Benjamin Levin (partisan)
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Benjamin Levin (April 11, 1927 – April 13, 2020) was a Jewish partisan during World War II, the last surviving member of the Avengers group led by Abba Kovner. After the war, he joined the Irgun, and was one of the surviving crew members of the Altalena ship. In 1967, he immigrated to the United States.
World War IIEdit
Levin was born in Vilna, then part of the Second Polish Republic. He was the son of Chaim Levin, a local merchant and gourmet food shop owner. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the family initially fled to the village of Michališki in present-day Belarus. When it became unsafe, the family returned to Vilna and lived in Vilna Ghetto. In 1943, when he was 16 years old, Levin and his older brother Shmuel joined the Avengers (Nokmim) partisan group of Abba Kovner. During the war, the Avengers impaired railways, destroyed train cars, cut communication wires, bombed bridges, and injured and killed Nazis. His small stature allowed him to hide, spy, scout, and escape detection easily. His brother was killed during one of the raids though circumstances are not known.
He and other Avengers joined the Red Army when it captured Vilnius in 1944. His parents survived the Holocaust but were later killed by neighbors when they tried to reclaim their home. He submitted his testimony of the Holocaust to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was interviewed by Steven Spielberg who dubbed Levin "the Forrest Gump of Jewish history."
He was imprisoned by the NKVD for helping Jews to illegally immigrate to Palestine and his involvement in the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization. He spent a year in a Siberian Gulag. After his release he hitchhiked to Italy where he rejoined the party. He studied mechanical engineering and was assigned to the engine room of Altalena. In June 1948, during the confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces, Levin fled the burning ship and settled in Israel.
In 1967, Levin moved to New York with his family and became a mechanic for the MTA and a gas station owner. Due to multiple fake papers, Levin forgot his real birthday and chose to celebrate it during the Passover. He was married to Sara, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor. They had two children. Levin frequently spoke to high school students about the Holocaust. Levin died on April 13, 2020 from COVID-19 at a nursing home in Westchester County, New York.
- Vincent, Isabel (2020-04-18). "Jewish partisan who fought the Nazis loses his battle with coronavirus". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- Miller, Dr Yvette Alt (April 20, 2020). "Jewish Partisan Hero Dies of Coronavirus". Aish HaTorah. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- Lebovic, Matt (April 20, 2020). "'Avenger' Benjamin Levin, 'Forrest Gump of Jewish history,' succumbs to COVID-19". Times of Israel. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- "COVID-19 defeats the last of the Partisan Avengers". The Jerusalem Post. April 20, 2020. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- "Benjamin Levin". encyclopedia.ushmm.org. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- "USC Shoah Foundation Institute testimony of Benjamin Levin". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- Vincent, Isabel (2017-04-09). "World War II 'Avenger' reveals his heroic Nazi-killing past". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-04-21.