Many individual Jews resisted the Nazis. Youra Livchitz was a young doctor who was a member of the Belgian Resistance. On 19 April 1943, the same day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began, Youra and two non-Jewish friends succeeded in stopping a train carrying Jews to Auschwitz. Youra was subsequently betrayed to the Gestapo and arrested. He was executed in February 1944, a week after his brother Choura who was also a member of the resistance. Youra wrote this last letter to his mother from his prison cell.
Although the words are powerless to express all that I feel, I leave this cell to go to the other side of life with calm – a calm that is also resignation in the face of the inevitable. To tell you that I regret all that has happened would serve no purpose. I very much regret not being there to help to support you in the first trial – that which you have already suffered: Choura. I wanted to be there so that the two of us could struggle with the world as it is. Dear Mother, do not cry too much thinking about your little one. My life has been full first and foremost of errors. I think of all our friends who are in prison and ask their forgiveness. Remember me without sorrow. I have had the best, most excellent companions until the end and even now I do not feel alone. My best wishes to all. Dear Mother, I have to say goodbye, time passes. Once again, it is not the last moments that have been the hardest. Have confidence and courage in life, time erases many things. Think of us as dead on the front, think of all the families, all the mothers affected by the war, the war that we had all believed would finish earlier.
Your loving son,
The train which Youra and his comrades stopped had been carrying 1,631 Jews from the Mechelen transit camp to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The three young men had been armed only with a pistol, a pair of wire cutters, and a lamp covered in red paper to make it look like a stop signal. Their actions helped 231 people to get off the train; 115 of these people successfully escaped. The youngest survivor was an 11-year-old boy.
Photo: Youra Livchitz; Yad Vashem
Letter: William Ugeux, Histoires de Résistants (Éditions Duculot, 1979)