Final Surviving “Avenger” Nazi-Killer Dies in NY from Coronavirus

by Avi Abelow

Former Jewish resistant fighter Benjamin Levin died in New York from the coronavirus at 93 years old. At 14 Mr. Levin joined his brother & Jewish resistance fighters, known as the “Avengers”, near the Lithuanian capital of Vilna. After the war, he joined the Irgun & helped Jews flee to the British Mandate of Palestine. This man was a living hero until today. He succeeded in surviving the Nazis but not the coronavirus.

Story of the Nazi Avengers

Benjamin Levin

Levin is the last survivor of a group of Jewish vigilantes who called themselves the Avengers. At first, he fought as a partisan resistance fighter against the Nazis to free Vilna from the Nazi occupation. He was then jailed by the invading Soviet forces and when he escaped to Israel in 1948 by ship he even came under machine-gun fire by the British. Finally, in Israel he joined the Lechi Jewish resistance against the British. He had quite a life.

Levin is most remembered for being an Avenger. After the Nazis surrendered in World War II, the Avengers vowed to avenge the murder of 6 million Jews by killing 6 million Nazis. The Avengers of Vilna were led by Abba Kovner, who famously exhorted Jews not to go “like sheep to the slaughter”. Levin’s incredible story of heroism and wartime survival was documented by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation.

“At first, I saw this as a game,” said Levin of his young teenage self in an interview with Shoah Foundation researchers. “I was reading a lot of books about conspiracy and the Russian underground. For me, it started out as a great adventure.”

We went on actions, like cutting telephone poles. A bridge – to destroy something. They always liked to go with me because I knew the forest, and had the instinct in the forest – how to move and where to go and what’s going on.

Levin did not remember how many Nazis he personally wounded or killed, but his acts of sabotage were so numerous that more than 70 years after the end of World War II, Lithuania still has an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

“My father (Chaim) was a big believer in all things German,” Levin said. “He thought it would all blow over.” Even though he had heard various breathless accounts of the Kristallnacht pogrom, Chaim never imagined Jews in Lithuania were in any real danger.

Levin and the partisans helped liberate Vilna before the arrival of Soviet forces in the summer of 1944. As they marched through a devastated city, Levin and his comrades rounded up Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis.

“We didn’t keep prisoners,” he said. “There was no discussion. It was a normal thing.” Enemies were shot on the spot.

Lithuanian Jews returning to their homes were also shot/killed by local Lithuanians. Although Levin’s parents survived the war in hiding, they were executed by their Lithuanian neighbors when they tried to reclaim the family’s old home in Vilna.

With nothing left for them in Europe, Levin and his sister Bluma, who had survived the war hiding in the forest with her brother, eventually escaped to the Jewish state of Israel. There, Levin met his future wife, Sara, a Hungarian Jew who had escaped the Holocaust with her family.

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