פרוייקט מדהים נתקלתי בסיפור בטיק טוק מדהים העבודה הקדושה שאתם עושים
Son of Nissim and Esther, born in 1921 in the town of Arta, Greece.
In 1941, Greece was conquered by the German forces. At that time, Josef’s parents were no longer alive. Josef, like many other young people, fled to the mountains and joined the partisans who were hiding in the mountains, in the area of the city of Agrinio.
During the night of March 24, 1944, the Nazis rounded up all the Jews of Arta, and, together with Jews of the adjacent towns, placed them in cattle cars going to Auschwitz- Birkenau. 85% of the 375 Jews living in Arta perished.
Prof. Michael Matza, in his book, “The Illusion of Safety”, wrote that his mother, a friend of Josef’s mother, having both lived in Arta, met Josef when he was an underground soldier guarding the bridge in the nearby forest adjacent to the town of Agrinio, and told him that the Nazis had killed all the Jews living in their town.
After the war, Josef probably arrived at a DP (displaced persons) camp in Patras and then to a training camp in the area of Athens to prepare him for kibbutz life. From there he left for Mandatory Palestine, probably sailing on November 17, 1945 on the “Berl Katznelson”(Dimitrius), an illegal immigrant ship. There were 211 people on deck, of whom 204 were illegal immigrants from Greece, 2 from Romania, 1 from Hungary, 3 from Poland and 1 from Yugoslavia. 131 of them had been in concentration camps, 71 had been partisans, 9 had been prisoners of war and 15 were immigrating under the auspices of Youth Aliyah.
The ship was caught in a storm for two days. On November 22, the ship arrived off the coast of Kibbutz Shefayim. The illegal immigrants disembarked at the beach between the Sidna Ali mosque (north of Herzliya beach) and Shefayim using 4 sailboats belonging to the “Palyam”, the naval division of the Palmach (the elite fighting force of the Hagana, the underground army of the Jewish Yishuv during the British Mandate in Palestine during the years 1941-1948). Arab fishermen that were in the vicinity were arrested by the Palyam, however, one fisherman managed to escape and reported the goings on to the British authorities.
By the time the British arrived, most of the illegal immigrants had managed to blend in with the populations of the nearby settlements. 2 boats were caught and 12 crew members were imprisoned in the British-controlled Latrun Prison for half a year. The few illegal immigrants who were caught were imprisoned at the Atlit detainee camp.
The illegal immigrants stayed at nearby settlements while identification documents were being prepared for them. After that, they were dispersed to various kibbutzim in the Beit Shean Valley where they worked in the vegetable garden and in the fishery. According to lists kept by the Immigration Department, Josef was sent to Kibbutz Messilot.
At some time during 1946, Josef moved to a rented apartment in Kiryat Motzkin, and was employed as an unskilled laborer, mainly as a porter and in construction. His friend during those years, Eliyahu Cohen, recalls that he had a good sense of humor, and among his friends his nickname was Pedlakis.
On February 1, 1948, during the War of Independence, Josef joined the army and served in the Carmeli Brigade. In March 1948, he suffered an injury to his back and was hospitalized for 20 days in the Carmel Hospital in Haifa. Josef’s friends tried to keep him from returning to his unit when he was considered well enough, claiming that he hadn't sufficiently recovered; however, he insisted upon returning to fight beside his comrades.
The battle to free Jenin from Arab control was one of the most difficult and bitter ones, claiming the largest number of casualties in the War of Independence. The desire to draw the Jordanian forces northward, thus releasing the pressure on Jerusalem and the center of the country, was combined with the need to reduce the danger threatening the Jezreel Valley and the ambition to open the way to the mountain ridge. These three factors led to the beginning of the campaign to liberate Jenin. On the eve of June 2, 1948 (the 25th of Iyar 5708), the Carmeli Brigade, which included the 21st and 22nd Battalions, set out to conquer the hills controlling from the east and the west of the city. In the morning, Arabs from the neighboring villages and other enemy forces, congregated at the local police station to attack the Carmeli forces. When the Carmeli forces thought that the attack had subsided, an Iraqi division stationed in Nablus approached them, heading in the direction of Jenin, having heard from the refugees of Jenin of the attempt of the Israelis to occupy Jenin. The Iraqi division began attacking and shelling the 21st Battalion. Israeli reserve forces entered the city in order to reduce the pressure on the 21st Battalion and found an abandoned city whose inhabitants had fled even before the attacks had begun. The 21st Battalion retreated under Iraqi pressure, and towards evening a general order to withdraw was issued, causing the Battalion to leave the severely injured and the dead behind. Josef Lachanes was also injured during the fighting and left behind.
On August 3,1950 (the 20th of Av 5710), about 2 years after the soldiers had gone missing in action from the battle in Jenin, their bodies were returned to Israel by the then Chief Rabbi of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) , Shlomo Goren, and his staff in the military rabbinate.
The 45 casualties, among them Josef Lachana, were laid to eternal rest in mass graves at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem and in Haifa. Josef Lachana’s headstone was placed next to the mass grave at Mt. Herzl. He was survived by his brother Gershon and his sister Zimbola, both residents of France.
The story of Josef’s life on the Yizkor memorial website of the Israeli Ministry of Defense was completely blank.
It was completed by volunteers from “Giving a Face to the Fallen" in 2011 and includes photographs.