Mordechai 'Motel' Leib Schmulewicz was born in Molchad, Russia (now Belarus)
in 1916.He graduated from Hebrew school, attending Yeshiva as well as other Russian
and Polish schools. During the Holocaust, their Polish neighbors hideously murdered
86 members of his family when the Nazis invaded Molchad. These included his father
Shlomo, his mother Esther, and his two sisters Pesha and Elke. Martin believes that
they were buried in Molchad on July 1942 in the mass grave that contains 3,600 bodies.
Mordechai Leib was forced to live in various ghettos, labor and concentration camps finally ending at Mauthausen. The camps of Mauthausen-Gusen were the last to be liberated during World War II. On May 5, 1945, the camp at Mauthausen was approached by soldiers of the 41st Recon Squad of the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army.
After the war, Mordechai Leib was relocated from a hospital in Linz, Austria to a convalescent home in Salzburg, Austria and then boarded a train for Italy with Italian POWs returning home from the Russian front. In Italy he joined the ‘Bricha Aliya’. He worked with the Jewish Brigade to acquire ammunition that was sent illegally to Palestine. During this time he also participated in the ‘Aliya Bet’ and helped send countless illegal immigrants to Palestine. In 1948 Mordechai Leib traveled to Israel and fought in the war of Independence.
In 1950 Mordechai Leib immigrated to the United States and took the name Martin Small. It was a few weeks later that he met Doris, also a Holocaust survivor, whom he married in 1951. They settled in Manhattan and had two children, Miriam Esther and Stuart Michael. Unfortunately their son died at the tender age of eleven.
After a successful career in business, at age sixty-five Martin retired and moved permanently to the family's summer home in Huntington, New York. After his retirement Martin, a self-taught artist, began creating art inspired by poetry and Hebrew liturgy. Although he uses a variety of media, he works primarily in wood sculpture, carving and relief. He enhances his surfaces and images using a variety of stained and painted materials. Martin also writes vivid poetry based on his life tragic experiences.
The subject matter that Martin portrays is deeply personal. He has often said, "I am the Holocaust!” and with that personal statement the images that emerge from his creative energies are from the depths of his soul and from personal experiences. His ‘Holocaust’ pieces are deeply moving and have to be looked at carefully to extract their full meaning and intent. The images of folk-life are wonderfully charming recollections of his youth in Molchad, the little town in which he was raised. The works based upon Hebrew liturgy are gracefully created and express Martin's deep personal faith, despite the horrors and tragedy that he has lived through.
Martin’s work is part of the permanent collections of the Holocaust Art Museum and Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes at Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, Israel; the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, New York: and the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colorado. Reflecting on his ability to speak many languages his work is international and can be found in private collections throughout the world (Israel, England, Russia, Poland, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, and United States among them).
The Office of the Town Council of the Town of Huntington, New York issued a Proclamation on May 2, 2000 recognizing Martin “as an important artist and a tremendous resource in our community”. Martin and Doris left Huntington in April 2003 and moved permanently to Broomfield, Colorado, to be close to their family. Their daughter Miriam and her husband William Saunders have two children, Jennifer and Jacob, who are married and have blessed Martin and Doris with six great grandchildren.
Martin was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in March 2008 and decided not to have treatment. His dying wish to see his life story in print became a reality in May 2008 when his book ‘Remember Us: From My Shtetl Through the Holocaust’ was released. 1986 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel wrote: “Like all Holocaust survivors’ memoirs, Martin Small’s poignant recollections of his experiences in German concentration camps, as told to Vic Shayne, constitute an important contribution to the literature of the most tragic chapter of contemporary history.”
He donated his portion of the proceeds from his book towards the purchase of a Torah scroll for Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder. A Torah that survived the Holocaust (Shoah) was located by Rabbi Marc Soloway. On July 31, 2008, Martin in his weakened condition proudly carried the Torah into the sanctuary and read a portion of that week's chapter fulfilling his dream.
After a heroic battle with his illness Martin passed away in his sleep at his home in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday, November 29, 2008 (Hebrew date 2nd Kislev 5769). He dedicated his life to share his Holocaust experiences with groups of all ages. An accomplished educator, artist, poet, lecturer, and author, whose sweetness and compassion touched the hearts of everyone he had contact with; Martin will be sorely missed by all.
תהי נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים
May his soul be bound in the "Bond of Life"