Zwi (Hans) Batscha

* 1922  

  • “There was a great wave in 1948 and 1949. It was such a historical moment, there (in East Europe) was Communism established there, people were leaving it and there was a new state established here (in Israel) by which people were attracted. Stefan Zweig wrote once a book Glückstum und Menschheit. It was such a stroke of luck that it all met together, they had to leave from there and they were accepted here. In 1949 the Jewish population in Israel doubled in contrast with the previous year. When the Jewish state was established, there were about 650 thousand Jews, around the end of 1949 there were 1 300 000. Those who experienced it will never forget about that."

  • “I was in a preparatory camp in Pisárky at Brno. Some Zwi Schwarz was the leader, he died two years ago. We had been there by the time Gestapo dispersed us. He had an awful responsibility, he had to give the names of those leaving for Palestina. Luckily I was among them. We left from Prague from Wilson Railway Station, it is the Main Railway Station nowadays, on July 10, 1939. We went by train to Terst where we changed for the ship Campidorio if I'm not mistaken. We came to Israel on July 13, 1939. We slept in Karmel. In Beit Olim (the house of immigrants). ... We left for kibbutz at Lake Genesaret where we stayed for two years. We worked in the morning and learned Hebrew, Geography and History in the afternoon. We went to Kfar Achor from there for a year, then it fell apart. I came here.”

  • “Then it was much harder to work in the Zionist Youth Movement. But in summer 1947 we were still in the camp in Lietavská Lúčka somewhere in Slovakia. There came three officials of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and they wanted to see our program. We had Marxism included. They wanted me to explain how we taught it. Well, I bluffed a little bit. I explained it exactly the way they wanted to hear it. We managed to slip even out of this. When we were setting off it wasn't so easy then... It is written in a book by Livia Roth that altogether about 19 thousand people moved out at the end of 1949. I've always had the number 20 thousand in my head, perhaps just because it was easier to remember. This was the number that we exported. The Youth Movement was the driving force. Then came aunts and old ladies and old gentlemen and some other people. Such movements had altogether no more than a thousand or a thousand and five hundred people.”

  • “I went there (to Czechoslovakia) as Mr Seidemann. I had no passport. My departure came so fast that I took somebody else's passport because it takes time to issue a new one. Once they (security) came to the hotel in Ružomberok at night. The Communists had their time, it was between two and three o'clock at night. They came and they wanted my passport. So I gave them my passport. However, Mr Seidemann was about ten centimeters higher than I was. It was written down in the documents and it didn't escape their notice: 'You aren't one meter and eighty-six tall.' And I replied: 'Do you know the way of Arabic measuring?' And they accepted that. They also asked why I was so much thinner. I replied that it was after malaria. So I survived even that interrogation. It was life. The point was that I was receiving mail. I lived in the Jewish quarter in Josefovská Street, it is Široká Street opposite the old cemetery today. The mail came. The letters were sometimes addressed to Bedřich Seidemann and sometimes to Zwi Batscha. It was quite OK. Sometimes they mixed it all up and wrote Zwi Seidemann and Bedřich Batscha. A part of each name. The lady at whom I lived didn't know who I was. I explained it to her.”

  • “When I was studying for my doctorate degree I lived for study reasons in Zürich from 1966 to 1969. Shaike Dan rang me up (in August 1968), he was in charge of exporting Jews from East Europe. The most expensive was Romania, you had to pay 150 dollars per a person. It was after the August 1968. They were telling me: 'Go to Vienna and Jews will be coming.' A few of them came when the borders opened. We had no proper contact with Judaism in Czechoslovakia from 1949 to 1968. Only through religion, cemeteries, weddings and the like. There was no Zionist education. ... I spoke to the Jews who came to Vienna. Some of them told me they had to go to Germany first in order to come to Israel with some money, so that they earned money, they got some compensation. They also said: 'There was Hitler, there was Stalin and now to go to fight in Israel, no more of that. We'll go to Canada, Australia.' Israel was attractive for the young mainly in 1948 and 1949. People who experienced Stalinism didn't want to put their lives to risk again in 1968 and 1969. The number was very low. Only about ten or fifteen percent of Jews who came to Vienna were willing to come here (to Israel).”

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    Kfar Ha Maccabi, Haifa, 26.02.2008

    (audio)
    duration: 01:07:59
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“In 1949 the Jewish population in Israel doubled in contrast with the previous year. Those who experienced it will never forget about that. It will never be repeated again.”

Zwi Batscha in 1947
Zwi Batscha in 1947
photo: z knihy ve Stopách naděje

He was born in a German speaking Jewish family in Olomouc. His father worked as a professor at a German Grammar School. Zwi Batscha was active in Zionist Youth Movement. He left for Palestina in 1939. He was in kibbutz at Lake Genesaret during the war. After the war he came to Czechoslovakia for two years. Under his pseudonym Bedřich Seidemann he organized the departure of Jews from Czechoslovakia to Israel in 1947-1949. He studied philosophy and became a professor of political philosophy at the University of Haifa. He lives in kibbutz Kfar HaMaccabi not far from Haifa.