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Jewish Vocational School Masada in Darmstadt 1947-1948

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Title: Jewish Vocational School Masada in Darmstadt 1947-1948  
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Jewish Vocational School Masada in Darmstadt 1947-1948

The Jewish Vocational School Masada in Darmstadt was established and run by Samuel Milek Batalion between 1947 and 1948. The aim of the school was to give the young Holocaust survivors an education and a new will to live and to prepare themselves for a possible life in Israel. The school trained about 45 to 60 students. The school was slowly closed after the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Most of the students emigrated to Israel and were recruited to the new established Israel Defense Forces. Although the school only existed for ten months, it nevertheless represents an important aspect of the post-war history of Hesse and a manifestation of the re-emergence and establishment of Jewish life in post-war Germany.

The School

The school was named after the archaeological site of Masada near the Dead Sea, a fee-standing cliff with a plateau fortified in antiquity. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada took place there at the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. The long siege by the troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels and their families of the Masada fortress who preferred to die rather than go into slavery. The Masada school was a Vocational School affiliated with the Betar movement. The Betar movement was a right-leaning, Revisionist Zionist youth movement which was founded in 1923 with the aim to establish a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan.[1] The name Betar refers to both the last Jewish fort to fall in the Bar Kokhba revolt (136 AD) and to the Hebrew acronym of the words "Brit Yosef Trumpeldor", "Covenant of Joseph Trumpeldor". The school was founded and supervised by Samuel Milek Batalion. This was quite unusual, because almost all the schools for Displaced Persons (DPs) known after the war were located in the DP camps and were created and supported by ORT. In this context it was quite unusual that a singular person established and run a school by himself in cooperation with the Betar organization.

In 1946, Samuel Batalion met Moshe Mordchelewitz in Ludwig Bergsträsser, a German politician and historian who was also present at the inauguration, mentioned the forthcoming closing of the school in his diary on June 18, 1948.[2]

The Buildings

Main-Neckar train station in Darmstadt

The regional German Government and the City of Darmstadt provided the facility of the school and the living quarters of the students nearby. The school was located within the former building of the Hesse-Nassau and was then named the "Jacob-Sprenger house" after the local official.[3]

For living quarters, the school was granted a building in the hospital complex not far away from the school at Steubenplatz. The students lived in one of these buildings and walked approximately 20 minutes to the school. The address given for the living quarters is Bismarckstr. 59 and Grafenstr. 9.

The school facilities in the former Main-Neckar train station building consisted of classrooms, workshops offices and kitchen facilities. The students themselves renovated the run-down building. The equipment in the school and the boarding accommodation was considered rudimentary.

The Inauguration

On 8 September 1947, the Jewish vocational school Masada, in Darmstadt, started their first activities.[4] The official opening ceremony of the school was on 5 December.

At this ceremony, Colonel Rose, district chief of the American Military Authorities, officially opened the school. Guests at the ceremony included other members of the military authorities, members of Hesse's Regional Parliament, the Head of the Regional Parliament, as well as members of the Darmstadt city council and the city's Jewish community and representatives of the Central Committee of Betar from Munich. Aron Propes, the leader of the Jewish youth organization Betar in America, also attended the inauguration and gave a speech at the celebration after the opening ceremony. In addition, German and American authorities and representatives of other institutions sent their greetings to the opening ceremony.[5]

The Curriculum

The school aimed to provide Jewish students an education and new will to live and to prepare them for a possible life in Israel. The students were trained to become locksmiths, metal workers, carpenters and other tradesmen. In this purpose, the curriculum included courses in technical calculation, measurement and control technology and electrical installation. The courses offered ranged from electrical engineering to machine-lathing, mechanical engineering and building-fitting to wood-working. In addition, they were taught Hebrew, Jewish philosophy, physical fitness and the basics of Betar and Zionist ideology, for which books in Hebrew were supplied by Betar Munich. Lessons were held for ten hours a day.

The Students

The school taught about 45 to 60 Holocaust survivors from various DP camps in the American Zone, such as the DP Camps in Babenhausen, Dieburg, Rochelle Eschenstruth, Gabersee in Wasserburg and Weilheim. Each one had managed to survive the holocaust and was now determined to prepare themselves for a future existence in Israel. Most of them came from Poland, with a significant number also coming from Romania. The Romanian immigrated to Germany quite late and did not live in the DP camps but came directly to the Masada school. Others students originated in countries like Lithuania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and spoke several languages. The most common languages were Yiddish and German, followed by Polish and Romanian. Some spoke Hungarian, Russian and Hebrew. Almost all students expressed the wish to emigrate to Palestine. According to the records, 19 students left for Palestine on 3 July 1948. Only a few stated that they wanted to emigrate to the USA or to stay in Germany.

Important Figures

Samuel Milek Batalion

Samuel Batalion was the founder and director of the Masada School.

Samuel Milek Batalion was born 22 September 1918 in Hessisch Lichtenau. There he began to plan the establishment of the school and, in May 1947, he was appointed as director of the Jewish Vocational School Darmstadt, a position he held until it closed in 1948. Batalion became an independent tradesman. The couple had two children, Lea Dror-Batalion and Nathan Batalion. The family moved to Frankfurt at the end of 1950. Samuel Batalion died in 2000 in Frankfurt.

Moshe Mordchelewitz

Moshe Mordchelewitz was the Madrich of the school and taught the students Hebrew, Jewish philosophy, physical fitness and the basics of Betar and Zionist ideology.

Moshe Mordchelewitz was born 18 February 1920 in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania. His parents were Sarah Brode and Eisig Mordchelewitz. Moshe had already joined the Betar movement in 1937 upon graduation from high school. In 1939 he was recruited into the Lithuanian army, which was promptly disbanded in 1940 following the Russian invasion. After the Germans occupied Lithuania on June 22, 1941, they created ghettos for the Jews. Moshe's two brothers, Yaakov and Sissel, were shot in the Kovno Ghetto in 1943, and only Moshe was able to escape. Moshe was interred as a forced labourer in Russia until 1945, whereupon he went to Poland in 1946 and then travelled on to Germany. Moshe was very active in the Betar movement and met Samuel Batalion at a Betar conference. He became the Madrich of the Masada school in Darmstadt due to his experience working as a Madrich in Gabersee. Moshe had also led the Herzog Kibbutz in the DP camp at Hessisch Lichtenau. He arrived in Darmstadt in 1947 and lived in the Kibbutz. During the day Moshe often attended university lectures as a guest auditor and taught in the evening. Representatives of the Jewish Agency came from Palestine to Darmstadt to bring the students to Palestine. In April 1948, Moshe was the first to leave the school in order to join the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary group in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948 which is also known as Etzel, and fight in Palestine. Moshe stated that he boarded the ship "Teti" in Marseille and arrived on May 15, 1948 in Tel Aviv. He was initially recruited into an Irgun combat company. Once the State of Israel was declared, a unified Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was created. Following the incident involving the ship "Atalena", the less-thn-willing Irgun was disbanded and its members, Mordchelewitz among them, were integrated into the IDF. In the IDF he then fought until the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He was discharged in August 1949. He married Miriam Kalmus on November 8, 1949 and raised two daughters. After his wife passed away in 1980, he married Falla Minkowitz in 1981, with whom he emigrated to Canada. Moshe Mordchelewitz died in September 2011.

The Exhibition

The opening of the exhibition in Darmstadt

Lea Dror-Batalion did some intensive research about her father Samuel Milek Batalion and the Masada Vocational School in Darmstadt. The result is an exhibition about the Jewish Vocational School Masada which was developed in cooperation with Renate Dreesen and pupils from the Heinrich-Emanuel-Merck-School in Darmstadt and under the auspices of the University of Haifa and the Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society.

The exhibition was shown in 2011 in Darmstadt,[6] at the Edith-Stein-School in Darmstadt and at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.[7] The exhibition is also planned for other locations in Germany and Israel.

External links

  • The Jewish Vocational School Masada Darmstadt 1947-48


  1. ^ Ilana Michaeli, Irmgard Klönne (Hg.): Gut-Winkel - Die schützende Insel. Hachschara 1933-1941. (Deutsch-Israelische Bibliothek, Bd. 3, Berlin 2007, p. 280, in German.
  2. ^ Befreiung, Besatzung, Neubeginn - Tagebuch des Darmstädter Regierungspräsidenten 1945-1948, München, 1987, p.313, in German.
  3. ^ "Das neue Heim der RGB-Bauamtsleitung Jakob-Sprenger Haus, in: Darmstaedter Tageblatt from December 1, 1937 and "Jakob-Sprenger-Haus" in: Hessische Landeszeitung from December 1, 1937
  4. ^ "Erste jüdische Fachschule", in: Darmstädter Echo from September 13, 1947
  5. ^ "Erste Jüdische Berufsfachschule", in: Darmstädter Echo from December 9, 1947
  6. ^ Frankfurter Rundschau from January 28, 2011
  7. ^ "Ausstellung über die Jüdische Berufsfachschule Masada" on on November 3, 2011, in German
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