Abraham, the son of Hartog and Rosette Beem, was a five year-old schoolboy when the Germans invaded Holland in May 1940. Abraham's father was a high school teacher in the small city of Leeuwarden, in northern Holland. The Jews of the Netherlands were well-integrated into the general population and they were active in all aspects of the country's social, cultural and economic life.
When the Germans invaded, they immediately embarked upon steps to separate the Jews from the rest of the population. Beginning in October 1940, they liquidated Jewish businesses and banned Jews from most professions. The rich became poor and the middle class was reduced to subsistence levels. At first, the Dutch population resisted the anti-Jewish measures enacted by the Germans. But the Germans reacted brutally, and were able to break up most organized resistance.
Many Jews were forced into restricted ghetto areas in July 1941, and after May 1942, all Jews had to wear the yellow star. Beginning in mid-July 1942, the Germans began rounding up Holland's Jewish citizens. They were first taken to transit camps, and from there to death camps in Poland, where they were murdered.
Abraham's parents decided that the family would go into hiding. They felt that the children would be safer posing as non-Jews in a rural village. Abraham and his older sister were sent to the village of Ermelo, and a Christian family, willing to risk death to save them, was found. Abraham was given a new name and identity. He was known as Jan de Witt, and he attended school along with the other village children.
The Nazis, realizing that many Jewish children had been sent into hiding, intensified their search. They found collaborators willing to turn them in for payment. Nine year-old Abraham was denounced as a Jew in February 1944. Abraham, along with his older sister Eva, was deported to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, where both were murdered upon arrival.