, Salem, MA


May 24, 2014

Letter: Remembering Boris Abel, ‘brush man’ and Holocaust survivor

To the editor:

Some of you may remember Boris Abel as the brush man who had a retail shop on Washington Street in Salem. In fact, that is how I got to know Boris.

Abel’s brush shop was located in the Salem News building, along with other occupants. Businesses alongside were Mavrakos Shoe Shine Parlor, Crystal Lunch, Parson’s restaurant and the Royal package store. As it goes, the News building caught on fire, and some of the tenants had to relocate.

Boris moved to Bridge Street, but it wasn’t the same. Washington Street then had a large number of pedestrians walk by his shop all day, but that was before urban renewal. Salem was a different city in those days.

Stepping back in time to relate a little history of Boris Abel’s life:

Boris was born in Lithuania to a well-to-do family and worked in his family’s factory making brushes. In June 1940, Russia occupied Lithuania, and the Russians nationalized his business but allowed Boris to operate and sell brushes.

Next, the Germans invaded Lithuania and began arresting all Jews and killing them. Boris escaped into the woods, returning a week later to find German soldiers living in his house. Boris was caught and relocated to the work camps guarded by Lithuanian police. He and his brother, who was also a German captive, were allowed much freedom, since the two made brushes for the Germans.

As it goes, some time later, Boris was crammed into a cattle car and transported to Auschwitz. Later, he was once again relocated to another labor camp where conditions were so bad that a thousand prisoners died daily. Later, when Germany was losing the war, thousands of prisoners, including Boris, were dispatched on a death march. Many died or were killed.

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