Bernard Papánek died: He was 101 years old, he remembered the battles of Tobruk and Dunkirk

According to the Memory of the Nation server, Papánek was born in January 1920 in Vienna. His father came from a Slovak Jewish family, his mother from Moravia, where Papánek lived in Vracov in the Hodonín region from an early age due to poor health. He later returned to Vienna for school.

After the Nazi occupation of Austria, he fled to Brno, he later managed to reach Palestine by boat organized by the Jewish community. There, in 1942, at the invitation of President Edvard Beneš, he joined the Czechoslovak army. He was later sent to Tobruk, North Africa, where he participated in the anti-aircraft battery in the famous battles of “desert rats” against the Germans.

Hundreds of Czechoslovaks joined the defense of the port city of Tobruk, Papánek was probably the last Czechoslovak witness to these battles. The Czech Ministry of Defense registered Viktor Wellemín, who died last August at the age of 97, as the last fighter. According to his daughter, Papánka does not have an office, because he emigrated with his wife to Israel in the 1960s, he dropped out of the ministry’s lists.

The fate of the unwanted person

Papánek told ČTK last summer that from Tobruk he went to England and in the autumn of 1944 to France, where he joined the siege of the port of Dunkirk. “I was seriously wounded there on December 19, 1944, so I had after the war. They put me on a plane and sent me back to England, “he said. According to the operating doctor, he was lucky to recover from the injuries caused by two shards in his abdomen. Even so, after the war he received a forty percent disability.

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After the communists came to power, as a soldier from the Western Front who had contacts in Israel, England and Austria, and also a non-partisan, became an unwanted person. The State Security was also interested in him. In the 1960s, he applied to move to Israel, but did not receive permission. In August 1964, he received permission to visit his uncle in Vienna, from where he emigrated to Israel. He later acquired Israeli citizenship and changed his name to Benjamin Palgi for pronunciation. Since 2014, he has lived in Slovakia in the family of his stepdaughter Viera near Senice.

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