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IDF’s 1st fallen paratrooper buried in Israel, 73 years after his death

Auschwitz survivor Martin Davidovich was killed during 1948 Czechoslovakia exercise for force of Jewish volunteers that was set to emigrate to Israel and formally join military

The grave of Martin Davidovich, the man named by the Israel Defense Forces as the nation’s first fallen paratrooper, at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery, on October 28, 2021. (IDF)
The grave of Martin Davidovich, the man named by the Israel Defense Forces as the nation’s first fallen paratrooper, at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery, on October 28, 2021. (IDF)

The body of Martin Davidovich was buried in Jerusalem on Thursday a day after it was brought to Israel, and 73 years after his death in a training accident in Czechoslovakia.

The Israel Defense Forces has identified Davidovich as the nation’s first fallen paratrooper.

A delegation from the Defense Ministry and the IDF, accompanied by active IDF paratroopers, traveled to Prague on Sunday to retrieve Davidovich’s remains, before bringing them back to Israel for internment at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.

Speaking at the interment ceremony, deputy chief of staff Alon Schuster said it was Israel’s “moral duty” to bring Davidoich’s body from the Czech Republic to Israel.

“We will continue to turn every stone and do everything possible to bring the captives and the missing to Israel,” he said.

Davidovich was born in 1927 in Częstochowa in Czechoslovakia.

He was active in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement until World War II, when he was sent to Auschwitz and later to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Many of his family members were killed in the Holocaust.

Martin Davidovich. (Courtesy)

After the end of the war, Davidovich returned to Czechoslovakia and joined the Czech Brigade, a military unit established with the aim of training future soldiers for the State of Israel.

According to the Chaim Herzog Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II, the brigade was founded in July 1948. The Jewish volunteers underwent military training by the Czech army, in coordination with Israeli officials.

“The idea was basically to establish a military force consisting of Jewish volunteers, to be trained in Czechoslovakia, that would emigrate to Israel and help build the IDF and be a fighting force within it,” the museum said.

According to testimonies at the time, Davidovich was killed during a training exercise in August 1948 which aimed to practice taking over a sentry post.

The person guarding the post grabbed Davidovich and shot him in the head. He later claimed he did not think his weapon was loaded. He was suspended for 24 hours.

Davidovich was 21 years old when he died.

The IDF interment ceremony of Martin Davidovich, the man named by the Israel Defense Forces as the nation’s first fallen paratrooper, at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, on October 28, 2021. (IDF)

“Martin, your generation dreamed of the country and fought for its rebirth, we live in a generation for which the dream has become a reality,” the head of the IDF Manpower Division, Major General Yaniv Asur, said at Thursday’s ceremony.

“We have established a prosperous and flourishing state, a state of Hebrew culture that rests on the chain of generations, a state with an army that defends itself.

“By bringing Martin’s bones to Israel, we say something to ourselves about ourselves, our values and our identity, about who we are as a people and as an army,” Asur added.

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