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Post-Holocaust Hope: Honoring a Shoah survivor

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

This article first appeared as the cover story in the June edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

By Bruce Deckert — Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

THE LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER at Avon High School features a new special section — upon entering the facility, visitors immediately encounter the Abby Weiner Holocaust Memorial Library.

Abraham “Abby” Weiner (pronounced WHY-ner) was a Holocaust survivor who became a U.S. citizen and a U.S. Army veteran, serving during the Korean War.

Weiner and Avon High social studies teacher Stuart Abrams were close friends: They share a Jewish heritage, and Abrams has considered Weiner an essential mentor and a true mensch — a term of Yiddish origin that refers to an admirable person of integrity and honor. Abrams began teaching at Avon High School in 1994, and he has been recognized as the Teacher of the Year by the Avon Public Schools.

For 20-plus years he has taught a course called Genocide and Human Behavior. Weiner visited Abrams’ class many times to speak about his life story, including his World War 2 experience in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.

Born in December 1929, Weiner died in January 2019 at 89 years of age. Since his passing, the seed of the Abby Weiner Holocaust Memorial Library has germinated slowly and surely until flowering like a blazing rhododendron at the dedication of this distinctive collection at Avon High on April 19.

At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife Bonnie, his daughter Gayle (Weiner) Temkin and husband Steven, his son Howard Weiner and wife Barbara, and five grandchildren.

Abby Weiner and Elie Wiesel were childhood friends as they grew up in Romania, in the city of Sighet. Perhaps the most well-known Holocaust survivor, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize and authored more than 50 books, including "Night" — his signature riveting memoir of his harrowing and heart-wrenching experience as a Jewish youth who witnessed and endured the Shoah firsthand.

As teenagers in 1944, Weiner and Wiesel were forcibly transported along with their families via a brutal train trip from Sighet to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

At the Auschwitz compound, they were tattooed with identification numbers — Abby received A7705 and Elie A7713. During the Holocaust, Auschwitz was the only location in the vast network of Nazi concentration camps where prisoners were tattooed. Abby’s mother and father were murdered before the war was over.

Speaking of nights: On the night of Wednesday, April 19 — the date when the Abby Weiner library was dedicated— a fire ravaged a two-story house about a half-mile north of Avon High School on West Avon Road, aka Route 167. The home’s roof was destroyed, and charred studs stood out visibly against the starry night sky.

Bonnie Weiner, Abby’s widow, and AHS teacher Stuart Abrams applaud with other attendees after the painting of Abby was unveiled at the dedication of the Abby Weiner Holocaust Memorial Library

The Avon Volunteer Fire Department was present at the scene of the blaze, closing the section of West Avon Road where the scorched house stood and rerouting southbound traffic to Burnham and Country Club Roads, and then back to West Avon Road for the stone’s-throw consummation of the journey to AHS for all library-ceremony-goers. Fortuitously — and perhaps ironically — the fire department’s Company 3 is located on West Avon Road, directly adjacent to the high school.

On the night when a Holocaust survivor was honored at Avon High, the real-life and real-time symbolism of this house fire was poignant yet powerful.

For the uninitiated, the definition of the lowercase term holocaust is as follows, per various dictionaries:

holocaust • noun — a sacrifice consumed by fire, or a burnt offering — devastation or destruction, especially by fire •

The uppercase term Holocaust refers to the systematic mass slaughter of 6 million Jews and millions of others by the Nazis during World War 2.

Holocaust stories are as numerous as stars in the sky.

Thanks to a brand-new collection in Avon High’s Library Media Center, one of the star survivors of the Shoah has been memorialized, while a multitude of vital books and essential stories will shine brightly for ensuing generations.

Besides being likened to a shining star or a flaming rhododendron that has found an honored place at Avon High, the Abby Weiner Holocaust Memorial Library can be compared to the legendary phoenix rising from the ashes — combined with the proverbial eagle soaring via renewed strength à la the prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. +

Related Stories — in June edition of Today Magazine:

Stuart Abrams Exclusive InterviewTribute To Abby Weiner

Sources + Resources

• Barnes & Noble website

• CT Remembers the Holocaust website > Search: Abby Weiner

• University of Hartford website > Search: Abraham “Abby” Weiner > Museum of Jewish Civilization webpage

• United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website

• Weinstein Mortuary website > Obituaries > Search: Abby Weiner

• Various other online info outlets •

Today Magazine editor-in-chief Bruce William Deckert is an award-winning journalist — and he believes all human beings merit awards daily when we utilize our God-given talents for good


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