Pieter Kohnstam was born in Amsterdam in 1936. His parents, Hans and Ruth Kohnstam, were forced to flee from the Nuremberg/Fuerth area in Germany to Amsterdam, The Netherlands during the early days of the Nazi regime. Coming from a well-known upper middle class family, they left behind a lucrative toy merchandising company with sales offices and warehouses in cities throughout Germany and Europe.
It was by chance that the Kohnstam's apartment in Amsterdam was downstairs from the family of Anne Frank. Ruth became a close friend of Edith Frank, and Anne, the youngest daughter, became Pieter’s babysitter. Both children attended the local schools in the neighborhood.
When Nazi persecution of Jews in The Netherlands became intolerable, the Franks went into hiding, but Pieter’s parents decided to flee Amsterdam. After a year-long trek through Belgium, France and Spain, they reached safety and freedom in Argentina.
Pieter’s father Hans, an artist, eventually returned to Germany with his second wife. Over 1,200 of his paintings and drawings have been donated to the City Museum of the City of Munich, Germany. His mother, Ruth, also remarried and became active in social and cultural affairs and eventually helped found the United Nations Women’s Organization in Argentina.
Following high school, Pieter embarked on a career in international banking. A knack for languages and specialization in foreign exchange led him to a three-year internship with Swiss banking institutions in Switzerland.
In 1963, Pieter immigrated to the United States where he pursued a career in the specialty chemical industry, focusing on pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. He became a U.S. citizen in 1968. He and his wife, Susan, married in 1965 and have two children and three grandchildren. Now retired in Venice, Florida, Kohnstam is active in community affairs. He is the past President of the Jewish Congregation of Venice. He is frequently invited to schools and various organizations to speak about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, his book, and matters relating to Jewish and interfaith topics.
Pieter's book was published in The Netherlands in February 2008 and in Germany in 2016.