Paul (Mordechaj) Katriel

* 1929

  • "I was born in Trenčín. My name was, when I was born, Pavol Kathriel. In Hebrew that becomes Mordechai Katriel. […] I was born in the year 1929. My early years I forgot more or less what happened then. When I was 5 years old, our family with friends emigrated to Israel in the year 1935. My mother is Hungarian, her family came from Budapest, but branches of it were all over the places. Her uncle was an engineer from Košice. They spoke Hungarian, German, my mother learned to speak Russian. […]" (Q: "What do you remember from Slovak?") "Things which a small child might remember. A song or a few words or something. A, bé, cé, dé, kočka v létě, kocúr motá okola plota. [a nursery rhyme - transl.] This is a big success. Or: Tatičku, starý náš - no, I don’t know more. Etcetera. I can count: jedna, dva, tri, čtyři etcetera. I was born in a street which was called Hviezdoslavova ulice, tríceť - thirteen [in fact thirty - transl.]."

  • "Anyway, we were there already. In May 1948 the British were leaving Haifa. They were using the British flag. Our boys put up the Israeli flag. There was no Israeli flag, so they took the flag of the Zionistic movement, two blues strips and the blue Star of David. I was on board of the ship which came the same day. […] We had soldiers with us, clandestine. When we came to Haifa we dropped anchor. Boats came, dragging pontoons to our side, they went down to the pontoons. Motorboats then dragged them back to the harbor. Then we saw the British flag going down and the Israeli one coming up. Then all the few hundreds soldiers with all their equipment were brought to the port of Haifa. It was first landing of equipment when the British were no more there. Before they had to smuggle it, here and there. Now the picture changed, Israel was on. And I was on that ship. We got Israeli seamen book and I had book number 76 of the state of Israel. Also a low number, I can't remember how much it was, as an officer. I was the first generation of Israeli officers."

  • "We were waiting for a pilot to come and lead us. The doctor arrived, he checks the ship that there is no disease and we can raise the flag to indicate we are ready. The doctor didn’t even realise that he was aboard an Israeli ship. [...] The captain invited him to a drink for the Jewish New Year, Rosh-Hashanah. So he told the doctor: 'Let us have a drink for the New Year.' And he gave him a glass of wine. 'What new year?' 'Jewish New Year.' He realised that he was on an Israeli ship, he walked off. A few hours later a navy patrol arrived with machine guns in their hands, collected us all. They took the ship; we had to do what they told us to, they had guns. There was only one old pistol, in the captain’s room, because of regulations - if there was a mutiny so he could defend himself. And it had no [firing pin]. [...] That was broken, so he could not even shoot with it. They claimed that we had killed some Egyptian fishermen, some story, and they took us to the military prison. We were there almost a month I think. Did they give us a beating every day! My mother wouldn’t recognise me. My left eye had this color [pointing to a flower]. From my left ear there came out something like coke, but more yellow. I was more worried about the medicine he was dripping into my ear than about anything else. Then suddenly it stopped."

  • "My share starts from underground against the British, to bringing people escaping from the Nazis to Israel through the blockade of British. Through participating after the war to create the Israeli flag ships' crews, and then operating those ships, building those ships – preparing the information what is needed. […] They had a Power Department at the Navy ministry, it was dealing with factories, and I was a consultant for the Power Department, and I went from factory to factory, bringing the information for Lloyd Register."

  • Full recordings
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    Haifa, 28.02.2008

    duration: 01:08:24
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I belonged to the first generation of Israeli navy officers.

with his father
with his father
photo: archiv pamětníka

He was born with the name Pavol Kathriel in 1929 in Trenčín, Slovakia. They used several languages at home, the most frequent one being Hungarian. His father was a Sionist, in 1935 his family moved to Palestine. He trained to be a mechanic, as a youth he even joined the Jewish underground army, Haganah. After learning his craft, he became a sailor - machinist. After the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948, he went to study mechanical engineering at the Technion in Haifa. In 1954 he was on board the ship Bat Galim which was captured by Egyptians in the Suez Canal. In the navy, he served as the head engineer of various ships, later working in the shipbuilding industry. Towards the end of his career he worked as a marine consultant among others for Lloyd’s Register.