Journalist and Renowned Scholar on Eastern European Jewry Dies at 80

Yehuda Lahav, a former Haaretz journalist and one of Israel's foremost scholars on Eastern Europe, died Monday after battling an illness.

Yehuda Lahav, a former Haaretz journalist and one of Israel's foremost scholars on Eastern Europe, died yesterday after battling an illness. He was 80 years old.

Yehuda Lahav

During his journalistic career, Lahav wrote for a number of Israeli publications, including Haaretz, Yedioth Aharonoth, Davar, Al Hamishmar, and Kol Ha'am.

Lahav was born with the last name Weiszlovits in Presov in present-day Slovakia in 1930, when the country was then known as Czechoslovakia. At age 12, he was smuggled into Hungary by his parents and taken to his grandparents' home in Budapest, where he spent most of the war.

After living at home became difficult in the aftermath of his grandfather's death and his aunt's suicide, he left on his own and began marching eastward hoping to encounter the advancing Red Army. At 14, he was spotted and picked up by the Soviets.

Due to his exceptional linguistic abilities - he was fluent in Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian, and he quickly learned Russian - he was enlisted as a translator for the Red Army. As a boy soldier, he reached Prague with his unit. Later he returned to the village of his birth, where he discovered that his parents has perished.

At the age of 19, Lahav immigrated to pre-state Israel along with members of the Hashomer Hatzair Socialist-Zionist youth organization. He was one of the founders of Kibbutz Lehavot Haviva, from which he derived his Hebraized last name. Lahav was forced to leave the kibbutz due to his close relationship with Moshe Sneh and the Israel Communist Party.

In the 1950s, Lahav began to pen articles for various newspapers. According to his son, Gadi Lahav, he was among the first to notice the changing political winds of the 1980s which would eventually topple the Iron Curtain.

Lahav is survived by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren. He requested that his body be donated to science and there will be no funeral. A memorial ceremony will be held in his honor at Sokolov House in Tel Aviv tomorrow evening at 6:00 P.M.