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On February 2005, I finished writing the Hebrew original of my book "The War For Life". The book was published in August 2005, and I distributed it among my family members, people of my hometown, David-Horodok, people from Vilna, where I grew up, studied, and have been confined in the ghetto, between friends ghetto rebels and partisans, among school children, particularly those who travel to visit extermination camps. I also sent copies to the ministry of education, to libraries of Israeli education institutions, and US universities where Israeli students, who delay their return to Israel, study.
I preferred distributing the book among youngsters whom I trusted would read the book, rather than selling it, and letting it lie on the shelf without being opened.
I wanted youngsters to know, the Shoa (holocaust) era and the period that preceded it, from a live source, and not only from history books, with all due respect to the authors and their books. I also believe that a testimony of that kind, by a holocaust survivor, is a barrier against holocaust deniers of all sorts.
I wanted youngsters to get to know our people's past, through the story of an individual. Individuals form families, families form communities and communities form the people.
Only a few copies of the book are still in my possession, and I am compelled to lend them out to those who want to read memoirs of a holocaust survivor. I never thought of publishing a second edition, I am not a writer, nor a son of a writer. I thought that I had closed the circle and that's that.
But behold, in December 2006, we had a close family gathering, during which our family members in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA, were mentioned. We have there a small "tribe" of family members, many of them by the family name Murov, who are descendants of the Muravchick family members, who immigrated in the United States, as mentioned in the book. Yossef Rothman, my friend and family relative, a retired Lt. Colonel of the Israeli army, thought of the family in Shreveport, and - without even telling me - began translating my book into English. When a few chapters were translated, Yossef forwarded them to me by e-mail.
I am very grateful to Yossef for his splendid idea and for his fine translation, which is in simple language and attracts the reader, as does the Hebrew original.
As I write these lines, Yossef is still working on the book, not for the sake of benefit, and indeed, he is a full partner in making possible the English version and publishing it.
I received many positive responses from readers of the Hebrew original. Many of my age group reacted by telling that they found similar events, and occurrences, in their own past. This encouraged me greatly, because it pointed to the fact that my memory did not betray me, and that things really happened in the way that I described them.
I was very excited to receive reactions from secondary school and university students, who traveled on tours to extermination camps in Poland.
All those, to whom I sent the book, responded positively, and I will mention here just a few of them: "Massuah", "Yad Vashem", "Diaspora House", Ministry of Education, "The Association of Jews from Vilna and Vicinity in Israel", "Organization of Jews of David-Horodok". All responded, in this manner, more or less:
"Every book of this nature, is a contribution to the mosaic of knowledge about the holocaust era, and the deeds and fate of those who were there"... "The book is a most valuable addition to our collection, and we are certain that the readers will find it to be very interesting".
I was also happy to receive responses from readers, in this manner: "I read your book, in one breath. Your book is written with sincerity, an exceptional memory and with a lot of emotion" (Dr. Shalom Hulawsky, researcher of the holocaust).
Some of the readers read the book thoroughly and responded with comments and a few corrections here and there.
I am not ashamed to admit that I have received praises from many acquaintances, and even though some of them were just perfunctorily, it still made me feel good.
The "Association of Disabled of the Fight against Nazism", headed by Abraham Cohen, granted me the "Zandman Aword" at a festive ceremony. In their journal "Voice of War Disabled", of April 2006, there is an article about the book, in Hebrew and in Russian.
In the Information Sheet of the "Organization of Partisans, Underground, and Ghetto Fighters in Israel", there is an article about the book, in Hebrew and in English. In "The American Jewish World", a weekly in the United States, Rabbi Marc Liebhaber, the publisher and senior editor, wrote an article, under the title "From Murawczik to Mor, From Shtetl to Independent Israel: A Life of Pain, Struggle, and Heroism".
But, last and not least, my grandchildren were very excited to read the book, and asked me questions. This in itself was worth the effort.
I thank all those who looked into the book, read it, responded, verbally or in writing, especially those that suggested corrections (Mr. Haim Israeli, former assistant to the Minister of Defense and Israel Award laureate, Dr. Yossef Goovrin, retired Israeli ambassador, and others). All of which brought back to me my self-confidence, which reduces with age.
My daughter Tammy and her husband Motti arranged, at their home, a gathering for launching the book. Many family relatives were invited, most of them young people that were born in Israel, and others who arrived before World War II. It is heartbreaking that none of the relatives of my generation could be invited. As, thank god, I am the only survivor.
I felt excited and happy with this family gathering. The family bond is the foundation stone of our lives.
The younger ask what was the power that helped the survivors to be strong and overcome all those hardships, at such a terrible time. I tell them: "we, the fighters and survivors, are not 'Supermen'. Luck and a supreme power, were with us..." as long as we live, we fight for life. The war for life begins before man is born. The sperm that fertilized the egg succeeds only after a struggle with the other sperms.
Man struggles all his life, till a "hundred and twenty" and the struggle for man's good name continues even after he is gone.
God created man to fight for life; "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread", and not for fighting against death. Man fights for advancing in life, and the term "advancing" has an endless meaning.
In the Bible, we have the famous saying "man does not live by bread only", and the Latin proverb "you eat for living but you don't live for eating" and the famous phrase of Ecclesiastes: "man has no pre-eminence above the beast".
Unfortunately, man's wisdom is judged by results. There is no other instrument for that. Therefore, man must fight.
After my retirement, the thought that one can always learn had strengthened in me. I continued to work in my profession, both in Israel and abroad, and not only for the pay.
At the age of 87, I begun to document my work, as of the day I immigrated in this country, and I managed to publish, at my own cost, the "Review of food control in Israel as of 1946".
More than two years ago, I prayed that I should be able to publish my book "The War For Life" in Hebrew. Now I pray that I be privileged to publish and distribute it in English.
Special thanks to Professor Dov Levin of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, who wrote the foreword to my book "The War For Life". I have known Professor Levin and respect him for many years. Both of us fought, within the underground and the partisans, against the Nazis and their collaborators. Professor Levin's professional and scientific approaches are highly esteemed.
On March 22, this year, I will be 90. The war for life is becoming more and more difficult, at this age. I hope and pray that my war for life should not be too difficult.
International Holocaust Memorial Day.
January 27 2007
For more than a period of a generation, I am occupied with the research of the history of the Jews in Eastern Europe, in the 20th century, in general, and particularly during the holocaust period. During the years, I have reviewed hundreds of publications on this issue, mainly those that were written by survivors of that horrible era. In parallel, I held recorded interviews, with many of them, within the framework of the Contemporary Judaism Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Indeed it was an exhilarating surprise, when one of them - Mgr. Litman Mor, whom I interviewed as early as in 1965, sent me, after 42 years, a copy of his autobiographic book "The War For Life", the core of which are his memoirs of the World War II period and his immigration in Eretz Isroel. No wonder that I jumped on the book very enthusiastically to review it, and (to tell the truth) while comparing its contents with the printout of the recorded interview, No. 76 (12), which I held with Litman Mor, nearly a jubilee ago!. In fact, out of suspense, I couldn't stop swallowing this fascinating material, in its whole, until I reached its last page.
While reading the book, I realized, among other things, that except for some changes (to the better) in style and in spelling of names of people and places, and the addition of dates and illustrations, in good taste, I did not find significant differences in substance. More importantly, I did not find any contradictions regarding facts as they were presented in the recorded review and as they are described in the book.
Nevertheless, I was glad to find in the book, a comprehensive description of facts, and interesting explanations of family and other events, in David-Horodok, the author's small town (or Shtetl, as he calls it). Although David-Horodok then belonged to Poland, the dominant culture among its Jewish population, including the author's family members, was imbued with the typical traditional Litwak scent. As an example, the author deemed it right to point out that his father did not wear a Yarmulka, but recited a blessing before eating, with his head covered, also that he went to the synagogue on Saturdays and on holidays. At his father's decision and blessing, the author left his town at the age of 14, to study in the big city, the important Jewish center - Vilna. As of then on, he became an eyewitness and/or practically involved in events of historic significance, but also of personal importance to him.
I mean, among other facts, the anti-Semitic attacks by Polish students, which the author encountered already at his first year of studies in Vilna (1931), and later, when he was an advancing student in chemistry, and dared to speak out against them, they injured him in his face.
When he completed his University studies, he got rid of the Polish hostile regime, at the end of 1939, he still did not feel safe under the Lithuanian-Soviet regime, and made desperate efforts to get out of the area. Among other attempts, he tried to be accepted by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and thus be granted a certificate (entry permit to Palestine). When this failed, as a result of Italy's joining the war, he tried to get an entry permit to the United States, after his passport was stamped with a Japanese transit visa (with the help of consul Sugihara); but, at the last moment, he did not get an exit permit from the Soviet authorities...
One way or another, he stayed in Vilna, and was there on June 22, 1941, when the entire area, was gradually occupied with a systematic murder of the Jewish population, by the Nazi army and its Lithuanian collaborators. Luckily, the author survived the actions and other murderous acts in the Vilna ghetto, and, as an old member of the HaNoar HaZiony ("Zionist Youth") movement, he was privileged to participate, in December 31, 1941, in the founding meeting of the fighting organization, known as the F.P.O. Later on, he was appointed squad commander, and, as a certified chemist, contributed his talent and experience to the underground printing press. Later he fought as partisan in the Belarus forests, till the Soviet Army had liberated the area, in the summer of 1944. After two years of public activity among the survivors, including speaking on their behalf before the Anglo-American inquiry committee, he arrived in Eretz Isroel, on August 23, 1946.
As one who got to writing his book at an advanced age and with a reach life experience; one who is capable of differentiating between the important and the less important and not just memoirs, the author succeeded in accommodating in 184 pages, of his book in Hebrew, a modest composition, that covers his diversified life story in various periods. This he did while generously mentioning nearly 200 names of other people, including, of course, his own close and distant family members, as well as Jewish and non-Jewish people, who are relevant to his story.
A significant supplement to the text are the photos of people, objects, documents and places, foremost the Yehudah Muravchick "family tree", that covers at least four generations. It is worthy to note the painting "combatants", on the front cover, the creation of the renowned sculptor and painter, Alexander Bogen, together with whom the author fought in the Belarus forestst, within the "Special Unit".
And to all this I should add - the diversified contents of the book, the disciplined description of the events mentioned in it, the extent of accuracy of the details and its focusing on a unique territorial part of Jewish Eastern Europe, make it an exemplary personal-family memorial book.
Prof. Dov Levin
Hebrew University, Jerusalem
24 Shevat 5767
February 11, 2007
I was a boy of about nine, when the number 6,000,000, printed in jumbo black letters, was spread out on the heading of one of the morning newspapers. This was the official number of the Jews that perished in Europe, during World War II. Quite often, this black heading still appears before my eyes.
Ever since, I always thought that such a huge number of victims is impossible to grasp, and therefore I read any book of the holocaust that I could put my hands on, trying hard to focus on an individual, a specific person, who through him I will be able to truly imagine the extent of the disaster.
On a summer morning, in 2005, I went to the post office and there I met our relative, Litman Mor. My wife's late father, whose name was also Litman (Gottlieb), was Litman's cousin; his family is mentioned in the book, and he is in one of the family photos. Litman seemed very happy to see me, and handed me an envelope in which the book that he wrote, "The War For Life", was to be mailed to me. I thanked him and took the book with me. In the evening of that day, I started to read the book, and couldn't put it down. I sat the whole night until I finished reading it. This book met my need to focus on a specific person, who survived the holocaust, to make it possible for me to grasp the extent of the disaster.
After so many years since the holocaust, and the many books that I have read about it, I still found in this book quite a number of facts that I didn't know. For example, I always thought with great admiration about the partisans, as a whole, but never realized the hatred that some of them had for the Jews.
I read the book again and again, I gave it to my children to read, and I am deeply grateful to Litman, for writing it and giving it to me.
In December 2006, I met with Litman at a family gathering, at the home of Edna, Litman's niece and her husband, judge Meir Nachtomi. We talked about Litman's book, and I remembered reading in chapter 6, about my wife's and Litman's relatives who immigrated in the United States, at about a hundred years ago, and many of them live now in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1989, when I was on a business trip in the US, I met with them. I remembered reading about the help that they extended to Litman and to my father-in-law's younger brother Sasha, before 1939, in an attempt to get them to immigrate in the US. Sasha died in the holocaust, and Litman couldn't immigrate because of the quota restrictions. After the holocaust, Litman decided to immigrate in Eretz Isroel, where his two sisters immigrated before the war, and to deny the possibility of immigrating in the US, that his family there arranged for him. While sitting with Litman at the family gathering, discussing these things, I thought that Litman's book must be translated into English, mainly for making possible for the Murovs in Shreveprot, Louisiana, to read Litman's story which is, practically, also their family story.
I started translating the book without telling Litman about it. As I began e-mailing to him the first translated chapters, Litman sent me an article by Rabbi Marc Libhaber, that was published in "The American Jewish World" weekly, in the US. Rabbi Libhaber, who read Litman's book in Hebrew, analyzes Litman's motives to immigrate in Eretz Isroel, instead of going to the United States. In Rabbi Libahber's opinion, the agony, struggle, and heroism, are in parallel with changing the name from Murawczik to Mor, and from life in a Shtetel to an Independent State of Israel. Rabbi Libhaber summarizes: "The War For Life" is a book that must be on the bookshelf of every American Jew".
If I needed encouragement for translating the book, I found it in Rabbi Libhaber's article.
One technical point:
In spite of the fact that my late father was born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, English is certainly not my mother tongue. In fact, I learned the language by myself, since my basic education was in a Talmud Torah, where foreign languages were not taught. I tried hard to make the translation simple and legible, and I hope that I succeeded in achieving this goal.
I wish Litman many more years of good health with joy and Nachas of his family, and that his personal war for life, should be easy and blessed.
"The real courage, the only courage that counts, is the one that enables you to move on from one minute to the next". I don't remember who phrased this saying, but when I finished reading Litman Mor's life story which is full with vicissitudes, as it was recorded a few years ago, in five 3-hour cassettes, I could not avoid remembering this saying.
During decades, holocaust survivors have kept silent, not always out of their will. Until, luckily, Israeli society gave them the right of speech and permission to tell.
The history of the holocaust is indeed one, but the number of amazing stories that it produces is the number of the people that are willing to tell their story. If there is one factor that characterized all these stories, it is the courage and determination to survive each minute, till the next minute.
The author of this book, like all other who succeeded in getting out of the Nazi inferno, was not born to be a hero, but he was born at a time and place where man has been exposed in one of its ugliest, cruelest and hardest hours. History made the author and the other survivors heroes against their will. Indeed, what is heroism if not overcoming fear and determination to live?
Litman Mor was born in a typical Jewish small town, in a traditional Jewish home, in the Pollese district, which is today in Belarus. This area, which had known endless wars and pogroms, has been populated by a high percentage of Jews, and along many years, had been alternately handed from the rule of one state to the rule of another. Even at times when the relations between Jews and gentiles were reasonable, beneath the surface there rustled hatred for Jews, during centuries, and this would burst out every time there was a change in regime or war.
In October 1939, the Germans at the West and the Soviets at the East, applied the agreement that was signed between the two cruelest dictators in Europe, Hitler and Stalin. Litman found himself torn between his wish to stay with his family in the town under Soviet rule, and the need that not less burned in his bones to go through Vilna to Europe and from there to freedom.
Of course, on those years, it was yet impossible to forecast or even think of the monstrous fate that the Germans are planning for his family and for the Jewish people in general. Litman Mor, as if by instinct, like following and inner command, only after he heard is mother saying: "At times like this a family must be divided, maybe somebody will be saved" - Litman decided to flee to Vilna, which was then the capitol of free Lithuania.
Only history, or rather the cruel policy makers of Europe, had other plans. So, about a half a year later, Lithuania was conquered once again by the Soviets, and a year later, by the Germans, who entered with an enormous military force, and brought a holocaust on the Jews of the region and on the life of the author of this book.
The first years following the German occupation, the author spent far away from his family and lonesome in the Vilna ghetto. On December 31, 1941, following Abba Kovner's cry "Let us not go as lambs to the slaughter", Litman joined the Jewish underground F.P.O. In September 1943, when the hope for a general uprising in the ghetto had vanished, he decided, by the same inner command, to escape together with a few underground members to the Naroch forests, and there he fought as partisan, till the end of the war.
His personal holocaust, Litman Mor experienced when he returned to his home town: "I, practically, did not experience the holocaust in the ghetto or with the partisans. I experienced the holocaust when I returned to my town and home".
After the war, in 1946, he immigrated in Palestine-Eretz-Isroel, married Chaya Fischer, fought within the "Haganah", joined the public service as chemist, and became the father of two daughters. The life and work of Litman Mor, as he himself writes in his book, are the only possible revenge for the murder of his parents and family, and for the murder of millions by the Nazis and their collaborators.
While editing the book, I tried hard to maintain Litman Mor's wording, as it was written and told verbally, so that the teller's authentic voice be heard.
I myself am the daughter of holocaust survivors. Heartbreakingly, my parents, of blessed memory, became ill and died before they told their story. I carried their silence, unconsciously, in me, as of the day of my birth. Only after they passed away, did I travel to their childhood districts and tried, unsuccessfully, to restore their personal story.
My working on Litman Mor's life story, allowed me to touch, tough superficially, also their story. My humble contribution to this book, I wish to dedicate to the memory of my beloved parents, Abraham (Adam) and Roja (of the Schenbaum family) Rozenshar, which many of their family members have been murdered in the holocaust.
There is no doubt that this book is an important additional testimony, that will enable not only us - Jews, but the entire world, to remember and not forget.
February 20, 2005
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