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With a Rifle in My Hand
and Eretz Yisrael in My Heart

by Dov Levin, Jerusalem

Translated by Shalom Bronstein

Chapters of Reminiscence: Kovno (Kaunas); The Partisans' Forests; Illegal Immigration to Eretz Yisrael

[The events related in this account are far from describing all that happened to me in my first 20 years, but I have attempted to re-enter the shoes of those years.]

I. Before the Nazi Conquest

My twin sister Batya (Bassia) and I were born on 27 January 1925 in the city of Kovno – the capital of independent Lithuania between the two world wars. My father, Zvi-Hirsch Levin and my mother, Bluma nee Wigodor, maintained a traditional religious Jewish home that was infused with the Zionist spirit. They made every attempt to provide us with a national Jewish education beginning with nursery school and eventually the Shwabbe Hebrew gymnasium [high school]. From the age of twelve, I was a member of Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist Zionist youth movement. The activities and very being of the movement were Hebrew oriented with the goal being Aliya to Eretz Yisrael in fulfillment of the words of the song, “To work, to train as pioneers, to the kibbutz, to defend.” Our attraction to socialism and the Soviet Union were expressed on the romantic level expressed in the words of the song 'Tulips' – “You will be a red commissar and I will be a compassionate nurse …”

The author and his twin sister, Bassia, age 5 (1930)

 

The author's parents: Bluma nee' Wigoder
and Tzvi Hirsh Levin in 1923

 

The author (eighth from the right, top row) among 4th grade students in Shwabbe's

 

On 1 September 1939 when World War II broke out, our literature and Jewish history teacher, Meir Kantorovitz, devoted his lesson to preparing us for the anticipated dangers that awaited us as the war proceeded and called on us to always remember to act as proud Jews. Indeed, I always remembered his directive to us.

In my family, it was understood that after I completed my high school studies in Kovno, I would go on Aliya to Eretz Yisrael in order to study engineering at the Technion in Haifa. However, this dream evaporated with the take-over of Lithuania by the Red Army (the Soviets) on 15 June 1940.

Under Soviet Rule

That day, it was a Shabbat; I was participating in the Shomer Hatzair summer camp that was held in the village of Klibanishok, near Kovno. Our counselor in this camp was a young woman named Haika Grossman who became well known as the person who was second in command in the Bialystok Ghetto. She arrived in Lithuania at the end of 1939, when it was still an independent country and Zionist activity continued as usual.

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