Co-writer/co-producer of Israel's first film
Zvi Kolitz, co-writer/co-producer of Israel’s first film and whose fictional account of the Holocaust was so moving it was accepted as fact for many years, died Sept. 29 of natural causes in Manhattan. He was 89.
He co-wrote and co-produced “Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer” in 1955, about the battle for Israel’s independence; pic won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.
He also co-produced the 1964 Broadway production of Rolf Hochhuth’s “Deputy,” one of the first plays to challenge the Vatican’s silence during the Holocaust. In addition, he co-produced the Broadway shows “The Megilla of Itzik Manger” and the musical “I’m Solomon,” both in 1968.
He was a columnist for Yiddish newspaper Algemeiner Journal the last 32 years and wrote fiction and philosophy, including “The Tiger Beneath the Skin: Stories and Parables of the Years of Death” (1947), “Survival for What?” (1969), “The Teacher: An Existential Approach to the Bible” (1982) and “Confrontation: The Existential Thought of Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik” (1993). In addition, he taught courses in Jewish thought at Yeshiva U.
He was best known for “Yosl Rakover Talks to God,” a short story he wrote in 1946 for a Jewish newspaper in Buenos Aires. It took on a life of its own, being reprinted in numerous anthologies and prayer books, but without his name attached for two decades; instead it was thought to be an authentic first-person account by a Holocaust victim and presumably found in a bottle in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto.
Alytus, Lithuania, native from a prominent rabbinical family escaped to Italy in 1936, attended the U. of Florence and the Naval Academy, then moved to Palestine, where he became a prisoner of the British, a soldier in the British Army, an emissary for the World Zionist Congress and a part of the radical Jewish underground.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mathilde; a son; two daughters; eight grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; a brother; and a sister.