43 Years After His Death, Jewish Communist Leader in Uruguay Finally Laid to Rest

Family announces 'with sorrow and relief' mourning period over Dr. Eduardo Bleier, who was kidnapped by the army in 1975 and killed the following year

Dr. Eduardo Bleier's Memorial Ceremony in Uruguay, October, 2019.
Amit Lewenhoff

An unusual obituary notice appeared Wednesday in Haaretz's Hebrew edition, announcing the recently held funeral of a man murdered in 1976. His family will be sitting shiva in Tel Aviv next week, 43 years after his death.

In the notice, his daughter writes that she is announcing the interment of her father “with sorrow and relief,” and for good reason: His fate had remained unknown for decades, and the whereabouts of his remains was also a mystery until recently.

The man in question is Dr. Eduardo Bleier Horovitz, a Jewish dentist who had sat on the central committee of the Uruguayan Communist Party for years. In 1975, at the age of 47, he was kidnapped during an army mission to wipe out the communist leaders, who had been operating underground during the reign of the military junta in the 1970s.

For four decades his family struggled to save him, and later to elucidate his fate. His family members, who live in Israel, also worked to find out what happened to other communist activists, who also disappeared under the same circumstances.

In 1976, with the arrival of exiles from Uruguay to Israel, a demonstration was held outside the Uruguayan embassy in Jerusalem. There, Bleier’s daughter Irene Bleier Lewenhoff read a letter calling for his release. The issue also reached the Knesset, and a number of members wrote letters of support for the cause.

Eduardo Bleier Horovitz

The family’s struggle continued into the 1980s, but it was only in the summer of 2019 that a dramatic turn of events happened. The family was notified that Bleier’s skeleton had been found at an army base in Uruguay, where he had been tortured together with other prisoners. His daughter had the bones' DNA tested, and after a nerve-wracking month, his identity was confirmed.

Following the discovery, the family flew to Uruguay in October to hold a memorial and bury his remains in his homeland. Next week they will be holding a symbolic shiva, a week-long Jewish mourning ritual, in Tel Aviv.

Bleier’s grandson, Amit Lewenhoff, 50, lives in Tel Aviv. “It was very emotional,” he told Haaretz. “I always knew that my grandfather, who knew me when I was a year and a half old, was a very special person.” Thousands of people came to pay their respects, he says “We stood in line next to a small coffin in which his bones had been placed. A lot of people wanted to kiss it and touch it.”

After the ceremony Irina Lewenhoff told Ilana Dayan, a relative of theirs, on Army Radio: “We went in one at a time, the children, to see him. I went in alone. My father lay there, his skeleton, my father. Finally I could touch him. I touched his skull, his forehead, his bones. It felt like he was there. He hadn’t been anywhere for 44 years.”

In 1973 the army staged a coup in Uruguay and ruled the country until 1985. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and tortured and hundreds were murdered in prison. Over the years Bleier’s family received information about the torture he had experienced in the jail, known as “the big hell.”

After her father’s burial, Irina said, “I can’t stop thinking about the other families that didn’t get answers and will continue to search and dig. It’s terrible.”

The obit says: “Eduardo Bleier fought against fascism and for a just, democratic society, for which he was tortured, murdered and then disappeared.”