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IDF’s 1st fallen paratrooper to be 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

Martin Davidovich (Courtesy)
Martin Davidovich (Courtesy)

The body of Martin Davidovich, the man named by the Israel Defense Forces as the nation’s first fallen paratrooper, is set to be brought to Israel next week for burial, 73 years after his death in a training accident in Czechoslovakia.

A delegation from the Defense Ministry and the IDF will travel to Prague on Sunday to retrieve his remains before bringing them back to Israel for internment.

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 in April 1944 and then to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Many of his family members were killed in the Holocaust.

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.

Paratroopers make their way down to earth during a parachuting exercise in central Israel on February 19, 2014. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Flickr)

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

Davidovich was 21 years old when he died.

Although Davidovich did not officially serve in the IDF, he during an IDF course and was mentioned by name in a report submitted to Israeli authorities at the time by the parachuting instructor team.

Therefore, in 2001 the IDF decided to officially recognize him as a fallen soldier.

On Wednesday, IDF paratroopers will join the delegation and carry his coffin to the plane that will bring Davidovich’s body back to Israel for burial.

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