Aba Lewit (1923 - 2020)

17.11.2020

We have lost a truly great and wonderful person.

Aba Lewit (1923 - 2020)
(Photo: Mauthausen Memorial / Stephan Matyus)

Aba Lewit was born on 7 May 1923 near to Krakow. After the occupation of Poland by the German Wehrmacht, he was subjected to a selection along with all the male Jewish inhabitants of his town. In 1940 he was interned in the Krakau-Kostrze forced labour camp. Two years later he was transferred to the Plaszow concentration camp near Krakow. His parents and three of his siblings were only able to survive because he managed to bribe an SS man: in return for all the Lewit family’s worldly goods, the SS man made sure that all members of the family were transferred to the same forced labour camp where Aba was already working.

In August 1944 Aba Lewit, his father Benjamin and his brother Abraham were deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. At first Aba was forced to haul granite blocks in the quarry. Since he had registered as a tinsmith, he was transferred to the Gusen II subcamp. There he was forced to carry out heavy labour in tunnel construction and arms manufacturing, and was at the mercy of physical and mental abuse by the guards. For the rest of his life his hearing was damaged as a result of a beating by a prisoner functionary. Aba was liberated on 5 May 1945 in Gusen concentration camp. Two of his siblings had been murdered by the Nazi regime in the Krakow ghetto and in Plaszow respectively. Like himself, both of his parents and three of his siblings survived the Shoah.

After liberation Aba Lewit initially lived in a DP camp in Linz. He appeared as a witness in the Dachau Mauthausen Trial. In Linz he met his future wife, who was from Vienna, where the two finally settled. For a long time he rarely spoke of his experiences during the Holocaust. At the beginning of the 2010s he made his life story public in order to bear witness to the crimes of the National Socialists.

In summer 2015, those liberated from Mauthausen were described in an article in ‘Aula’, an Austrian right-wing extremist journal, as ‘mass murderers’, ‘criminals’ and as a ‘plague’. Preliminary legal proceedings by the Austrian judiciary against the author of the article were, however, abandoned. In February 2018, Aba Lewit filed a complaint against this with the European Court of Human Rights. The court upheld his complaint and found the Republic of Austria guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights.

Aba Lewit had a close connection with the Mauthausen Memorial, which he visited often, albeit, as he put in, in silence and away from the large-scale ceremonies. In September 2015 we had the honour of welcoming him as a guest speaker at the 7th Dialogforum of the Mauthausen Memorial. An interview about his life can be found in the Collections of the Mauthausen Memorial in Vienna.

Aba Lewit will be deeply missed.