Abe L. Plotkin

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Abe L. Plotkin, 93, Scranton, a shoe salesman and decorated war hero who helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp and whose photographs remain a reminder of the camp's horrors, died Friday in the VNA Hospice at Moses Taylor Hospital.

He and his wife, the former Lucille Kessler, had celebrated more than 50 years of marriage.

In 2004, Mr. Plotkin was among 300 World War II veterans, including 100 Americans, awarded France's highest accolade, the Legion of Honor, for helping liberate the country during the D-Day invasion.

Mr. Plotkin lectured often in local schools about the horrors of the Holocaust he witnessed firsthand 61 years ago as a member of Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army. Thousands of students heard him speak. He called his visits to schools "more or less of a mission" to remind people of the havoc wrought by Adolf Hitler.

But perhaps his most enduring contribution to humanity will likely stem from a visit to the lesser-known but equally gruesome Ohrdurf concentration camp as the Allied troops assumed control of Germany. He simply took pictures of camp survivors and conditions when his unit arrived there in the spring of 1945, as many as 100 by his estimate.

Displayed since then in museums around the world, some of his photographs were also used in Scranton native Mark Jonathan Harris' 1997 Oscar-winning documentary film, "The Long Way Home."

Born in Scranton, Mr. Plotkin was the son of the late Samuel and Gussie Chertok Plotkin. He was a 1935 graduate of the University of Scranton.

He served in the Army during World War II as a cryptographer and had been in both the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Metz, having received four bronze battle stars. He was a member of Temple Israel, the Jewish War Veterans and served as the first chairman of the Lackawanna County Council of Veterans.

He was an active volunteer at the Gino Merli Veterans Center. He had also served on numerous committees and boards of other veterans organizations.

He was a member of the board of the Rabbi H. Guterman Synagogue, B'nai B'rith, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and served as a past president of the James Madison School PTA. He was a past grand of the Israel Lodge of Odd Fellows. A past board member of the University of Scranton Purple Club, he was a 32nd degree Mason and an active campaigner of the United Way.

He served as a board member of the Lackawanna County Society of Crippled Children, and Easter Seals Society for more than 50 years. He was a board member of the state Easter Seals Society and was an advocate for the rights of the disabled, having received the state's highest award, "Brace for an Ace," and served on numerous other boards and committees for the rights of the handicapped.

He was an original board member of Allied Services for the Handicapped. He was an active pioneer for many years setting up numerous programs at the YMHA, where he served as a past president and board member. Upon his return from the war, in honor of coming home safely, he dedicated a year of service to the YMHA. without compensation. He served as a past board member and trustee of the NEPA Jewish Federation, and was active with the UJA.

His Holocaust photographs remain on view in museums in Jerusalem, Berlin, Paris, London and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He appeared on Channel 61's program, "Ordinary Heroes," as a guest of former Mayor David Wenzel, and a copy of the interview is in the Library of Congress. He was a member of and served on numerous committees related to the Holocaust.

He was the recipient of the University of Scranton Frank O'Hara Alumni Award and the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award for community service and many other awards from numerous other civic, religious and charitable organizations. He is listed in Who's Who in World Jewry.

For more than 50 years, he was the owner operator of Youth-O-Pedic Shoes, Scranton, where he helped many children with orthopedic problems, which led to his involvement in the Society of Crippled Children and Adults. Through his generosity, he sent cartons of shoes to Lebanon, Poland and to Sister Adrian's Friends of the Poor to help the needy.

He was a member and served on numerous committees in the orthopedic shoe business.

His many years of dedication to his country, religion, community and to the underprivileged will long be remembered.

Also surviving are a daughter, Marcie Lunney and husband, Daniel X., Scranton; two grandchildren, Brittany and Andrew; several nieces and nephews.

He was also preceded in death by a son, Marc, who died during his childhood; a sister, Rose Rosenstein; and three brothers, Sam, Phil and Joseph.

The funeral will be Sunday at 11 a.m. in Temple Israel, Monroe Avenue and East Gibson Street, with services by Rabbi Joseph Mendelsohn and Cantor Vladimir Aronzon. Interment in Dalton Jewish Cemetery.

Shiva will be observed at the family residence, 1026 Poplar St., Sunday, 7 to 9 p.m., and Monday through Thursday, 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. The Jewish War Veterans will conduct a memorial service immediately prior to the funeral service.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Marc Plotkin Scholarship Fund, c/o Temple Israel, 918 E. Gibson St., 18510; or to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2040 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, 17110.

Arrangements by the Ziman Funeral Home Inc.
Published in Scranton Times on Jan. 13, 2007