Aba Szulim Lewit (born June 24, 1923 in Działoszyce , Poland , died November 2020 ) was a contemporary witness of the Holocaust and was considered one of the last Jewish survivors of the Mauthausen concentration camp . He lived in Austria . In 2014 he was a keynote speaker at the Festival of Joy on Vienna's Heldenplatz .
Aba Lewit's hometown Działoszyce was a classic shtetl in which Jews made up the majority of the population since the 18th century and spoke Yiddish among themselves . He grew up in a middle-class family, his father was a grain wholesaler. Lewit had two brothers and three sisters. He attended the cheder and was an apprentice to a Jewish cobbler.
After the attack on Poland by the German Wehrmacht in 1939, Aba Lewit was deported to the forced labor camp for Jews in Kraków- Kostrze at the age of 17 and used to drain swamps and to work on sewers. After about a year and a half, he was sent to the Płaszów labor camp . In Płaszów he met the notorious camp commandant Amon Göth , whose habit of shooting camp inmates with a rifle during breakfast was commented on by Lewit saying that Göth only tasted breakfast if he had previously "killed eight or nine Jews". Aba Lewit was shot and critically injured by an SS man . His father then hid him in the prisoner's barracks without medical care. Fellow inmates removed three bullets, including a dum-dum bullet , with a knife . His injuries healed and in 1943 Aba Lewit was deported with his father and one of his brothers to the Mauthausen concentration camp .
“To greet us, we had to take off all of our clothing and were examined all over our bodies. We were isolated and taken to the quarantine station naked. There weren't any beds, we slept crammed together on the floor. "
In Mauthausen he performed forced labor in the quarries, which were also places of destruction. The inmates had to drag granite blocks weighing up to 50 kg up the 186 steps of the death staircase, accompanied by beatings by the guards. Anyone who sat down was shot. In 2015, Gerhard Bitzan wrote in the Viennese daily Die Presse : “Total sadism. That is one of Lewit's central memories of Mauthausen. Sadism, misanthropy, brutality - and humiliation. "
Because of its artisanal talent - he had specified, Spengler to be - Lewit with father and brother in 1944 was the KZ Gusen I then to Gusen II transferred, one of the sub-camp of Mauthausen concentration camp to perform at hard labor in the underground galleries where the Messerschmitt AG produced combat aircraft for the German Air Force. The secret project had the code name B8 Bergkristall . During the daily march for forced labor, SS men repeatedly stood on the edge of the street and beat the prisoners. Gusen was hell for many, says Lewit, hard work, brutality, humiliation and hardly to eat: "The soup was water with a little grass in it, sometimes with potato peels that were left over from the SS men." In Mauthausen and Gusen there was many sadists. Lewit reports that he was subordinate to a senior kapo , for whom he had to clean and cook. That way he had more to eat. From the beginning of 1945, space was to be created in the overcrowded Gusen camp for inmates of Auschwitz . Aba Lewit survived a roll call in which the prisoners line up naked at minus ten degrees and had to stand for hours. Freezing to death was a method by which the sick, debilitated and other “undesirable” inmates were put to death.
In April 1945 the SS began to destroy evidence of their crimes. On May 3, the last members of the SS fled the Mauthausen and Gusen camps before the approaching Allied troops. Aba Lewit experienced the liberation of more than 20,000 prisoners by the US Army in Gusen on May 5, 1945 . He had to watch a number of prisoners die despite medical care from the US Army medical units, because they were already too weak and their emaciated bodies could no longer take in normal food. Thousands of the Mauthausen camp inmates survived their liberation by only a few days. He himself was not able to leave the concentration camp immediately. Later he joined a platoon of liberators in the direction of Linz-Urfahr , which was accompanied by US soldiers along the entire route. A group of ex-prisoners moved into an empty house and bought food. After neighbors complained, the American military police had moved in. “We explained the situation to them, then we got food, and living was organized.” Months later, he was able to help identify Amon Göth in the Dachau internment camp .
Two of his siblings were murdered by the Nazi regime, the little sister Rene in the Krakow ghetto and the younger brother named Sismann in Płaszów. Both parents and three of his siblings survived the Shoah like him.
On April 8, 1948, Aba Lewit married Mathilde Kohn, born on June 11, 1924 in Vienna, a Jewish survivor of the Ravensbrück concentration camp . They settled in Vienna. At first they both worked in their father's metal trade until they went into business for themselves in the textile trade. They have a daughter together.
Aba Lewit died in November 2020 at the age of 97.
“I go to Mauthausen once a year, but I don't want to get involved in the big liberation celebrations. I think in silence, say a few prayers and light candles. In the crematorium, where so many people were gassed and burned, at the Western Wall and at the roll call square . "
Commitment as a contemporary witness
Aba Lewit kept his experience of the Holocaust to himself for a long time, only his family knew about it. At the beginning of the 2010s he decided to act publicly as a contemporary witness for the first time, to report on Plaszow and Mauthausen and to contribute to the reappraisal. He visited schools, gave interviews to the media and appeared as the main speaker at the Festival of Joy on Heldenplatz in Vienna on May 8, 2014 , alongside the then President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer . On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen, he said to a Standard reporter : “The pictures always stay in your head. The many dead, the suffering, the unbelievable sadism. ”Regarding his current attitude towards the Nazis of that time, Lewit states that one cannot lump all together; many were seduced, most were followers, the fewest active. Not everyone would have looked away either. As an example, he cites an incident in the context of the arrival march to Mauthausen concentration camp. Residents of a farm would have thrown bread to the half-starved prisoners at risk for themselves.
In January 2018, the International Mauthausen Committee sent an appeal from concentration camp survivors from various countries around the world in the form of an open letter to Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz , in which they warned the black and blue federal government urgently against right-wing extremism and nationalism. They named xenophobic strikes in the government program and corresponding incidents in the FPÖ as the trigger; z. In the run-up to the open letter, for example, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said that asylum seekers would be “concentrated” in basic care centers. In his statement, Lewit drew a parallel between the current situation and the civil war situation of 1934 and their further development up to the year 1938 with the annexation of Austria . He added that gas chambers were the only thing not included in the government program. When asked why he chose this drastic form of expression, Lewit stated that he was otherwise not sufficiently understood by the population. He does not fear that there will be gas chambers in Austria in the long term, but he sees the risk of being exposed to violence again as a Jew in the medium term without receiving appropriate protection and support from the authorities.
"Aula" affair - human rights judgment
In the summer of 2015, an article appeared in the right-wing extremist auditorium that insulted the liberated prisoners of the Mauthausen concentration camp as a "plague" and "mass murderers" who had plundered the country. The auditorium had to revoke the defamatory passages, but the Graz public prosecutor's office closed the investigation. Aba Lewit, with the support of the Greens, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in February 2018 .
With a unanimous judgment on October 10, 2019, the Strasbourg judges upheld him in the Lewit v. Austria proceedings . They saw a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically Article 8, the right to respect for private and family life. “The republic has to pay Lewit 648.48 euros in material damages, 5,000 euros in immaterial damages and 6,832.85 euros in legal costs, plus reimbursements for taxes and interest.” Lewit's lawyer Maria Windhager intended to apply for a renewal of the proceedings in Austria bring in. Justice Minister Jabloner saw the European judgment as "an important signal" and suggested that the procedure be renewed.
The presentation of the biography is based on interviews with Aba Lewit.
- Aba Lewit: Survived hidden in the concentration camp. ORF broadcast: The last contemporary witnesses part 3. Interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, interviewer: Sabrina Peer, ORF TVthek, August 28, 2016, 26:51 min.
- "Mentally it nibbles". Long version of a ZIB-24 interview, interviewer: Lisa Gadenstätter. ORF TVthek, May 5, 2017, 11:23 p.m.
- Mauthausen Committee Austria : The survivor Aba Lewit talks about the incredible atrocities of the National Socialists and his liberation from the Gusen concentration camp. Online video archive designed by MKÖ and ORF with the support of the Federal Chancellery and the Future Fund; also available at W24 : I will survive Hitler. (29:59 min.)
- Interview by Sandra Wachtel with Aba Lewit on July 13, 1997 in Vienna. Free University of Berlin
- Interview by Sandra Wachtel with Mathilde Lewit on July 13, 1997 in Vienna. Free University of Berlin
- Gerhard Bitzan: Mauthausen: Survived in the death camp. In: The press. Print edition, May 2, 2015
- “Mass transports with over 2,000 Polish Jews arrived from the Płaszów, Auschwitz and Flossenbürg camps from the summer of 1944.” In: Polish Jewish prisoners , Gusen, Mauthausen / Mauthausen Memorial, 2018.
- “From the beginning of 1945, transports of mainly Jewish prisoners arrived from the liquidated camps in the east. In the four months up to the liberation of Gusen there were at least around 14,000 new arrivals; on February 27 and 28, the highest number of 26,311 prisoners was counted. 10,000 Gusen prisoners died in the same period. ”In: Prisoners in the Gusen concentration camp 1939 - 1945 , Mauthausen Memorial / Mauthausen Memorial, 2018.
- Holocaust survivor Aba Lewit dies. wien.orf.at, November 17, 2020, accessed on November 17, 2020 .
- Holocaust survivor Aba Lewit dies. kleinezeitung.at, November 17, 2020, accessed on November 17, 2020 .
- Agnieszka Sabor: Schtetl. On the trail of the small Jewish towns: Działoszyce-Pińczów-Chmielnik-Szydłów-Che̜ciny. Travel guide . Translation of Małgorzata Szlaga. Austeria Verlag, Kraków / Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-83-89129-81-9 , Chapter Działoszyce: Telling Ruins , pp. 2–31.
- Transcript of an interview with Aba Lewit, 1997 , Freie Universität Berlin.
- Forced labor camp for Jews Krakau-Kostrze. List of places of detention of the Foundation EVZ .
- Aba Lewit: Survived hidden in the concentration camp . ORF broadcast: The last contemporary witnesses part 3. Interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, interviewer: Sabrina Peer, ORF TVthek, August 28, 2016, 26:51 min.
- Urs Jenny: Holocaust with a happy ending? Der Spiegel, May 24, 1993.
- I will survive Hitler. , W24 , 2015.
- Aba Lewit reported on one case in his speech on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen, quoted in: Rose Troup Buchanan: Nazi concentration guards offered starving prisoners respite - only to execute them if they accepted , The Independent , May 12, 2015.
- Gerhard Bitzan: Mauthausen: Survived in the death camp. In: The press. May 2, 2015, accessed May 1, 2018 .
- Aba Lewit, 7th Dialogue Forum of the Mauthausen Memorial, 2015 (booklet).
- Gisela Rabitsch: KL Mauthausen. In: Studies on the history of the concentration camps (= Institute for Contemporary History (Hrsg.): Series of Quarterly Books for Contemporary History . Number 21). Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1970, p. 72 ( available online at degruyter.com).
- Prisoners in the Gusen concentration camp 1939 - 1945 , Mauthausen / Mauthausen Memorial, 2018.
- Colette M. Schmidt: Concentration camp inmates called “land plague”: ECHR deals with “Aula” , Der Standard, February 11, 2018.
- Sir Karl Popper School : Visit of the concentration camp survivor Aba Szulim Lewit , accessed on March 25, 2018.
- Interview by Sandra Wachtel with Mathilde Lewit on July 13, 1997 in Vienna (Free University of Berlin) (accessed on March 29, 2018).
- "Warning against forgetting": Holocaust survivor Aba Lewit dies. kleinezeitung.at, November 17, 2020, accessed on November 17, 2020 .
- Festival of Joy 2014 , DÖW ; Vigil and memorial: Commemoration of May 8 , Kurier.at, May 8, 2014 .
- Markus Rohrhofer: Aba Lewit - Life after the death camp , Der Standard (Vienna), May 10, 2015, accessed on March 25, 2018.
Mauthausen survivors express "great concern" about the government , Der Standard, January 11, 2018
Open letter on the website of the Mauthausen Committee Austria .
- Mauthausen survivors warn Austria against nationalism ( Memento from May 27, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) in Sol.it, Nachrichten für Südtirol from January 11, 2018.
- "All that's missing is the gas chambers" Interview with a concentration camp survivor and impressions from the Saturday demo in Tageblatt (Luxembourg) on January 15, 2018.
- "Auditorium" affair: Greens support ECHR complaint . , The Press, February 12, 2018.
- Court: Nazi victims with lawsuit against the republic successful. In: orf.at . October 10, 2019, accessed October 10, 2019.
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Lewit, Aba Szulim|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||Polish Holocaust survivor of Mauthausen concentration camp and contemporary witness|
|DATE OF BIRTH||June 1923|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Działoszyce , Poland|
|DATE OF DEATH||November 2020|