Speeches

Avshalom Haviv / Meir Nakar / Yaacov Weiss

The three Irgun men addressed their "judges" with vigour and, with dignity. Avshalom Haviv drew a parallel with the Irish rebellion against British rule:

"When the sons of Ireland rose up against you, when the Irish underground started their fight against you, you tried to drown the rising in rivers of blood. You set up gallows, you murdered in the streets, you exiled, you ran amok and stupidly believed that by dint of persecution you would break the spirit of resis­tance of free Irishmen, the spirit of resistance which is God's gift to every man worthy of the name. You erred. Irish resistance only grew in intensity. The blood of the fighters and the tortured rallied the people to the banner of revolt, until you were forced to withdraw, leaving behind you ineradicable bloodstains and unforgettable memories. Free Ireland rose in spite of you.

"If you were wise, British. tyrants, and would learn from history, the example of Ireland or of America would be enough to con­vince you that you ought to hurry out of our country, which is enveloped in the flames of holy revolt, flames which are not extinguished but only flare up the more with every drop of blood shed by you or in the fight against you. You should then pay heed to the words of warning uttered by Bernard Shaw in the days of the Irish rising in 1916 after your hangmen had murdered four Irish prisoners of war.

Mr. Shaw then wrote:

"My own view is that the men who were shot in cold blood, after their capture or surrender, were prisoners of war, and that it was, therefore, entirely incorrect to slaughter them. An Irishman resorting to arms to achieve the independence of his country is doing only what Englishmen will do, if it be their misfortune to be invaded and conquered by the Germans. The fact that he knows that his enemies will not respect his rights if they catch him, and that he must, therefore fight With a rope round his neck, increases his risk, but adds in the same measure to his glory in the eyes of his compatriots and of the disinterested admirers of patriotism throughout the world. The shot Irishmen will now take their place beside Emmet and the Manchester martyrs in Ireland and beside the heroes of Poland and Serbia and Belgium in Europe, and nothing in Heaven or earth can prevent it..."[1]

"These words were historically vindicated up to the hilt. But our rulers are blind and will not learn. Who knows? Perhaps they have been blinded by the Almighty in order to bring down upon them, in the course of time, retribution for all the blood and tears they have caused to flow in our country and outside it...

"You tyrants will never understand the spirit of free men going to death as Dov Gruner and his comrades went with a song springing from their hearts. And this too you will probably not understand: I, a young Jew, facing the sentence of death, lift my heart to my God, and give praise and thanks for the privilege of suffering for my people and my country, and say with all my ­heart: "blessed art thou, O Lord, King of the Universe who had kept us alive and maintained us and enabled us to reach this season.' "

His comrade Meir Nakar delivered a scathing comment on the political situation of the British Mandatory Government:

"British rule in Eretz Israel is bankrupt¬°K A Government whose officials have to sit in barbed‑wire ghettoes is that a Government? A Government which spends about half Its budget on police purposes and yet remains helpless in face of the anger of the people in revolt is that a Government?"

Yaacov Weiss, who in Hungary had saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis, told of the barbarous treatment of the wounded Irgun prisoners at Acre, and warned the authorities that the law of retaliation would be applied. "And though we shall not com­pete with you" he declared "in the maltreatment of wounded men and in sadism, you will, for the rest, be paid in full."

"We hold your threats of murder in contempt" he continued.

"We know there will be one outcome of this fight: Our people will attain its freedom and its enslaver will disappear from the land. That is why we are calm. More: we are happy. For there can be no greater happiness than to give our lives for a great idea and to know, to know absolutely, that we are among those who are directly bringing about its fulfillment."

On the 16th June, 1947, three British officers donned their caps and one of them declared to Haviv, Nakar and Weiss: "You will be hanged by the neck until you are dead."

The three sang Hatikvah.

 

On July 23rd Haviv, Nakar and Weiss were led to the gallows.

How they went to the gallows was described on 29th July, 1947, by a witness, Nathan, a prisoner in Acre at the time.

"This morning our three comrades went heroically to the gallows. We knew already last night what was to happen between four and five a.m. As soon as we heard we pressed against the bars and with bated breath watched, helplessly, what was going on around their cell. Major Charlton had left the place in the afternoon and was not seen again. Towards evening a party of hangmen from the police and army arrived. They changed all the condemned men's things after a thorough search and took Aziz Mizrachi fourth man sentenced to death out of their cell. Afterwards British officers went in and informed them that they were to be executed between four and five in the morning. Their reply was the powerful singing of' Hatikvah, On the Barricades, and other songs. They then shouted to us that the hangings would begin at four o'clock in this order: Haviv, Nakar, Weiss.

They added: 'Avenge our blood.'

"We shouted back 'Be strong. We are all with you, and thousands of Jewish youth are with you in spirit.'

"They replied 'Thanks,' and went on singing.

"At two a.m. a Sephardi Rabbi whom we could not recognise from afar was brought and stayed in the cell fifteen minutes.

"At four o'clock Avshalom began Singing Hatikvah, and we pressed against the bars. joined in loudly. At once armed police patrols came up to the 'visitors' fence near our cell. At 4:03 Avshalom was hanged. At 4:25 we were shaken by the powerful singing of Meir. Hardly able to breathe we nevertheless joined in. He was hanged at 4:28. At five o'clock the voice of Yaacov, this time alone, penetrated our cell singing Hatikvah. Again we joined him. Two minutes later he was hanged. Each of the bodies was left hanging twenty minutes and was taken out of the cell separately.

"The chief hangmen were Hackett, Superintendent of Prisons, and Captain Clough, Superintendent of the Nablus Prison, who hanged Dov and his comrades. At dawn we informed the prison officers, through the Arab officer, that we would not be responsible for the life of any Englishman who came into the yard. We declared a fast and prayed. Later in the morning we found an inscription on the wall of the condemned cell: 'They will hot frighten the Hebrew youth in the Homeland with hangings. A.H. Thousands will follow in our footsteps.

"There was also the Irgun insignia and the three names in the order they were executed."

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