Zvi Hermann was the youngest of three sons born to Binyamin and Sarah (Selma) Marcus. He was born on April 3, 1921 (24 Adar Bet, 5681) in Berlin, Germany.
Zvi was considered a cheerful and well-behaved child. He received a strict Jewish education. At an early age, he lost his father. Zvi and his brother David were educated at the "Beit Ahava" Residence for Children and Youth in Berlin”, an institution where orphaned children and those coming from families experiencing crises were raised. This institution was founded by Beate Berger who turned it into a thriving Jewish-Zionist, educational facility. Although the institution was surrounded by a wall, the children could hear the noise coming from the processions of Nazi marchers and their propaganda as they were marching on the adjacent street.
When the Nazis came into power in 1933, Berger realized the dangers the Jewish population in general would face and the children in the “Beit Ahava” in particular. In a very complex operation, she managed to rescue about three hundred children from Europe, and established a similar facility for them (also called “Beit Ahava”) in Kiryat Bialik in Mandatory Palestine. David, Zvi’s older brother, was in the first group of children from Berlin's “Beit Ahava” that immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in April 1934.
On October 26, 1936, when Zvi was only fifteen years old, and after having spent 2 months in a special training and preparation in a "hachshara" programme in Berlin, he too immigrated to Palestine. This was the earliest age that children were allowed to immigrate through “Aliyat Hanoar” (an organization that rescued thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis during the Third Reich and arranged for their resettlement in Palestine in kibbutzim and youth villages that became both home and school). Together with his friends, they made the journey aboard the SS Galil. They were settled in the Ben Shemen Youth Village. In 1939 Zvi and his group were transferred to Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan near Haifa.
During World War Two, Zvi joined the British Army. He was placed with Company 462 of the Transport Forces and served in Lebanon, Egypt and the Western Desert. When the war front between the English and the Germans moved west, and the danger of a Nazi invasion of British Mandatory Palestine passed, it was decided that Zvi’s unit would participate in the Allied invasion of Italy. The unit was transferred to Alexandria in Egypt, where it was re-equipped and received new army vehicles.
On April 29, 1943, right after Passover, a convoy of about 30 ships set out from the port of Alexandria to the island of Malta. The cargo ship “Erinpura” carrying Company 462 on board was at the head of the convoy. Two days later (27 Nissan, 5703), German war planes spotted the ships, and towards evening bombed the convoy. The “Erinpura” suffered two direct hits and sank within about 4 minutes.
One surviving witness testified about the behavior of the soldiers in the water, “Throughout their struggle with the waves they did not lose their spirit, each helping the other to survive. Excellent swimmers showed tremendous bravery--- they never stopped trying to save those who were not such good swimmers, and above the noise, the songs of encouragement were heard.” The Jewish officer who was saved said, “A people who have such outstanding youth among them will never cease to exist.” The British Commander said, “I have never seen such brave soldiers.” 136 of the company died that day at sea and there is no burial place for them. An additional victim was transferred to Italy where he died and was buried. Zvi Hermann Marcus was among the dead. He was 22 years old at the time.
A memorial in memory of Zvi and his comrades was erected in the Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem. It is shaped as a ship at the corner of a pool with shallow water in it, symbolizing the sea. 137 plaques with the names of the fallen soldiers engraved on them were placed around the edges of the pool.
Zvi’s mother and eldest brother, Martin, perished in the Holocaust. The only member of his immediate family who survived was his brother David, who, after several years in Israel, left to live in Berlin, Germany, where he passed away in 2016.
The story of Zvi's life on the Yizkor memorial website of the Israeli Ministry of Defense was completely blank.
It was completed by volunteers from “Giving a Face to the Fallen" in 2011 and includes photographs.