Peres honors paratroopers at Haviva Reik memorial

Peres honors paratrooper

Jews have only themselves to rely on, President Shimon Peres said on Monday at Givat Haviva, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary and commemorating the 65th anniversary of the execution of Haviva Reik, in whose memory Givat Haviva, a multifaceted, peace-oriented educational facility, was established. The event was also used as a launchpad for the official opening of the Mordechai Anielewicz Museum which contains heretofore unpublished diaries and other documents not only from the Warsaw Ghetto, where the 23 year old Anielewicz led the revolt in April 1943, but from the Lodz Ghetto and elsewhere. The museum is designed to stir young people to action because it commemorates the selfless heroism of young Jews of another era. Haviva Reik was one of 37 volunteers from the Yishuv who joined the British army and were parachuted behind enemy lines. Born in Slovakia, she became a member of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, came to Eretz Israel in 1939, and lived and worked on Kibbutz Ma'anit. After enlisting in the British Army, she was sent back to Slovakia in September 1944, joined the partisans and was active in establishing an independent Jewish unit. Her heroism was nipped in the bud by the Nazis, who captured her and executed her on November 20, 1944. Hannah Szenes, who is probably better known than Reik, was also parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe, and executed two weeks earlier. In recalling their heroism and that of young fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Peres said that they were pitted alone against a monstrous menacing force. He lamented the fact that Israel had risen out of this dark chapter in Jewish history a decade too late. It was heartbreaking to think in historic terms of how brief a period there was between the executions and the fall in battle of so many young heroes and the restoration of the State of Israel, said Peres. When they and the other parachutists went to Europe, said Peres, they knew that their chances of success behind enemy lines were almost nil, as did the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto - but they could not bear to do nothing. The whole world was caught up in the brutality of the war, but even the more enlightened nations that fought Nazi Germany with all their might remained deaf and blind to the Holocaust, said Peres, noting that strategic objectives received first preference. The lesson to be learned, he continued, was that unlike other nations, "our people do not have the luxury of making strategic errors." Peres, who quotes Ben Gurion at every opportunity, recalled that Ben Gurion had said at the time, "We must help the English as if there were no White Paper, and we must resist the White Paper as if there were no war." Thousands of Jews from the Yishuv had enlisted in the British Army, he said, while at the same time a struggle was taking place on the country's shoreline against the blockade imposed by the hard-hearted Mandate administration against Jewish refugees from Europe attempting to land. Peres said some one-and-a-half million Jews fought with the allied forces, and their contribution to the victory has historic significance. As for Haviva Reik, Hannah Szenes and their comrades, Peres termed them "an inspiration" for IDF paratroopers, and declared that they had left the country an unprecedented legacy.