Monday, August 19, 2013

Hair-raising tales from elderly Israelis

My appartment is too small for my current five person family and we are looking for a larger one. There is a neighbourhood we really like nearby and my partner found a nice flat for sale there, although its still a bit too small, its within our budget and is in a building which can easily be expanded.  So I went to chat to some of the neighbours, see what they were like and whether they would agree to an expansion.
I spoke to two neighbours and the second pair were small elderly folk who told me they had been in the building since it was built "in 1963 or 1964".
They said they were allocated the apartments in a lottery.  Apparently it was discounted as they were immigrants.  "Where are you from?" I asked. "Poland" came the reply.
They told me they arrived in Israel in 1949, "Well actually it was 1947 but the British imprisoned us in Cyprus until 1949".  I did my History MA on this stuff and started asking questions.  This is the story they told:

The woman had a Catholic neighbour in Poland, and both he and his sister were called up by the Nazis for servitude of some sort in Germany and he suggested that she pose as his sister.  As a result she became the maid in the house of an SS officer. I missed a trick here and failed to get details of the SS officer and the servitude.  She said she was very young and the man protected her.  She masqueraded as a Christian for four years, living in the officers house. She didn't want to go into details and her husband didn't like talking about all this,  I didn't hear what happened to him.

After the war they both started making their way to Palestine. There was a mass movement of Jews out of Poland and the USSR in the Forties', mostly locally organized and now called "Bricha".  They both joined the same group (and fell in love) and their group walked across the Alps from Austria. I believe US troops were helping Jews crossing through Austria (eg providing food and shelter).  I repeat they crossed the Alps on foot from Austria to Italy.  In Italy they got a train to Genoa. From Genoa they took a rickety boat (they told me its name but I forgot it).  When they approached Palestine, two British destroyers came either side, slamming against the boat and trapping it.  British trooops boarded the boat (incidentally this usually happened in international waters) and took the occupants prisoner.
They were held on Cyprus until about a year after Israel's independance and released in 1949.
Being elderly they have no need (or money) for any expansion, and having crossed the Alps on foot they are in great shape, so their flat won't become free any time soon... So the flat fell through.  I got this post though,  

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