Moshe Shamir (name at birth Schmucker) was born in an Orthodox Jewish family on April 17, 1922 in Cernauti, Romania (today Chernivtsi, Ukraine). His father,
Avraham, was a teacher in a Hebrew school. He died when Moshe was only five years old. Moshe’s mother, Rifka, raised him and his older brother, Menachem,
on her own. Moshe attended a four-grade Yiddish school, was a member of the Gordonia Zionist youth movement, and sang in the Jewish Choral Temple choir. He
started apprenticeship in a haberdashery store at the age of twelve.
Cernauti was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. In July 1941, Romanian Army, allied with Nazi Germany, re-took the city as part of the Axis attack on the Soviet Union during World War II. Moshe was conscripted to forced labor re-building the main bridge over the Prut River, destroyed by the bombardment. Within a few weeks, all Jews of the city were ordered to move into a ghetto. Deportations began in fall 1941, and Moshe and his mother, along with other deportees, were marched across the Romanian-Soviet border to Transnistria—a territory located east of the Dniester River that was under the control of Romanian administration from August 1941 to March 1944. They arrived in the Ivashkovtsy ghetto in the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine. Moshe stayed in the ghetto until 1943, when he was deported to work on road and bridge construction in several labor camps in Odessa and Nikolaev regions under control of Organization Todt— a German state organization established by Nazi Party leader and engineer, Fritz Todt, for the purpose of constructing military facilities in Germany and throughout its occupied territories. Due to hand injury, Moshe was sent to a hospital located in the Mogilev-Podol’skii ghetto, in 1944. Soviet army approaching, he was released from the ghetto hospital and got reunited with his mother in Ivashkovtsy when the territory was liberated by the Red Army.
After liberation, Moshe and Rifka returned home to Cernauti, then under Soviet administration, and rejoined Moshe’s brother, Menachem. Unwilling to live under the communist regime, Moshe illegally crossed the border to Romania. He joined a local Zionist resettlement training program in Timisoara in preparation to immigrate to
Palestine. He was on board on Pan York approaching Palestine in December 1947 when the ship was seized by the British border patrol and all passengers were interned in Cyprus. He was released from the internment camp #61 on February 10, 1949 and arrived in Haifa. In Israel, Moshe worked in Mossad—the national intelligence agency. He married his wife in 1954, Judith, and had two sons, Avichai and David, and two grandchildren.
The interview was conducted on November 2, 1998 in Netanya, Israel; interviewer: Caroline Newman; videographer: Ilan Kedem.