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Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Family Torn Apart

I imagine that most of us find it hard to contemplate how life under the Nazi regime must have been. Garri Urban's struggle to survive is an incredible story, but what about those family members he left behind, in particular his younger brother Menachem, pictured left? With his father dead believing his brother to be dead for 25 years, he received a telegram from London asking him the names of his closest family members...

Speaking in 2006 in Tel-Aviv, Menachem recalls how Garri was deported to the Gulag. As the Nazis invaded in 1941, their father had “benched” Menachem, letting the 15-year old go to join the partisans. He knew that his father as well as the rest of the family had died in the Holocaust, and presumed for 25 years that his brother had perished in the Gulag. Then, one day in 1964, a telegram from London arrived, asking him the names of his closest family members….

We learn from Menachem and Garri about the amazing and emotional reunion of the two brothers and visit the spot where it happened near Tel Aviv. We also hear from Menachem how he told his brother of the fate of the rest of their family and how he returned home after the war to encounter the man responsible for murdering their sister and nephew. Menachem joined the Jewish underground, capturing several senior SS officers, and handing them over for trial and execution by the Jewish underground movement before emigrating to Palestine, where he became a decorated elite commando in three wars for Israel. We recall how the discovery of a brother brought so much happiness to Garri and his family. Menachem’s stories also help shed light on Garri’s singular character: how he had become tough and fearless when physically assaulting gangsters and anti-Semitic gangs.

For a detailed and harrowing account of what befell the Jewish community of Garri and Menachem's home town (nearly half of which was Jewish before WW2),in one of the biggest yet least reported liquidations of the Holocaust, click here.

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