MOYSHE LEVIN (BER SORIN) (1907-March 2, 1942)
He was born in Vilna, Lithuania, into a family of a poor glazier. During the years of WWI, he wandered homeless through Russia, before returning to Vilna. In 1922 he graduated from the seven-class secular, Jewish public school of L. Gurevich, worked for a time as a touch-up man in a photography studio, and later (in 1928) graduated from the Vladimir Medem Teachers’ Seminary. Until 1934 he worked as a teacher in Jewish secular schools in the Vilna region, and later the police (because of his revolutionary activities) revoked his right to continue teaching. From his early youth he was blessed with a painter’s talent, and he thus took up painting portraits, drawing posters, and making illustrations for Yiddish-language books. He worked with a publisher of children’s literature, while at the same time becoming a member of the literary group “Yung-vilne” (Young Vilna). While in his school years, he published poems in Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm) in Warsaw (1922) and in Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw. From 1927 he also published stories and novellas in: Vilner tog (Vilna day) (1927-1939); Yung-vilne (1934-1935); Etyudn (Studies) in Vilna (1935-1937); Zibn teg (Seven days) in Vilna (1935-1936); Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Folkstsaytung, Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), Foroys (Onward), and Der fraynd (The friend), among others—in Warsaw; and Forverts (Forward) in New York, from which he received a prize in 1937 for his story “Dray shpiglen” (Three mirrors). In book form: Friling in kelershtub, noveln un humoreskes (Spring in the basement, stories and humorous sketches), with drawing by Bentsye Mikhtam (Vilna, 1936), 110 pp.; and children’s stories in verse: A denkmol baym taykhl (A monument by the brook) (Warsaw, 1937), 16 pp.; Der vagon (The railroad car) (Warsaw, 1938), 14 pp.; and Di kats dertseylt (The cat recounts) (Warsaw, 1939), 16 pp.—all with his own illustrations. Using the pen name Ber Sorin, he published from his own press in Vilna kindergarten booklets: Makhn mir a shneymentsh (Make me a snowman) (1937), 8 pp.; A mayse vegn mayzelekh vayse (A tale of little white mice) (1937), 8 pp.; and Kitsi un murele (Kitsi and Murele) (1938), 9 pp.—all with colored illustrations. Until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, he was living in Vilna, where he was politically active in the leftist labor and cultural movement. He was the Vilna delegate to the first conference of Yiddish writers in the Lithuanian Soviet Republic in Kovno (May 1941). In those years he placed work in Vilner emes (Vilna truth), Kovner emes (Kovno truth), the weekly Shtraln (Beams [of light]), and the anthology Bleter (Leaves) in Kovno. When the Nazis were approaching Vilna, he fled on foot to Minsk, and then was confined in the Minsk ghetto, serving as a liaison between the partisan movement in the forest and the underground resistance organization in the ghetto. He forged fake Nazi documents and passports. On March 2, 1942 when the Nazis led the prisoners from the Minsk jail out to be shot, the commandant wanted to let him live (Levin was a painter in the Minsk jail), but Levin had no wish to be exceptional and declined. He was thus shot to death with his comrades in the prison courtyard. His unpublished stories and poems, his novel Revolutsye 1905 in smargon (The 1905 Revolution in Smargon [Smorgon]), and his play Dos farnumene ort (The occupied place) were all lost during the Holocaust years. In 1958 a collection of his children’s stories and verses was published in Warsaw: Kh’vil dertseyln a mayse (I’d like to recount a story), 80 pp., with his own illustrations, in which was included portions of his published and unpublished items. In Di goldene keyt (Golden chain) (Tel Aviv) 42 (1962), his novella “Shmulyes shtub fort avek” (Shmulye’s household runs off) was published with notes by A. Sutskever.
Sources: Sh. Katsherginski, in Vilner tog (Vilna) (October 20, 1936); Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); Sh. Kahan, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 26, 1937); M. Taykhman, in Literarishe bleter (April 2, 1937); A. Y. Grodenski, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1937); Sh. Lastik, in Foroys (Warsaw) (March 4, 1938); Shtraln (Kovno) 20 (1941); M. Mozes, in Der poylisher yid (The Polish Jew), yearbook (New York, 1944); Elye Shulman, in Yung-vilne (Young Vilna) (New York, 1946), pp. 16, 28-29; H. Smolyar, Fun minsker geto (From the Minsk ghetto) (Moscow, 1946), pp. 27, 71; A. Golomb, in Yivo-beter (New York) 30 (1947), pp. 155-56; Y. Y. Trunk, Di yidishe proze in poyln in der tekufe tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish prose in Poland in the era between the two world wars) (Buenos Aires, 1949), p. 154; Lerer-yizker-bukh (Remembrance volume for teachers) (New York, 1954), p. 230; D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), A litvak in poyln (A Lithuanian in Poland) (New York, 1955), p. 36; A. Vogler, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 23 (1955), pp. 177-78; A. Sutskever, in Di goldene keyt 42 (1962); Yoysef Gar and Philip Fridman, Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York: YIVO and Yad Vashem, 1962).
Khayim Leyb Fuks