Dora Levin (1911-2010)

November 23, 2010

Eran Torbiner writes:

Dora Birnbach was born on Septmber 20, 1911 to a Jewish orthodox family in the town of Sokolov, Poland. Even from a young age she rejected religion and the rigid religious lifestyle. In her youth, she ran away from home, joined the Zionist-Socialist youth movement and in 1933 immigrated to Palestine to Kibbutz ‘Ein-Hachoresh’. On the Kibbutz she encountered the reality in Palestine – the conflict between Zionist colonization and the indigenous Palestinian people – this caused her to reject the Kibbutz and Zionism.

After she left the Kibbutz, she lived in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv and worked as a construction worker, as a cleaner and also studied nursing.
In 1936 she was arrested (by the British rulers) for activity in RGO, the trade union that was alternative to the “Histadrut”, the main Zionist trade union in Palestine that accepted only Jews as members.

She was imprisoned in the Beth-lehem prison for women. In the prison she heard for the first time about the War in Spain. When The British expelled her from Palestine in 1937, she decided to continue her struggle for socialism and democracy in the struggle to defend the Spanish republic.

She got a permit to go to Paris to see an International exhibition and immidiately contacted the committee of the International Brigades. After few weeks, she entered Spain on a small fishing boat with a doctor from Bulgaria, nurses from Poland and Romania, a former Canadian priest who brought money donated by Canadian workers for the Republic and a young British journalist named Sam Lesser, with whom she maintained contact her entire life.

She served in the international brigades as a nurse, helped organize hospitals, instructed Spanish women and cared for war orphans. After the fall of the republic, she was imprisoned in south of France in concentration camps but a relative helped her acquire a permit to enter the UK.

In the UK, she helped organize an anti-fascist union of Polish seamen. One of these seamen, Stefan Levin, became her lifelong partner and husband.
After the victory in 1945, they returned to Poland to help set up the socialist state.

In Poland, Dora worked as a director in a Polish-Chinese shipping company.

When a new wave of anti-Semitism swept Poland in 1968, she returned to Haifa. There lived in nearby Kiryat-Haim and worked in a shipping company.

For some years, she served as the secretary of the committee of International Brigade veterans in Israel.

After a short illness, she passed away on November 10, 2010, at the age of 99.

Her funeral took place in Kibbutz Ha’Khotrim on November 12, 2010. At the funeral, we read the farewell speech given by Dolores Ibarrui in October, 1938.

Condolence letters to Stefan and her family can be sent to my e-mail address and I shall pass them on.


One Response to “ Dora Levin (1911-2010) ”

  1. Ruth Muller on November 25, 2010 at 5:55 am

    With others I mourn the passing of Dora Levin whilst saluting her memory and extraordinary life.
    My father, Sam Lesser (1915-2010, International Brigader and journalist) and mother, Margaret Powell (1913-1990, nurse in Spain and the UK), always emphasised to me that Dora and Stefan had essentially been forced to go to Israel from Poland in 1960s because they had no financial resources and the Polish government would only give them visas to go to Israel. The Polish government was, at thatstage, sadly keen to get rid of it’s Jewish citizens and Israel was the only place that many of them could go.
    As far as I know, Dora never became a Zionist.