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Olei Hagardom - "Those hanged in the gallows"

Olei Hagardom, "Those hanged in the gallows", is the term commonly used for those Jewish fighters that were tried before British Mandate courts and executed by hanging, usually in the Acre prison. There were 15 "Olei Hagardom" in total, including two Nili fighters.

Upon the publication of the White Paper of 1939 (A limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944,After this cut-off date, further immigration would depend on the permission of the Arab majority,restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs). The militant group Etzel concentrated all its efforts against the British. On the outbreak of World War II, militant activities against the British were stopped. But a leader within the group, Avraham Stern, claimed that the fightagainst the British should continue, even though Britain was at war with Germany. This formed the split between Etzel and Lehi. In 1944, after it was already clear that the victory of the Allies was only a question of time, Etzel rejoined the fight against the British. As the second World War approached its end, the mainstream group Haganah also joined the liberation fight within a union called The Jewish Resistance Movement.

The Sergeants affair

After Jacov Weiz, Avshalom Haviv, Meir Naker were given a death sentence, Etzel captured two British policemen who exited a coffee shop in Netanya. Etzel announced that hanging its fighters will result in the subsequent hanging of the British policemen. The Etzel fighers were hanged and on July 30, 1947 the British policemen were found hanged as well in Netanya. Menachem Begin spoke of the event saying: "it was one of the most bitter moments of my life but the cruel action in Netanya not only saved dozens of Jews from the gallows but also broke the neck of the British occupation, because when the gallows break down, the British rule, which is relied on it, breaks on its own".

After this event, there were no more executions of Jewish fighters by the British.The hanging of the sergeants shocked the British government and people. The press denounced the act which, more than any other, caused the government to re-think its attitude towards the future of Palestine. Begin writes in his book "The Revolt" that the "cruel act" was one of the events which tipped the balance in the British withdrawal from Palestine. Colonel Archer Cassett,one of the senior British Mandatory officials, said in a lecture in 1949 that "the hanging of the sergeants did more than anything else to get us out of Palestine".

List of Olei Hagardom

SHLOMO BEN-YOSEF - Born as Shalom Tabachnik on May 7, 1913, in Poland. His parents raised him in a spirit of religious observance and tradition. He joined Betar in 1928 and, two years later, after the death of his father, was forced to become the family breadwinner. In 1937 he decided to immigrate to Eretz Israel, but failing to obtain the certificate granted by the Jewish Agency - he joined a group of 'illegal' immigrants as part of the 'Af Al Pi' project. When he reached Eretz Israel on September 20, 1937, he joined the Betar labor company at Rosh Pina and shortly afterwards was accepted into the Irgun. On arrival at Rosh Pina he burned his foreign passport and changed his name to Shlomo Ben-Yosef. He was arrested by the British after shooting at an Arab bus as a retaliation to the murder of six Jews. He was sentenced to death and on June 29, 1938 was hanged in Acre jail. He was 25 when he went to the gallows.

ELIYAHU HAKIM - was born in 1925 in Beirut. At the age of seven his family immigrated to Eretz Israel, and settled in Haifa. He joined Lehi when he was a student at high school.
He was dispatched, together with Elyahu Bet-Zuri, to Cairo and on November 6, 1944 they assassinated Lord Moyne. They were caught and charged with murder. They did not take part in the proceedings at their trial. When the testimony was completed, Hakim rose to his feet and made a political statement. He said: We accuse Lord Moyne and the government he represents, with murdering hundreds and thousands of our brethren; we accuse him of seizing our country and looting our possessions... We were forced to do justice and to fight.
The two Eliyahu were sentenced to death, and on March 23, 1945 were hanged in Cairo.Just before going to the gallows, Hakim, looking down at the red burlap suit of the condemned man said: This is the finest suit of clothes I have ever worn in my life.

ELIYAHU BEIT-ZURI - Born in 1922 in Tel Aviv to a distinguished family which had lived in Eretz Israel for many generations. He joint the Irgun at young age and later became a member of Lehi. He was dispatched, together with Elyahu Hakim, to Cairo and on November 6, 1944 they assassinated Lord Moyne. They were caught and charged with murder. They did not take part in the proceedings at their trial. When the testimony was completed, Beit-Zuri rose to his feet and made a political statement. He said:
Millions sank in the sea of blood and tears, but the British skipper did not lift them to the ship. And if a few of the survivors held on to the bow of the ship, he, the British skipper, pushed them back into the sea. And we in our home-land had no choice but to surrender or fight. We decided to fight. The two Eliyahu were sentenced to death, and on March 23, 1945 were hanged in Cairo.

DOV GRUNER - Born on December 6, 1912, in Hungary. In 1938 he joined Betar, and two years later immigrated to Eretz Israel aboard the Skaria, an illegal immigrant vessel organized by Betar.
After spending six months in the Atlit internment camp, he joined the Betar company at Rosh Pina, and then found his way to the ranks of the Irgun. In 1941, he joined the British army in order to fight the Nazi enemy, and together with his comrades in the Jewish Brigade came to the aid of Holocaust survivors in Europe.
After his demobilization, in March 1946, he resumed his activity in the Irgun and joined its Fighting Force. While still on demobilization leave, he took part in the requisition of weapons from a British army depot near Natanya. Ten days later set out on his second and last operation - the attack on the Ramat Gan police station .He was severely wounded, caught by the British and sentenced to death. He was 35 when he went on April 16, 1947 to the gallows, together with his comrades - Alkahi, Dresner and Kashani.

MORDECHAI ALKAHI - Born in Petah Tikva on March 10, 1925 into a poor family of Turkish origin. At the age of 14, he went out to work to help support his family, and in late 1943 he joined the Irgun. After the training period, he was transferred to the Fighting Force, and his first experience of combat was at the Kalkiliya police station, during the Irgun operation on four police stations on Yom Kipur, 1945. He later took part in numerous operations, including the attack on the Ramat Gan police station, where Dov Gruner was captured. All these operations took place at night; by day he continued to work in a factory. On December 29, 1946 He was captured armed, together with Dresner and Kashani, upon returning from an operation. They were tried before a military court and sentenced to death. On April 16, 1947 Alkahi was hanged in the Acre jail. He was 22 when he went to the gallows.

YEHIEL DRESNER - born in Poland on October 13, 1922, to a religious Zionist family, which immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1933.
He joined the Betar movement in Jerusalem at 13 and in 1940 he joined the Irgun. There he held many positions: first, in the intelligence service and then in the Fighting Force. Yehiel saw action many times, as a rank-and-file fighter and as commanding officer: including the attack on Lydda airbase; the assault on Yibne railway station and the attack on Ramat Gan police station. On December 29, 1946 he was captured armed, together with Alkahi and Kashani, upon returning from an operation. They were tried before a military court and sentenced to death. At the time of his arrest, Dresner was commander of the Fighting Force at Petah Tivka, and was equipped with an identity card in the name of Dov Rosenbaum. It was under this name that he went to the gallows, on April 16, 1947 (together with Dov Gruner, Mordechai Alkehi and Eliezer Kashani) and the British and the general public remained unaware of his real identity. He was 25 when he was executed.

ELIEZER KASHANI - Born in Petah Tikva on March 13, 1923, into a large, working class family, which had been in Eretz Israel for three generations. At the age of 13 he went out to work. On August 23, 1944, during the widespread search conducted by the British in Petah Tikva, he was arrested as a 'terror suspect', brought to the Latrun internment camp and then sent to Eritrea with the first group of 251 detainees. In the camp he joined the Irgun, and in February 1945 he was released. In Eretz Israel he commenced his underground activity despite his obligation to report daily to the police. He was arrested again after the explosion at the King David Hotel, but was released shortly afterwards and returned to underground activity. On December 29, 1946 he was captured armed, together with Alkahi and Dresner, upon returning from an operation. They were tried before a military court and sentenced to death. On April 16, 1947 Kashani was hanged in the Acre jail. He was 24 when he went to the gallows.

MOSHE BARAZANI - Born on June 20, 1928 in Iraq . When he was six years old his family immigrated to Eretz Israel and settled in the Old City of Jerusalem. Moshe started to work at an early age, first as an apprentice carpenter, and then in a soft drinks factory. He joined Lehi when still young, first putting up posters as a member of the youth division, and then taking an active part in fighting force. On March 9, 1947 he was arrested in Jerusalem with a granade in his pocket. He was charge of bearing arms and intent to assassinate Brigadier A.P. Davis, and on March 17, 1947, the military court in Jerusalem sentenced Moshe Barazani to death by hanging. On Monday, April 21, 1947, half an hour before the execution took place, two explosions were heard from the cell in the Jerusalem jail: Moshe Barazani and his friend Meir Feinstein stood embraced. The grenades were held between them, at the height of their hearts. Meir lit a cigarette, with which he ignited the fuses that Moshe held, and they died together as heroes.

MEIR FEINSTEIN - Born on October 5, 1927, in the Old City of Jerusalem to religious parents. He studied at the Etz Hayim yeshiva but at an early age lost his father, and was obliged to support himself and help feed his family. At first he worked in Jerusalem, then in farming at Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha, where he joined the Haganah.
In 1944, when he was 17, he joined the British army after obtaining a forged document from the Mukhtar of Petah Tikva. After his demobilization he joined the Irgun, starting out in the propaganda unit. He was then sent on an commanders course, and it was while attending this that he was chosen for the mission of attacking the railway station in Jerusalem (October 30, 1946). After the explosion he was wounded and caught by the British police. He was brought to the Government Hospital, were his arm was cut of. Feinstein was tried by a military court and was sentenced to death by hanging.
On Monday, April 21, 1947, half an hour before the execution of Feinstein and his friend Barazani took place, two explosions were heard from the cell in the Jerusalem prison: Moshe Barazani and Meir Feinstein stood embraced. The grenades were held between them, at the height of their hearts. Meir lit a cigarette, with which he ignited the fuses that Moshe held, and they died together as heroes.

AVSHALOM HAVIV - Born on June 18, 1926 in Haifa, and moved with his family to Jerusalem when still a small child.
He joined the Irgun while in high school. When he finished school, he served for a year in the Palmach (the elite Haganah unit) as a condition for continuing his studies at the Hebrew University (a Jewish Agency ruling obliged every high-school graduate to spend a year working on a kibbutz or serving in the Palmach). When he returned to Jerusalem, he enrolled at Hebrew University, faculty of humanities, and resumed his activity in the Irgun, this time in the Fighting Force. He took part in numerous military operations, one of them was blowing up of Goldschmidt House Officers Club.
In the raid on Acre jail, on May 4, 1947, he commanded the covering force (together with Yaakov Weiss and Meir Nakar), which continued to fight until captured by the British. The three Irgun fighters were tried in a military court and were sentenced to death. On July 29, 1947 Avshalom Haviv was hanged at the Acre jail, together with his tow comrades: Meir Nakar and Yaakov Weiss. Haviv was 21 when he went to the gallows.

YAAKOV WEISS - Born in Czechoslovakia on July 15, 1924, and at a young age joint Betar. During the Second World War he moved to Hungary with the intention to immigrate to Eretz Israel. There he posed as a German officer, and thus saved his life and the lives of many Jews. In 1943, he arrived in Eretz Israel aboard an illegal immigrant ship which was intercepted by the British, and was interned at Atlit with the other passengers. He remained there until the prisoners were freed by the Palmach (the Haganah elite unit)(October 9, 1945), moved to Natanya, and shortly afterwards joined the Irgun. He was assigned to the Fighting Force and took part in several operations: the assault on the army recreation camp at Natanya and the sabotaging of bridges and railroad lines.
In the Acre prison-break (May 4, 1947), he was assigned to the covering unit, together with Avshalom Haviv and Meir Nakar. They fought to the last bullet and finally were captured by the British. About three weeks later the three Irgun fighters were tried and sentenced to death. On July 29, 1947 Yaakov Weiss was hanged at the Acre prison, together with his comrades: Avshalom Haviv and Meir Nakar. Weiss was 23 when he went to the gallows.

MEIR NAKAR - Born in Jerusalem on July 26, 1926, to a poor family of Iraqi origin. At the age of 12, he left his studies to help support his family, and a year later he joined Betar. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the British army, after forging his birth certificate.
On demobilization, in 1946, he became a member of the Irgun. At first he was active in recruitment and propaganda work, and then moved to the Fighting Force. He took part in several operations, sometimes with Avshalom Haviv, his commander in their final operation, the Acre prison-break (may 4, 1947). He was captured (together with two of his comrades: Avshalom Haviv and Yaakov Weiss) by the British. The three Irgun fighters were tried and sentenced to death. On July 29, 1947 Meir Nakar was heanged at the Acre jail, together with Haviv and Weis. He was 21 when he went to the gallows.

Commemorating Olei Hagardom

Numerous streets in Israel are named after Olei Hagardom or after specific executed fighters. In the Ramat Aviv neighbourhood in Tel Aviv and the Armon Haneziv neighbourhood in Jerusalem , there is a street named after each executed fighter. In Ramat Gan, there is an official square and statue in commemoration of Dov Groner and Olei Hagardom. An official commemoration ceremony takes place every Yom Ha-zikkaron eve at the Olei Hagardom memorial in the central street of Rishon LeZion.

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