JERUSALEM, May 10, 1989 (JTA) – Yitzhak Shamir has always been known as a man who plays things close to his vest, whether it be of a political or personal nature.
So his revelation last week about the death of his family in Nazi Europe was met with much surprise, as well as armchair debate on the psychological nature of the Israeli prime minister’s motivations and fears.
While reading out loud the names of his family members killed by the Nazis, Shamir disclosed that his father was killed by Polish childhood friends in his own village, after he succeeded in escaping from a German death train.
“My father, Shlomo Ysernitzky, who escaped before the train left for a death camp and while seeking shelter among friends in the village where he grew up, they, his friends from childhood, killed him,” Shamir said in a trembling voice.
Shamir revealed this on Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, while participating in a daylong public reading of names of Holocaust victims at the Knesset.
He also listed many other members of his family who died at the hands of the Nazis. His mother, Pearl, and a sister apparently died in death camps, while another sister was shot dead by the Nazis.
An aide said he was unsure what prompted Shamir to go public with the information.
Shamir’s family experiences have often prompted conjecture about his political motivations. In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the paper’s former Jerusalem bureau chief writes that Shamir’s purported intransigence is the result of an obsession with the Holocaust.
Shamir “exemplifies those Israeli leaders whose vision of tomorrow is yesterday,” wrote Thomas Friedman.
Shamir, 73, was born and raised in the village of Rozinoy. He left in the early ’30s to study at the university in Warsaw. He arrived in Palestine in 1935.