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Arriving at Haifa, the city of the future

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Reunited with the family thanks to a pair of shoes
Uri Avnery Social activist
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The first city was Strasbourg where my father was waiting for us with my older brother, and my second sister had already joined him. But we arrived there at midnight. We knew which hotel my father would be at, but there was a night watchman who did not understand a word, and certainly not German. He knew nothing, a bok [a simpleton]. How would we find my father? Then my mother had a stroke of genius. My mother was a very practical woman. In the old days people would put their shoes by the door to be cleaned at night. She went from room to room and recognized his shoes, and so we were reunited with my father, and with my brother and sister. I remained with a very strong impression of Strasbourg then, as Strasbourg was full of soldiers. I had grown up in Germany and the soldiers were the most sacred thing in life. We all collected pictures from cigarette boxes. There were pictures in cigarette boxes – German soldiers in the 16th century, all the uniforms, dozens of different uniforms according to the infantry, cavalry, artillery. But the German army was then, even before the agreement [Treaty of Versailles], very small, until Hitler announced the breaking of the agreement.  In Strasbourg, wherever you looked there were soldiers! Negroes! I had never in my life seen a Negro, suddenly masses of Negroes in uniform, half of the German army [sic – should be French] were from the colonies, from Africa, and with such colorful uniforms. That, approximately, was the Strasbourg experience. 

We travelled to Lyon in order to be reunited with my older sister, who was studying at the university there. I remember seeing the river of Lyon, this river called the Loire, and I saw a particularly odd sight: there was a boat in the river and a man standing with a kind of fishing net, with a long stick, and he took a net full of fish from the river, again and again and again, until I realized that these were fish from the boat. So that is what remains in my memory. From there we travelled to Marseille. We were in Marseille for a day or two.  A ship called Sphinx was waiting for us. Most of the Jews who emigrated to Israel from Europe traveled through Italy, via Trieste.  Because of my sisters we traveled through France, departing from Marseille.  

והעיר הראשונה הייתה שטרסבורג, שמה אבא שלי חיכה לנו עם אחי הבכור וגם אחותי השנייה כבר הצטרפה אליו. אבל באנו לשמה בחצות. ידענו באיזה מלון הוא (אבא שלי) צריך להיות. היה שוער לילה שלא הבין מילה, ודאי לא גרמנית. לא יודע כלום, "בוק" כזה. איך מגיעים לאבא שלי? ואז אמא שלי היה לה רעיון גאוני. אמא שלי הייתה אשה מאוד מעשית. בימים ההם היו שמים את הנעליים לפני הדלת בכדי שיצחצחו אותם בלילה. והיא הלכה מחדר לחדר והכירה את הנעליים שלו, וככה התאחדנו עם אבי, ועם אחי ועם אחותי. נשאר לי רושם מאוד חזק משטרסבורג אז, מפני ששטרסבורג הייתה מלאה חיילים. אני גדלתי בגרמניה וחיילים היו הדבר הכי קדוש בחיים. כולנו אספנו כאלה תמונות מסיגריות. בקופסאות סיגריות היו תמונות של חיילים גרמניים במאה ה-16, כל המדים, עשרות מדים שונים לפי חיל רגלים, חיל פרשים, חיל תותחנים. אבל הצבא הגרמני לפי ההסכם היה מאוד קטן (חוזה ורסאי לסיום מלחמת העולם השנייה). עד שהיטלר הכריז על שבירת ההסכם. ושטרסבורג, איפה שהסתכלת היו חיילים! כושים! אני בחיים שלי לא ראיתי כושי. פתאום המוני כושים במדים. חצי הצבא הגרמני (הכוונה לצבא הצרפתי) היו מהמושבות מאפריקה, ועם מדים ססגוניים כאלה. זו בערך הייתה החווייה של שטרסבורג.

נסענו לליון, בשביל להיפגש עם אחותי הבכירה, שלמדה באזור הזה באוניברסיטה. אני זוכר שראינו את הנהר של ליון, זה נהר בשם "לה לואר", וראיתי מחזה נורא מיוחד: עמדה סירה בנהר ועומד אדם עם רשת של ֿ דיג, עם מקל ארוך, והוא מוציא מהנהר רשת מלאה של דגים, עוד פעם ועוד פעם ועוד פעם. עד שתפסתי שזה דגים מתוך הסירה. אז זה יש לי בראש. משם נסענו למרסיי. היינו יום או יומיים במרסיי. חיכתה לנו אונייה בשם “ספינקס". רוב היהודים שעלו אז לארץ מאירופה נסעו דרך איטליה, דרך טריאסט. ואנחנו בגלל האחיות, אחיותיי, נסענו דרך צרפת, אז נסענו ממרסיי.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Sphinx

Duration: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017