Remains of IDF's first fallen paratrooper returned to Israel

Private Martin Davidowicz was a Holocaust survivor who was killed during the IDF's first Paratroopers training course.

 The remains of Private Martin Davidowicz are brought to Israel. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The remains of Private Martin Davidowicz are brought to Israel.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The remains of the IDF’s first fallen paratrooper, Pvt. Martin Davidowicz, were repatriated to Israel from the Czech Republic for burial on Wednesday, and he was laid to rest on Thursday.

The coffin was flown in an IAF transport plane and was escorted by a joint delegation of the Defense Ministry’s Families and Commemoration Department and the IDF.

The plane landed in Prague earlier in the day, and IDF paratroopers held a ceremony as they took possession of the coffin for the flight back to Israel.

A burial ceremony took place on Thursday afternoon at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, led by senior Defense Ministry officials, IDF officers and family members.

“The ceremony we held on the ramp of an Israel Air Force plane in the Czech Republic shows our value and dedication as a people to the memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers,” said Ariyeh Mu’alem of the Families and Commemoration Department, who led the delegation alongside Col. Itay Brin. “Seeing the paratroopers with their red berets carrying the coffin is an emotional moment that affords great respect for the journey to Davidowicz’s new resting place at Mount Herzl.”

 The remains of Private Martin Davidowicz are brought to Israel. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) The remains of Private Martin Davidowicz are brought to Israel. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Brin said: “With great emotion I stand across from Martin Davidowicz’s coffin today and give thanks for the great privilege that I have to command the operation to return his remains to Israel for burial.”

“It’s a privilege that connects me to our people’s magnificent past, our country’s present and our future as human beings,” he said. “The more I learned about your personality, the difficulties you faced, the decisions you made and the strength and faith you showed at your young age, [this] turns you into an inspiration for me.”

“The soldiers of the Paratroop Brigade, the one Davidowicz strove to join, have come to take his coffin home on an Air Force flight,” Brin said.

Davidowicz was born in 1927 in Czechoslovakia and at age 16 was sent to Auschwitz, where he remained until the end of the war. Having survived the Holocaust, Davidowicz joined the Czech Brigade. During the War of Independence in 1948, Czechoslovakia provided much help to the IDF and hosted the first paratroopers training course at an abandoned base.

In the third week of the course, Davidowicz was accidentally shot and killed by a Czech officer during an exercise. The officer said he thought his weapon was not loaded.

The next day, Davidowicz was secretly buried in a local Jewish cemetery without military honors. But in 2001, he was formally recognized as the first fallen IDF paratrooper.