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A Jewish Nazi in Kolot Bakehila
Jewish Nazi, in "Kolot Bakehila" (Voices in the Community):
By Sara Fechter
The Wonders (Quotes From Previous Issues):
The legs were swollen, half frozen, when a German soldier went to her.Rub your face
incessantly; you mustnt let the blood stop circulating. The Russians are close he
commanded in a whisper. It was strange she recounts. Until this day I wonder who
was that soldier, Otto, that rescued me. She speaks with an amazement that did not
seem to loosen its grip on her to this day. Once again the rope was placed on his
neck. In a moment his fate will be among the dead. At that very second a voice was
heard, it was a German officer. Yodel remembers his name clearly to this day. He
was called Otto Teibeth. In front of everybody, the officer approached the camp
commander and spoke with him in German. Why do you do this Jew a favor and
redeem him from his misery? Hanging is too light a punishment for him. Sentence
him for a hundred floggings.A mere ten minutes had passed since he came to and
the same officer appeared in front of him, Otto Teibeth. He ordered him to stand up
and to follow him. The officer led him back to the barracks of the living. "Many days
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had passed before the wounds of the whip had scabbed. And I never set eyes on Otto Teibeth again." Says Rabbi Yehuda
with damp eyes. "All my life I prayed to see him again so I could thank him." The nailed boots he wore shone, the golden
buttons glittered in his neatly pressed uniforms. The helmet, which lay carefully centered on his head, provoked her usual
horror. But the merciful spark that kindled in his bright eyes every time he sent a Jew to his freedom was a contradiction to
his appearance, and was a riddle to hundreds, maybe thousands of Jews who survived the camps and went free.
That character, which was in the center of each story, recurring as an axis in a number of articles, became an unsolved
riddle. A question that haunts the mind: Who is Otto, the German soldier who had saved so many Jews? A small
reminder: In the passing year I have experienced, along with all the readers of "Kolot", a chilling coincidence.
Everything had started in an article published in issue number 288 (15 in Shevat, Tav Shin Samech Gimel).
The granddaughter of Malka Vingreten told of a German soldier who had saved her grandmother during the death
march. Several months later, in issue 316, appeared the story of Yehudit Shtrubel who had arrived from Monkatsch
to Auschwitz. During the death march,when her life was hanging by a thread, a German soldier by the name of Otto
appeared by her side, like an angel. "Yehudit, keep rubbing your face", he encouraged her. And until this day she keeps
wondering who was that Otto. This question reappeared in issue number 324, in its clearest form. When Rabbi Yehuda
Wellis was about to be hung, it was the German soldier named Otto Teibeth who had rescued him from a certain and
inevitable death. He never sawthe soldier again. These three occurrences of the name of Otto Teibeth in the heart of
these stories called for in-depth research in order to solve the riddle. The system shared this challenge with our
readers and with the last article appeared, in bold, this paragraph:
"To the readers, this is the third article that is published in Bakehila that mentions the name of the German officer Otto
Teibeth, to whom is attributed, yet again, an allegedly random rescue of a Jew from death. Any reader, who has any
further information on Otto Teibeth, is requested to contribute to our research and to write to Sara Fechter at the
system, specifying his contact information".
Yehudit Shtrubels words I would have liked to thank him. stayed with me throughout my research. The endless
searches in Yad Vashem archives, and the extensive help of the staff yielded nothing. Under less than two weeks ago, a
phone call that was received at my house opened a window of opportunity and the journey started again.
A Member of the Town of Sellish.
Red lights went off in my head when I read your request. I asked myself, time and again, could this be about my uncle
Haim Michael. Rabbi Isaac Klar betrayed his intense excitement. He sent me a picture of a young man with Aryan looks,
blond hair and green-blue eyes. His Jewish name was Haim Michael Klar. This photograph was sent across oceans and
by e-mail, to be presented before the eyes of many survivors who currently live across the globe. One by one, excited
telephonic confirmations accumulated to express a rare and chilling mosaic of certain identification. This is the man.
This is the rescuing angel who had saved, miraculously, many Jews from the clutches of Nazi death. This is Michael Klar,
A Jew, who had chosen, by his own initiative, to masquerade as a German soldier during WWII in order to personally
see to the rescuing of as many Jews as possible.
What brings a young man, who had just found a safe haven, along with his family, to set out to the heart of danger, and
to take risks saving his fellow Jews? No official body had sent him on the dangerous task. It was the fervent love of
Israel burning in him say his relatives today. The stories that were found were discovered, for the most part, by survivors
who identified him with certainty as that German soldier who seemed to appear unexpectedly out of nowhere. He himself
never offered to talk about anything that had to do with the crucial role he had undertaken. He used to talk about everything
but himself. agree all of his kin.
He was born on 27 Kislev, Tav Reish Ain (10th, December 1909), to Nachman and Rivka, in Sellish, a town at the foot of
the Carpathian mountains on the border of Hungary. Today, the town is called Vinogradeva . In the past, it was under
Hungarian sovereignty and today it is part of Ukraine. His father was an able carpenter when he was recruited to fight in
WWI. In his company, he found that there was a significant number of Jews.
Merriam Cohen, who is familiar with her family history, says: My grandfather, Rabbi Nachman, didnt want to fight for fear
of hurting other Jews. I would call out Shema Israel, and hear the response from the other side, Adonai Echad was his
expression. He had convinced the rest of the Jews that served with him to join him, promising them they will come to no
harm. Together, they were captured deliberately and sent to Siberia. Once there, Rabbi Nachman introduced himself as a
carpenter and the rest of his group as his assistants. Since frozen woods cant be processed, their cabin had been
regularly heated and they all survived the terrible cold.
In those days, Chaim Michael was only five years old, a firstborn left with his mother and two sisters. Following his fathers
recruitment his mother had moved to Budapest. In Budapest she opened a simple kosher restaurant, and Haim Michael
was charged with looking after his sisters while his mother was working in the restaurant. Everybody listens to me! he
used to say to his sisters. Even the trains. When I command one Halt it stops. And when I tell it Go it sets off. As
evidence he took the girls to the train station and when he recognized a train that was going to stop he would declare:
Halt. His sisters looked admirably at the train stopping to their big brothers command. So, he acquired his sisters
obedience as an older brother at the age of five.
A Member of the British Brigade.
When his father, Rabbi Nachman, was released from Siberia, he came to Budapest to gather his family. His mother left
the restaurant, having accumulated great debts. She gave credit to most of her clients. Many never paid, but her merciful
heart never allowed her to send them away. The family returned to Sellish. Times were hard, and they lived off bread and
water. Haim Michael returned to his studies and excelled. Before he was Bar-Mitzva, his Rabbi had distinguished him as
a prodigy. Haim Michael was sent to study in the big city. His father regretted his departure and had later said that Haim
was not mature enough to leave home at the time. While apart, Haim and his father had much correspondence. Another
man at the Yeshiva he attended, who had recognized his hardship, attached himself to Haim and influenced him to stray
from this fathers ways. Haim Michael fell for Hashomer-Hatzair ideology and joined the training. He was hoping to receive
an immigration visa to Palestine, and never thought his father would make it before he would. Gradually, the intense
correspondence between the father and son ceased. The letters stopped arriving. Rabbi Nachman took a horse and
wagon and set out to the city. That was how he found, with his own eyes, of his sons newly found ways. The pain of this
discovery was great. After a short while, his father had succeeded in getting the hoped for immigration visa for the
entire family. Relatives from Argentina had tried to persuade him to join them instead. But after a simple clarification,
their invitation was denied. Is there a Hasidic Sephardi synagogue? He asked. The answer was: 'If you are looking
for a Hasidic synagogue, stay in Sellish'. Rabbi Nachman replied in a postcard saying: 'Right, Thanks'.
Before the family came to Palestine, Rabbi Nachman Klar went by himself to see if he could work. As a master
carpenter, he found ample work teaching other carpenters in the Haifa area. He earned as much as eight Liras per month,
a legendary sum, while the salary of a well-paid government official was only three. But, when he returned to Palestine,
a year and a half later with his family, he found the Arabs had declared a boycott on Jews, and were not selling any
wood to them. Not much was left for him to do but to turn to the aid of his brother, Rabbi Feivel, who was working in
Haifas oil factories and managed to help Nachman find work manufacturing crates for the oil industry there.
Rabbi Nachman, his wife, and eight children had come to Palestine. Haim Michael, the oldest son, was left behind. Rabbi
Nachman would not compromise when it came to education. He sent his young sons, of nine and eleven, to study in
Jerusalem since he felt the Heder in Haifa did not live up to his expectations. Years went by and Haim Michael Klar
came to Zion. He was headed to the Kibbutz. At twenty-seven, he joined the British brigade when WWII broke out.
Here we arrive at five years that are shrouded with secrecy. Family members can tell that he disguised himself as a
German soldier and had been mainly in the vicinity of Auschwitz. During these five years, he arrived only once in
Palestine, dressed in an English soldier's uniform. He came in a jeep to his parent's house, entered the house and
inquired for their well being. After making sure that everything was all right at home he disappearedagain. They would
not see him again until the end of WWII. These five years he spent among Nazis remained a riddle for many years.
The German Officer and the Forged Letter.
His niece, Sara Gottlieb, tells about the day she found out that behind her Uncle Haim Michael, an architect and a senior
engineer, hides a mysterious personality that playeda key role during WWII. "It happened roughly thirty years ago" she
recounts. She is happy to point at another memory that could shed light on the mystery. "Haim Michael, my uncle, sat
at our house in Jaffa when they came to evict us. An officer, who had probably survived the Holocaust, had entered the
house. He entered the house and suddenly met Haim Michael's eyes. His face got red and he started crying excitedly:
"You are the German soldier who saved me!". Both he and Haim Michael broke out in heart-breaking tears. We stood
there frozen without knowing what had taken place. The officer left the house without adding a word and without
mentioning the cause for which he was sent there in the first place. "Is it true?" We asked Haim Michael immediately
when the officer had left the house. He put on a mysterious expression and quickly regained his usual appearance. "Some
things you don't talk about." he said, and added nothing. On one rare occasion, he spoke voluntarily and gave information
of a single occurrence. He was sitting amongst his close family who had already learned, from bits of sentences and
evidence, that he had used his Aryan looks and fluent German to disguise himself as a German S.S. officer and had
managed to save many. He opened up to them for just one minute, while expressing his contempt for German folly. And so
he told us, "A train full of Jews was supposed to arrive at Auschwitz. I came to the local headquarters holding an order
(document) from the S.S. officer who was in charge of train shipments. I handed the document, which I had forged with
the aid of a friend with great precision, to the local headquarters in charge of train traffic. The signed document ordered
to divert the train to an alternate destination. Thus, a train full of Jews had been saved from certain death. Four days later,
while I stayed at the headquarters, the same S.S. officer appeared asking about the missing train. He got a
spontaneous reply, "We got an order from you to redirect it". "Did I send this order?" The officer wondered, and in
response he was served with his allegedly signed document. "Yes, Yes, this is my handwriting (schrift)" He announced
with approval. "This amazed me", he added in this rare moment of sincerity. "A German officer who knows he didn't give
the order approves it since he recognizes his handwriting." "This story," says Sara Gottlib, his niece, "is probably
the only one he had ever told voluntarily."
Shema Israel at the Border
"Another testimony that runs through our family", says Rabbi Isaac Klar, "is the testimony of Yodel Veingretten". Other
witnesses I spoke to corroborate this testimony. This is his testimony: 'I knew him from Sellish. We were the same age
and went to the same Yeshiva. I had been going through selection when I saw Haim Michael in a German uniform
running around. I ran to him and begged him to help me get transferred to the line where the old and the sick were,
thinking the Germans would surely not be cruel to them and release them. He gave me a hard look.' "Haim Michael, what
are you doing here? Help Me!" 'I cried at him.' 'And Haim Michael just gave me a serious look, approached me,
grabbed my collar, and yelled in German, "You lazy filthy Jew! Go to work!" 'and doing so, he pulled me out of the line and
into the line waiting to be sent to the labor camps. At that moment, and every day after that, I was very angry at him. I
could not understand how a young Jew could stoop so low. With time, I realized I owe my life to him.'
Through the years evidence kept coming in. The citizens of Czechoslovakia were not deported until the last minute. Many
had tried to get Visas. A German soldier who was at the border with Romania, introduced himself as a German
observer, inspecting papers, was no other than Haim Michael. He recognized Jews by their expression and when they
stood close enough, he whispered: "Can you say Shema Israel?" The minute he would receive a positive answer, he
would nod his head and call out in German:"Yes, yes, Good. He speaks good Czech". As Czech citizens they would be
allowed to cross the border. As a German officer, he found another way to save Jews. One of his nieces tells that he
would wear many pairs of socks, one on top of the other. Whenever he felt that a Jew was close to collapsing,
he would roll them up, hiding food and other essentials inside, and then roll the bundle towards the Jew in need.
This testimony, by a witness who had asked to remain anonymous, corroborates Yehudit Schtrobels testimony, that
Otto, the officer, had rolled napkins to her to help rub snow on her face during the death march, saving her life.
When the war drew closer to its end, and the arrival of Allies forces was expected, Haim Michael stopped many trains
close to the forests. There, he would sound a false alarm, indicating a bombing by the Allies. The doors of the death
trains were opened to give shelter to the guards, and the trains human content was scattered. Many of the Jews that
were in those trains managed to hide in the forests and escape certain death. Thus, many had survived without ever
knowing what had happened to the local headquarters. Once it was clear that there was no bombing at all, the surviving
Jews would wonder: What had happened? Were they being set up?I heard a testimony from a Jew named Apstein,
saying that my uncle, Haim Michael, had saved him from the train, adds his niece to the testimonies.
The Final Days.
Haim Michael returned to Israel, keeping silent about anything related to the five tempestuous years he had
experienced. Here, he found the Torah again. Once again he was attending prayers meticulously and keeping mitzvoth
properly, things that were an inseparable part of his life as a youth, says his niece Merriam Cohen. He became an
architect and an engineer for Solel Boneh, continuing, in his own way, to help out and assist Jews. Once, when a
synagogue was being built in Tel Aviv, he noticed the workers were not as skilled as they should be, due to a budget
shortage. Everyday, after work, he would come down to the construction site and monitor the work, guiding and directing,
until the synagogue was built.
His personal life was paved with tragedy. Towards the end of his life he lived at Skver Court in New York, at his
younger sisters. He returned to Israel, got sick and for half a year he agonized until he died, on the seventh [day] of
Pesach, Tav Shin Nun Dalet (1994). But he knew another personal tragedy, as if his hardship wasnt enough. His only
daughter had passed away tragically at the age of eleven. Haim Michael was not fortunate enough to have any more
children. Not fortunate? The set of evidence that was gathered during the past two weeks proves that this is not true. The
many survivors and following generations are the children he had left in his acts of bravery. He is the real father in their