MEIR NAKAR (age 21)

Meir Nakar was born in Jerusalem on July 26 1926. At the age of 12 he left his studies to help support his struggling family. At 17, he forged his birth certificate in order to fight in the British army against Germany. In 1946, following World War II, he joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, first in the propaganda unit and then later as a fighter.

The Acre prison was a Crusader citadel restored by the Turks and considered impregnable. Even the legendary Napoleon had failed in his two month effort to take it by siege. Under British rule, the place served as a maximum security prison where Jewish underground fighters were jailed and executions carried out. The prison was the most highly guarded fortress in the country, surrounded by thick walls and a deep moat. On May 4 1947, the Irgun launched an attack on the Acre fortress, freeing twenty of their comrades and seven Lehi fighters. Despite the heavy toll in human lives, the action was described by foreign journalists as the “greatest jail break in history” while military circles around the world described it as a “strategic masterpiece.” British prestige was greatly damaged and many began questioning the future of their rule over the country.

During the operation, Meir Nakar was assigned to the covering unit, along with Yaakov Weiss and Avshalom Haviv. Following the escape, British soldiers succeeded in capturing the three. The trial opened on May 28 and the fighters were sentenced to death on June 16. At the trial, Nakar challenged his foreign judges, stating that: “The flame of revolt is spreading in the country and outside… What role is Britain playing in this generation, now that the murderer of Jews from Berlin has been destroyed? Is not Britain the only country in the world that as a state is killing Jews? Is not Britain holding tens of thousands of Jews in concentration camps? Long live the nation of Israel! Long live the Hebrew homeland! Long live freedom!”

When Nakar’s mother came to visit him in prison, he whispered to her that his friend Yaakov Weiss was a Holocaust survivor and had no family in the country. He asked that she share some of her allotted time to visit with him.
The Irgun, meanwhile, kidnapped two British sergeants in Netanya and threatened to execute them if Nakar and his comrades mounted the gallows. The British decided to call the Irgun’s bluff and on July 29, the three fighters were hanged at the Acre prison. All three mounted the gallows with dignity and all three sang HaTikva before their death.

After the execution of the three freedom fighters, the Irgun hanged the two British sergeants in a forest. A large outcry went up from the people of England demanding that their soldiers be brought home and that their government end its occupation of Palestine. The British never again executed Hebrew fighters and in less than one year they had withdrawn their forces from the country. The London Sunday Times would later write the following: “If any one event forced us to leave Israel and permit the Jews to create a Jewish state, it was the defiant resistance of these young Jews who were led to the gallows. It may be said that after two thousand years, the Jewish state rose again on the broken necks of those who mounted the gallows.”