In memoriam: Bernard Bar-Nir

Bernard (Bugajer) Bar-Nir was born in Brussels, Belgium on September 28, 1931, survived the Holocaust and moved to Israel. He died in Jerusalem on February 28, 2019.

Bernard Bar-Nir (photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Bernard Bar-Nir
(photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Bernard (Bugajer) Bar-Nir was born in Brussels, Belgium on September 28, 1931, survived the Holocaust in which he lost most of his family, made aliyah, fought as an IDF officer in the Six Day War, taking command of the Mount Zion area, and worked for most of his career as a broadcaster at Israel Radio’s French News. He died in Jerusalem on February 28, 2019, and was buried at Givat Shaul the following day. This moving eulogy was delivered in Hebrew by his cousin at the funeral, and translated with love by his friend, Steve Linde.
Bernard, today you join your small family of which only you were the only survivor. I know that my father, Bernard Bar-Nir, loved your mother, Zanka, very much, and chose to give me my name, Hannah, in her memory.
My husband, Avner, and I met you for the first time when you arrived at our kibbutz after the Shoah. Tali, our mother, adopted you and opened our home to you, and you always remembered her kindness. Nevertheless, after serving in the army, you chose to leave the kibbutz and begin a long journey, which began with hard physical work at the Sdom factories, and only after several years were you able – thanks to your many talents and fluent French – “to land” at the Israel Broadcasting Authority and become a top broadcaster who even served as director of Kol Yisrael’s French News.
On your mother’s side in the Zilbershatz family, many boys were named Bernard, apparently after a great-grandfather. Sadly we never got to know any of them, because my father and your uncle, Bernard Bar-Nir, lost touch with them, and some of them, like your mother, perished in the Holocaust.
You had a flexible body, and a special and unique talent for pantomime. There was a time when you wanted to study with Marcel Marceau but I don’t know why nothing came of it. You were also an athlete, a football player, boxer and mountain climber, and despite the hard knocks life dealt you, you kept on fighting. You never gave up, and you managed to reach the peaks of the mountains you climbed, despite the difficulties on the way up.
Sometimes I thought to myself that you were like walking history; someone who fate had reincarnated over and over, and yet, against all odds, you survive, progress and become educated, with your knowledge transcending continents and subjects.
In fact, you were a gifted man, with a sharp mind and original tongue, with which your lashed out at the right and the left, with impunity, spiced by a special humor, which was yours and only yours.
Despite that you caused everyone around you to laugh and be happy, you harbored a shred of sadness. The sights of the Second World War that left you an orphan with internal wounds, ultimately left you with a bitter depression.
You wanted so much to be loved, and it wasn’t easy to endure the loneliness that was your lot for most of your years. Therefore, Avner and I, your cousins in Israel, felt it necessary to maintain our relationship with you, because we knew that we were your only family here.
Indeed, Avner, Naomi, Iris, Amit and Sivan, and later their children, saw you as an inseparable part of their family, and their homes were a place you could always visit, especially on weekends and holidays.
It’s impossible to forget how two wise men (like those Agnon wrote about), Bernard and Avner, sat and engaged in a dialogue of ping-pong, hitting each other with intellect and humor.
Unfortunately, the physical distance from your home in Jerusalem to ours in the north limited the number of our meetings, but we kept in touch constantly and our children felt a special fondness for you.
You received a great gift in the last decade of your life when our wonderful Iris took care of you until the day you died.
As Bialik wrote in After My Death, “There was a man and look, he is no more.” Rest in peace, Bernard, a man who was wise, funny, suffering and very special.