Bernard Papánek

* 1920  †︎ 2021

  • “Things looked quite bad for us back then. We had been hoping that it would show up that we had nothing to do with the British. Then I spent a while at the police station... It was a kibbutz where me and my friend had been living before. And on that day, the British would come and they would surround the place. I had been there by a mere chance. The friend had been in Haifa, in our flat. And they thought I had something to do with the British. But some said if someone would have been working for the British, he wouldn´t have been there... I was hoping that it would be explained. The worst part was that the press, the newspapers started reporting on it. Such nonsense. One paper stated that my mother was Jewish, the other one that they found a suitcase with an Australian passport and twenty thousand pounds under my bed. Only the British press covered it without bias, stating that two Czechoslovak soldiers are suspected of working with the British. An Israeli officer stated that we hadn´t been involved at all, as did the Storehouse Chief in Haifa, and most important was, that there was even a British officer who confirmed the statement.”

  • “For a short period of time we were in this training camp near Haifa then they drove us to Tobruk, to Libya. We served in an anti-aircraft battery, there were those Bofors guns, Swedish ones. We had been there for about half a year.”

  • “There were casualties on both sides. Many of ours died too, or were wounded. In my opinion it was futile as we didn´t have manpower or an opportunity to seriously harm the Germans. They were so well fortified, we could see it after the war was over, how massive the concrete fort was and they had been hiding underneath. The assault had been an utterly futile endeavour. But there was a certain number of casualties so they would plan it in such manner. For me the war ended on December 19th 1944. The fog had been heavy back then as I would go there, and suddenly I heard gunshots and I was hit. Well there was a flash, it could have been about ten meters from where our mortars were positioned.”

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    Šajdíkové Humence, 29.05.2018

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Human being is a human being. No matter where he lives or his nationality

Bernard Papánek in the Czechoslovak armed forces uniform (1942)
Bernard Papánek in the Czechoslovak armed forces uniform (1942)
zdroj: archiv Bernarda Papánka

Bernard Papánek, who took name Benjamin Palgi after moving to Israel, was born on March 17th 1920 in Vienna. As a six-months old baby, he was taken by his mother to her parents in Vracov na Moravě, where he lived a happy childhood. As a six years old boy, he joined his parents in Vienna, where he graduated from a business school. After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in the summer of 1938, he left for Brno where his strived finding a job. Due to his father´s Jewish origin and Slovak nationality, he had been deported to the Slovak border, after that he was hiding at his father´s relatives in Brno and in 1939 he managed to emigrate to Palestine. There he joined Czechoslovak armed forces serving under British command. After completing his military training in Haifa, he fought at Tobruk serving in an anti-aircraft battery. In 1943, he had been transferred to the United Kingdom with other Czechoslovak troops. In Liverpool, he met president Edvard Beneš. Since the fall of 1944, he joined the siege of Dunkerque; on December 19th 1944, he was gravely wounded and was treated at a Canadian field hospital. Apart from his brother and one of his uncles, all his relatives perished during the war. He moved to Palestine with a friend; on June 29th 1946 he witnessed British troops raid in kibbutz Yagur, later known as the “Black Sabbath”. He was arrested but as a Czechoslovak army member he had been released by the authorities. Jewish resistance fighters considered him a traitor and kidnapped him, but Bernard managed to escape and with the help of British officials he left Palestine. He settled down in Brno and began to teach English and German. After some time, he found out that he had been under secret police surveillance. He married in 1961. In 1964, after getting a permit to visit an uncle in Vienna, he and his wife decided to emigrate to Israel. He joined his brother working for the El Al Israeli Airlines and became an Israeli citizen. Since 2014, he has been living in Slovakia with his step-daughter Viera.