In Their Own Words

YOEL and BRANDES, IRGUN FIGHTERS IN EUROPE

 

The young men, Brandes and Yoel, after their long and circuitous journey from Italy and their close contact with the mud of the German-Swiss frontier, looked reasonably disreputable.

 

They, after many hours without food, were more conscious of hunger.

 

I took them to a restaurant for a meal.

 

I then sought out my D.P. friends.

 

Six of them were quartered in a small family pension.

 

They undertook to spirit Brandes into their room for the night.

 

They could do no more.

 

Hecht was not available.

 

I knew nobody else in Basle, and it was ten o’clock.

 

There was no help for it.

 

I took Yoel to my hotel.

 

He waited outside while I went in. 

 

The night clerk was in solitary occupation.  I asked him for my key and to get me a bar of soap.   He went off.  I casually opened the glass front door  to look out into the rain. 

 

Yoel came in, ran up the stairs and was waiting for me at my door when I came up respectably in the lift. 

 

Yoel slept on the narrow sofa without a care in the world.

 

I slept uneasily in my comfortable bed.

 

In the morning I waited till nearly nine o’clock before venturing out.

 

The lift was old and its creakings gave early notice to the hall porter of every “down” from the first floor landing.  The hall porter was not there.

 

We walked down more boldly.  We reached the last short flight.

 

The hall porter, emanating from nowhere, was standing there facing up, his arms folded flamboyantly across his chest, his cheeks puffed with triumph.  In very stony silence I handed in my key and we walked unhurriedly out of the hotel.

 

This was no place for Yoel.  I had some doubts about my own security of tenure.  However Yoel had to be got out of the way.

 

I found Hecht, who suggested that I take Yoel to Zurich and there persuade a certain veteran Revisionist to take Yoel in for a few days.

 

Armed with a letter of introduction we traveled to Zurich. 

 

It took me nearly two hours to persuade the man to give Yoel the hospitality of his home.  He came originally from Russia but for all his thirty years in Switzerland, he still bore with him the alien’s special fear of authority.  

 

He assured me that the Swiss police were very, very thorough, especially vigilant of foreigners, and very, very efficient.

 

I promised him faithfully that Yoel would do nothing in Zurich except relax and would indeed remain in the vicinity of the house.

 

Back in Basle I sought to assure Brandes’ immediate future.

 

I could not impose him again on the D.P. boys who, for all their ingenuity, had had no little difficulty in juggling Brandes past a sharp-eyed landlady.

 

Raphael Kotlowitz, whom I had proposed as the head of the Irugn nucleus in South Africa, and a delegate of the Revisionist Conference, came to the rescue.

 

Indeed a splendid solution had presented itself.  Several of the South African delegates lived in the same hotel and one of them, Joel Pincus, had gone off to the mountain for the weekend.  His room was available.

 

Brandes was about the same build. With care and luck and minimum of display he could get by the hotel officials.  In fact he did.

 

Yet catastrophe was only narrowly avoided.

 

Kotlowitz decided that Brandes looked shabby, and that it would be helpful if he took over one of Pincus’s suits as well.  He was certain that Pincus, when he came back would generously acquiesce.  No doubt he would have done so. 

 

Pincus returned to the hotel from his weekend trip a day earlier than Kotlowitz expected.  He went to this room to change.  A suit was missing.  He decided then and there that it had been stolen. 

 

He rushed downstairs to complain.  The hotel staff reacted with indignation, then with suspicion.  Why did he claim that he had been away for the weekend”  Had they not seen him in the hotel?  The word “police” had already been uttered when, at the height of the uproar, Kotlowitz came in.

 

It was not easy to disentangle the threads of the dispute and then re-entangle them into an apology by Pincus for having forgotten that he had taken his suit to the cleaners and for having given the impression that he had been away for the weekend.

 

Once again, that night, Brandes was smuggled into the D. delegates’ pension.  By the next day I had decided that we should not disturb the peace of Switzerland.

 

Yoel and Brandes retraced their steps out of the country.

 

Brandes, eighteen months later served under me in Jerusalem.

 

Yoel’s adventures in Europe were not yet over.

 

          *        *        *

 

After I had returned to Paris Lankin told me of a plan proposed by Boris to bring one Irgun veteran into England.

 

It was Yoel, who had taken part in the blowing up of the British Embassy in Rome and two months earlier I had concealed in my hotel room in Basle.

 

Once in England Yoel was to pass as a Britisher.

 

I was dubious.

 

Yoel had indeed served in the British Army and no doubt picked up some English, but this seemed hardly enough.

 

I spent an “English half hour” with him.

 

I was dumbfounded.

 

Yoel’s vocabulary was not extensive, but he spoke English with a Welsh accent and intonation that would have passed muster in Portmadoc or Merthyr Tydfil.

 

He had an unusually sharp ear, he was a gregarious soul and his close friends in the Army had been Welshmen.

 

The plan was carried out some weeks later.

 

One spring day a young couple ostensibly absorbed in one another sat in a car in a lane by a Surrey field.

 

The noise of an aircraft losing height was heard.

 

The young man, Ezer Weizmann, jumped out of the car and waved.

 

The plane landed in the field, came to rest, and out of it rushed Yoel.

 

At once the plane took off again and disappeared.

 

Scotland Yard was now continuously – and overtly – watching Weiss.

 

One morning, as he was about to drive off to Oxford on business, Weiss went up to the car in which his shadowers were sitting and suggested that they save petrol (still rationed) by joining him in his car.

 

The offer was declined, and Weiss cheerfully conducted them to Oxford.

 

 

 

This close attention was Yoel’s undoing.

 

Impatient at his enforced inaction for several weeks, and against standing instructions, he came to visit Weiss.

 

The detectives pounced on this new face and subjected him to a routine but rigorous interrogation.

 

They soon discovered that Yoel was not an average law-abiding Welshman.

 

Yoel adopted the role of a refugee who had sought asylum in England.

 

He was charged with illegal entry, spent several months in gaol and was then deported to Germany. 

 


<<< Back To Index