him and raised him as a Catholic for the next four years, during which time he was known as Henryk Stanislas Kurpi. He could not play with other children given the risk that they might see he was circumcised and discover his Jewish identity.
Miraculously, both of Abraham's parents survived, but his grandparents and 13 of his aunts and uncles perished in the Holocaust. His mother managed to escape the ghetto and, posing as a Pole, got a job that helped her support her son and the nanny. His father narrowly escaped death several times, in the ghetto and, later, in various labor camps and in hiding. After the war, he returned to Vilna where the family was reunited but the nanny did not want to give back their only child. Several custody battles ensued and ultimately his parents prevailed.
The experience led them to flee Lithuania, which was then under Soviet control. They were smuggled across borders until they reached the American Zone in Austria, where they lived in a Displaced Persons camp. They were granted visas to the United States in 1950, when Abraham was 10 years old.
In America, the family lived on the Upper West Side, Lower East Side and Tom's River, New Jersey, before settling in Brooklyn, where Abraham attended the Yeshivah of Flatbush. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the City College of New York and graduated with honors in History. He also holds a law degree from the New York University School of Law, and did graduate work in Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and in International Economics at the New School.
An authority on the Holocaust and Jewish resistance to the Nazis, he has helped focus worldwide attention on the heroic efforts of Christian rescuers of Jews and has been a leader in developing educational programs about the Holocaust. He joined the ADL in 1967 and served as its National Director from 1987 to 2015. He currently heads the Center for the study of Anti-semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.
In 1967, he married Golda Bauman of Montreal, after meeting her at the Zionist Camp Herzl in Wisconsin. They have two children, Michelle and Ariel, a son in law, Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, and three grandchildren, Leila, Gideon and Amirit Small, who all attend the Heschel School.