In the last week, the exciting story of a private has made headlines Martin DavidovichThe late, the IDF’s first paratrooper, who was killed in 1948 at the paratroopers’ base in the Czech Republic, in what was defined as a “training accident.” The day after his fall, Davidovich was secretly buried on the edge of a Jewish cemetery in the Czech Republic, and was commemorated mainly by his brigade members, including his commander, the late poet Haim Guri.
In recent days, 73 years later, a special delegation of the IDF and the Ministry of Defense dug his grave in the Czech Republic, identified his bones and today, after a special ceremony in his memory in the Czech Republic, his coffin will be brought to Israel. Davidovich will be buried tomorrow in an official ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. “It’s amazing, I’m so excited about it, and I’m sorry his brother and sister, who have already passed away, did not get to see this defining moment,” she says. Iris Friedman, The niece of Davidovich, who came especially from the United States for the occasion. “I feel that in their spirit, they are here with us, I feel it in my bones.”
“It is impossible to describe in words this feeling,” she adds Doe Heart of the Heart, Davidovich’s cousin. “I feel like we are doing what should have been done a long time ago. This has been my wish since 2001, when it was officially recognized as an IDF space, but his brothers, who are no longer alive, told me ‘no’. “
“Because one of the brothers was probably hurt by the fact that they made a secret and secret funeral for Martin and he thought they were working on him and not telling him everything about his brother, so he was very angry, but I guess if he was alive and seeing what they do today for Martin, he would come back. But Iris told me that her mother, his sister, told her before she died that she wanted his coffin brought to the country. The door has opened. “
“I believed this moment would come,” Friedman notes. “I expected it to be easier and not take so long, but when you want to achieve something and are determined about it, especially since you know it’s the right step to take, I would not stop or rest until that moment happens, and here it happens.”
Davidovich’s bone-raising ceremony (Photo: IDF Spokesman)
A loaded gun
Michael-Yehiel (Martin) Davidovich, son of Tzipora-Lea (Feiga) and Haim-Yehuda, was born on December 12, 1927, in the town of Zdenova in the Munkács County of Czechoslovakia, the brother of six brothers and sisters. As a child he studied in a “room” and as a teenager he showed a special attraction to sports and was active in the “Hashomer Hatzair” movement. After Nazi Germany took control of Hungary (to which Martin’s town was annexed after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia), the Davidovich family was expelled from their home in April 1944, and Martin himself was sent to Auschwitz and the Mauthausen labor camp, where he worked as a tailor during the war.
“Some of the brothers were sent to extermination camps and some, like my mother and Martin, to labor camps,” Friedman says. “The Nazis murdered Martin’s brother and two sisters, and he, my mother (Chaya-Bina) and his brothers Laser and Naftali – survived and returned to town. “My mother told me they took her brothers on the death trains, and she never saw them again.”
In 1945, Davidovich joined the Zionist Youth Organization and later volunteered for the Czech Brigade, which was intended for military training for immigration to Israel. “I guess after losing so much and not believing he had much to gain, he mustered the courage to enlist in the brigade,” Friedman says. “He was a Zionist and dreamed of immigrating to Eretz Israel.”
What kind of person was he from what your parents told you?
“Intelligent, highly expressive, cute, beautiful.”
The Czech Brigade was established in July 1948. Davidovich was one of the 40 soldiers who underwent training at a base in the Czech Republic as part of the first paratrooper course in the IDF under the command of Haim Guri. The training was part of Czechoslovakia’s assistance system for the IDF force building, which also included the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Israel. The course opened in Prague on July 5, 1948 in the Czech military camp Strezpod-Relskam, in complete secrecy, since in communist Czechoslovakia soldiers were then forbidden to speak Hebrew, English or Hungarian in order not to stand out on the ground.
On August 18, 1948, about three weeks after the course began, a night practice was held in which an attack on a target was practiced. Davidovich’s job was to neutralize the attacker, in this case a Czech training officer. As part of the exercise, he took control of the attacker, who in response pulled out a gun, pinned it to Davidovich’s forehead and fired one bullet. Davidovich died on the spot. It was then alleged that the same officer thought the gun was not loaded.
The 21-year-old Davidovich was buried the next day, in a secret and secret ceremony, which to this day is considered by the family as an unsolved riddle. “What is important for me to really complete the picture is to arrive at a protocol that details the circumstances of Martin’s death. For many years it was considered a secret document, because the Russians and Czechs were involved. It is really important for us to know what exactly happened there, and not to hear stories and speculations, “says Friedman. “From what my mother said, it was only the next day that their family found out he had been killed. Army officers came to the family home and said he was killed, without elaborating too much. Also at the funeral only one brother was present. “The rest of the family was not allowed to attend the ceremony, and it was difficult to digest, emotionally and mentally.”
“This secret burial is a wound that has been hovering in the family all along,” Har-Lev explains. “I remember that in the late 1990s, Martin’s brother sent a picture to the Paratroopers ‘Heritage Association, and when he came to Israel to visit from New Jersey, he asked to go to the Paratroopers’ Monument. I looked at him and asked him, ‘What do you have in the monument?’, And he said to me, ‘Brother.’ I looked at him like he had fallen from the moon, gave my daughter a camera and told her to join him. She went to the monument and said we were a stupid family because Martin is the first at the monument. There was a dear Jew named Isaac Grinold who was with him in the company, and he documented his story and collected documents and made sure to keep his memory all these years. But we are still waiting for the official protocol. “
The last nail
Davidovich’s brothers and sisters immigrated to Israel in 1949 and lived in the Haifa area, but left in the mid-1950s for the United States, where they lived until their last day.
How much did the family talk about Martin and his tragic death?
Friedman: “They didn’t talk much, but he was like a wind, a wound that hovered all the time. I asked, of course, about the past of the whole family, including those who perished in the Holocaust, and Martin intrigued me greatly. It was a very painful subject. The whole family was particularly affected by his death, I do not know how to explain to you why, I think it was like the last nail in the family tragedy, because he survived the Holocaust and was killed during his military service. In the early 1990s, I mustered the courage to visit his grave with my children, and then I felt the need to gather every bit of information about him in order to commemorate him. “
Har-Lev: “I was not told about him, I am a daughter of Holocaust survivors and they did not talk about it at home. My father lost a wife and five children in the Holocaust. We were just told that Martin died in Prague and was buried there. This. It was hard to talk about it. Only later did we talk to Yitzhak Grinold, who told me about him and showed me materials. “
In the late 1990s, Har Lev began to fight for the recognition of Davidovich as an IDF space, a process that took quite some time and required a lot of bureaucracy. “I felt it had to be done,” she says. When she asked to work for the bringing of Davidovich’s coffin to Israel, she encountered family opposition: “I always thought he should be buried in Israel, especially after being recognized as an IDF cavalryman. This is how I know that every year there will be someone who puts up a flag and a candle, and will say ‘remember’ about him. When he is in Prague, they do not come every year. “
Friedman enlisted in a campaign to bring him to Israel in 2013, after visiting the cemetery where Davidovich was buried. “I felt strong vibrations, I felt that Martin’s spirit was sending me a message, so I decided at that moment to bring his coffin to Israel,” she says. I went to the Chabad rabbi, and began the arduous journey of encountering closed doors because both the Ministry of Religions, the Ministry of Defense and the governments of the Czech Republic and Israel were involved. It was a difficult and challenging journey, and each time the goal moved away from being realized and came closer again, until the moment came. “
Tomorrow, as mentioned, Whitman Davidovich will be in the military section of Mount Herzl in the presence of 60 family members from around the world, as well as civilians who will come to pay their respects.
“Martin is a part of my being, he is present in my life, even without me knowing him,” Friedman says. “I am very relieved that Martin was buried in Israel. I am grateful to Israel for all the efforts.”
Har-Lev: “Every evening on Remembrance Day I take my children and grandchildren to the paratroopers’ monument, we take flowers and put a flower in the monument next to his name, because this is the place we have had so far to commemorate his memory. I was excited to see the videos that were sent to me from Prague when they managed to extract his bones, and now we will have a grave to visit every year here in the country, as it deserves and respects. “
“The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, everyone has an address, there is one big and caring family,” says Lt. Col. Oshrat Doc. “Martin’s story is one of the tens of thousands of stories on which our country is founded. Together with his family and relatives, we worked to plan and execute this operation. The connection with the bereaved families is one of the main pillars of the IDF and its commanders. “We are committed to every family and every space, throughout the year, and see them as an integral part of the IDF spirit and heritage. In their deaths, they commanded us life, and we owe them the IDF we have today.”