Childhood

Yitzhak Katz was born on August 9th, 1921, in Sokal. His father was Leo Eliezer and his mother Frida Shulamit Tabak.

Yitzhak left Poland very young, probably before his first birthday, and came with his mother and sister Toni to Gera, in Thuringia, Germany.

Gera

Yitzhak, Leo and Toni

Yitzhak, Leo and Toni - Gera, 1932

After Hitler's rise to power, Yitzhak became a victim of anti-Jewish discrimination in school. He became a member of the youth organisation Habonim Noar Chaluzi and made up his mind to immigrate to Palestine.

Liron: Against his parents' wish, 14 year-old Yitzhak started to find his way towards the Youth Aliyah.

He finally left school in 1937 at the age of 16 because of the pervasive antisemitism.

Note: I believe he actually left earlier, as his sister Toni stopped going to school in 1934. I assume that Yitzhak too would have had to leave school at the same time.

Liron: actually I think he stayed in school longer than Toni. I’m not sure what happened.

DA: Maybe what happened is that - according to Siegmund Spiegel - everybody, including Jews, had to go to middle school, but Jews were not allowed to go to high school anymore and were forced to stay in middle school. Maybe this is why Toni left - and Yitzhack who was younger stayed maybe another year. I cannot confirm this however.

Yitzhak, Gera

Yitzhak, Gera

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak, Leo and Toni

Yitzhak and Toni - Gera, ca October 1936

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak, Frida, Leo and Toni - Gera, October 1936

Yitzhak, Frida, Leo and Toni - Gera, October 1936

Yitzhak, Gera

Yitzhak, Gera

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak - 1936

Yitzhak - 1936

Ytzhack and boys from youth group

Yitzhak with members of Habonim Noar Chaluzi- ca 1936

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Israel

Yitzhak was determined not to stay in Nazi Germany and to go to Palestine. His parents didn't want to see him leave, but his decision was made, and in 1937, Yitzhak boarded a ship to Palestine with Aliyat Ha-noar (Youth Aliyah), along with a group of young immigrants.

"When Itzhak left, Toni wasn't home, she 'studied'."
Not sure what this means - she wouldn't go to hachshara until 1938, and had stopped attending school in 1934. Maybe this means she was out, working as an apprentice?

Israel

Upon his arrival in Palestine, he was first transferred to Shfeya, originally a village for young orphans from Europe that had been turned into a Youth Aliyah village.

In Shfeya Yitzhak received training for a few months. It was when he arrived in Israel that he decided for the first time not to fast for Yom Kippur: he hid in the shower to eat in secret.

Yitzhak

Yitzhak - kibbutz (Shfeya? Degania?)

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak then went to the Degania Aleph kibbutz on the Kineret. He was 17-18 - around 1938-1939?

Yitzhak

Yitzhak - kibbutz Degania

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak - kibbutz Degania

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak - kibbutz Degania

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak - 1941

Yitzhak - 1941

Yitzhak

Yitzhak - Haganah?

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak then went to the Gezer kibbutz, were he was in charge of the finances for 2 years - around 1939-1941?

Note: According to internet searches, Kibbutz Gezer was founded in 1945 by Youth Aliyah graduates, so the dates don't correspond?

Yitzhak

Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah who directed the Youth Aliyah. Yitzhak is third from the right.

WW2

Around 1941, Yitzhak left the kibbutz and volunteered in the British Army, where he served for four years.

He was part of the Palestinian Battalion, a Jewish force created in August 1942, as the "Palestine" patch on his shoulder attests.

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Malta

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Malta

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak (standing, 3rd from the left)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, 1943

Toni and Yitzhak, Tel-Aviv, 31 March 1943

Toni and Yitzhak, Tel-Aviv, 31 March 1943

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Yitzhak was sent to Italy - I believe with the Jewish Brigade, which had been created in September 1944.

(Note: I say "I believe" because none of the photos taken in Italy show him with the Jewish Brigade patch on his uniform. Simply need some confirmation)

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Italy 1944

After the German collapse in 1945, the Jewish Brigade started to gather Holocaust camp’s survivors, bringing them to centers in Italy, then organizing their immigration to Palestine.

Yitzhak was involved with this illegal immigration work - "not heavily" according to Toni. He was at one point in the south of France for this "immigration work" said Toni - probably Marseilles which was a point of departure for immigrant ships.

I assume he was probably involved in the transport of immigrants from Italy to France.

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Italy

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

Liron: After comparing his uniforms and doing some research, I think that he was driving the survivors to the borders, where there they were taken care of in order to bring them to Palestine.

Tal has mentionned meeting people in Gedera who said that they had been able to come to Israel thanks to Yitzhak at that time.

After the end of the hostilities, he also tried to locate his parents, looking in lists of survivors and in DP camps.

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Italy 1945

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, Italy

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

After the war

During his holidays in Palestine, he met Riva. The two kept in touch, sending each other photos and letters.

In 1946, Yitzhak Katz and Riva Leibovich were married.

After he got married, Yitzhak worked as a truck driver.

Independance War

In 1948, during Independance war, Yitzhak served in the Negev Brigade, an infantry brigade consisting of four Palmach battalions. The Negev Brigade participated in many operations in the Negev Desert, including Operation Yoav in the latter part of the war.

Yitzhak

Yitzhak, War of Independance

(Photo courtesy of Shulik Mir)

By the time he was released from the military service he was a major.

Back to beeing a civilian, Yitzhak went to work for Darom yehuda, then Egged.

Starting as a driver, he eventually became a member of the Egged management and was part of the team responsible for building the new bus station in Tel Aviv.

Yitzhak fought again in the 1956 campaign.

In the 1967 six day war, Yitzhak was again in the army but didn't participate in combat, working instead in the war room.

Yitzhak and Shimon Peres

Yitzhak and Shimon Peres

Yitzhak and Riva perished in a car accident while vacationing in France on September 1th 1978.

Postscript

Tal and Liron mentioned how many people in Gedera have come forward to tell them about Yitzhak, saying how loved he was, how he helped people by giving them work at Egged. Others have mentioned that he helped bring them to Palestine with Aliyah Beth after WW2.

Extra Special Thanks:
Most photos courtesy of Shulik Mir

This family history project started September 2009.
All photos and documents belong to the author and are © Daniel Abraham, except for maps and where indicated.
This is a work in progress. Please contact me if you have any more information to contribute.

Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2014