Gen. (res.) Avigdor “Yanush” Ben-Gal, a Yom Kippur War hero and one of Israel’s bravest and most valued IDF commanders, died on February 13.He was born in 1936, in Poland, as Janusz Ludwig. He was three when World War II broke out. His family left for the USSR and was sent to Siberia. His parents disappeared, and he and his sister began a roundabout journey that eventually brought them to Tel Aviv, where they were taken in and raised by a distant cousin.Ben-Gal and his sister were part of a group of 730 refugee children, most of them aged two to 18, who reached Israel after a grueling, three-and-a-half- year journey at the height of the war. They were known as the “Tehran children.”
REFUGEE babies have their first snack.The Tehran children, many of them orphans, but some with families, were Polish war refugees in the Soviet Union, which, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, had divided up Poland between themselves, exiling many Poles to Siberia and other remote locations. In the winter of 1941, when Germany violated the pact, the refugees were freed. They fled south to central Asia. Many died from hunger and disease. Some of the children were put into orphanages. The rest eventually made their way to Iran, then under British control.In Tehran, adult Jewish refugees, together with Tehran’s Jewish community, provided for the children until they were brought to Israel.
HEALTH CHECK at the WIZO baby home in Jerusalem.In December 1942, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, then director of Youth Aliya and appointed to supervise the absorption of the children in Palestine, described them at the annual conference of the Institute for Children and Youth.“In Tehran, there are 981 children from the ages of half a year to 17 years old. Eighty percent of the children arrived in Tehran without parents.
A PURIM show at the WIZO baby home.Only 20%, approximately 220 of the children, came together with their parents. Not all of the other children were orphans; however, at this moment, they are without parents; perhaps later, the children will find their parents, or the parents will find their children in Palestine. For this purpose, I have requested that in Tehran, the children be photographed with their names, so that their parents will recognize them when they arrive in Palestine in spite of the changes in their facial appearance.”The last group of Tehran children arrived in Israel in 1943. In all, a thousand Jewish children and 800 adults took this route. Yanush Ben- Gal was one of them. The writer is director of the Central Zionist Archives.
INSIDE THE train, en route to Israel.