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Mon Feb 19 06:53:12 MST 2001
Irish Times, 17 Feb 2001
Maurice Levitas dies in London
By Padraig Yeates
Maurice Levitas (Moishe ben Hillel), one of the last surviving Irish
veterans of the Spanish Civil War, died on Wednesday in London.
There are now only three Irish survivors from the International Brigade,
which fought in Spain between 1936 and 1939 in defence of the Spanish
They are Mr. Michael O'Riordan, former general secretary of the Communist
Party of Ireland, and Mr. Eugene Downing, who wrote the only memoir in
Irish of the war. Both men live in Dublin. Mr. Bob Doyle, a former member
of the Communist Party and union activist, now lives in London.
Mr Levitas was born on February 1st, 1917, in Portobello, Dublin, then
known as "Little Jerusalem".
He was the son of Harry Levitas from Lithuania and Leah Rick from Latvia.
His father was active in the International Tailors', Machinists' and
Pressers' Trade Union, then known in Dublin as "the Jewish Union". The
family emigrated to Britain in 1927 where Maurice became a plumber and
subsequently a teacher.
A lifelong communist as well as a trade unionist, he participated in the
"Battle of Cable Street" in October 1936 when the British Union of Fascists
was prevented from marching through the Jewish neighbourhoods of London's
In December 1937 he volunteered for the International Brigade. He fought at
Teruel and Belchite on the Aragon front before being captured, together
with the Irish republican Frank Ryan, near the town of Gandesa in March 1938.
He was imprisoned for a year in the concentration camp of San Pedro de
Cardea, before being released as part of a prisoner exchange.
The Irish unit of the International Brigade was known as the Connolly
Column and, when a memorial to it was unveiled at Dublin's Liberty Hall in
May 1991, Maurice Levitas read the roll of honour of his fallen comrades.
He last visited his native city in February 1997 when, together with other
surviving brigade members, he was accorded a civic reception in the Mansion
House by the Lord Mayor.
Maurice Levitas is survived by his brothers, Max and Sol, his sister, Toby,
and his children, Bill, Diana, Ruth, Danny, Rachel and Ben.
The funeral will take place on Friday at Golders Green crematorium, London.
Kaddish will be said by his brothers.
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