TV Features
posted on:
20 In apr 1976
Underground - Altalena, British Mandate, Etzel, Haganah, illegal immigration, Saison, Underground Operation, United Resistance Movement. Political Parties - Betar. States - Britain/England. Foreign Policy - Israel-France Relationship
On "Gaurmont", a history of the Irgun. It covered its formation, the King David Hotel and Acre Prison operations, and its ultimate dissolution.
keywords: Umatic 07
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[Narrator talks about various figures who will appear in the video; Begin starts speaking at 2:45]

Today, we sit in the very same room in which, for two years, I lived in the underground. The British were around, but they never visited us. Here, we took many important decisions about our struggle, about our military operations. Inter alia, in this room we decided about the operation at the Acre fortress. And you can see the apartment is in the center of town, near the Habima Theater, as we kept the principle of the so-called "open underground." Of course, the neighbors didn't know about my real job, but they used to visit us and they knew our family, their children played with my children.

[Narrator 3:28; Begin starts at 3:37]

One day, the British army actually conquered Tel Aviv by two divisions. Amongst them, the famous [unclear 3:46] Brigade. They carried out searches from house to house, and then they arrested thousands of people. One of those they looked for was myself, and then I had a narrow escape.

We lived then in a little house in the north of Tel Aviv and I had to hide beneath the rooftop. It was August, it was very hot, and for four days there was no food and no water, but the sun hitting on the head. Well, I was so thirsty that sometimes I thought I will go down and even be arrested, but I must drink some water. Of course, the spirit is stronger than the body and I held out for those four days until the British left our house.

When I was a young student, I was influenced very much by Zeev Jabotinski, who, in my opinion, as I deeply believe, was the greatest Jew after Theodor Herzl, and he restored to Zionism the ideas of Herzl. Then I joined, as a young student, the Betar, that was the youth movement headed by Zeev  Jabotinski. I heard for the first time Jabotinski when I was a young student of 17. Since the early 1930s, I met him many times. Not only did I listen to his public speeches and read his books, but we had many private conversations. To me, they are unforgettable.

[Video Begin speaking in German at a Betar function, translated by narrator]

What do the Jewish Zionist tendencies consist of? The Jews want to have a Jewish government.

[Back to the present]

So the defense organization called Haganah was created. Jabotinski was one of its creators. There was always a necessity to defend our people in this country, but in the early 30s, there was a split in the Haganah and a group of the commanders and men of the Haganah created the Irgun, or the Etsel as it was called in Hebrew.

[Narrator 6:12; Begin starts at 7:30]

It was early 1942. I served with that army for nearly two years. At the end of 1943, I was released and then I went underground and, at the request of the commanders of the Irgun, took over this fighting organization. In those days, as you will remember, millions of Jews were dragged by the Germans, who want them dead, to the gas chambers. They cried out for help, but nobody came to their rescue. In this country was, as Britain promised, the national home for the Jewish people. But the British closed to our brethren that national home and said that they will not allow Jews to come anymore here.

[Narrator 8:24; Begin starts at 13:31]

We decided to start our fight late in 1943. It means we did so before the Second World War came to an end. We couldn't wait, because in those days the process of exterminating our people went on daily. But, we put on ourselves a clear limit. We said in advance, and we kept this promise until May 1945. Namely, that as long as the fight against the Nazis goes on, we shall not attack military objectives of the British in our country. So throughout that year and a half, we only carried out attacks on government objectives. But we never attacked military camps or soldiers. When the war came to an end in May 1945, and according to our pre-declared policy, we started to fight also against British military installations.

[Narrator 14:34; Begin starts at 17:10]

This actually was very simple. We were an underground, the units were very small, people knew each other very rarely, we never asked for their names. But it was, basically, a military organization with discipline, commanders with soldiers. Everybody was a volunteer. All walks of life participated. There was deep devotion of one man to the other. The men used to assemble just before an operation, when the men in charge explained what they had to do. We kept our secrets, of course. The British tried, from time to time, to bring into our ranks informers, but they very rarely succeeded.

We divided the Irgun in two main groups. One was the fighting group, called the CHAK, in Hebrew Cheil Hakrav, the fighting unit. The others served mainly for the information campaign because the Irgun used always to explain, before and after, why we did what we did.

[Narrator 18:30; Begin starts at 51:43]

Well, during our time, there were different periods. There was animosity. There was the so-called "season," in which Jewish official organizations asked the people to hand us over to the British police, of course. It was a very shameful chapter. Now everybody admits that it shouldn't have been done. We were supposed to fight together for the liberation of our country and then the fighters were handed over to the enemy. But there were also periods of cooperation. Between September 1945 and until August 1946, the Haganah, the Irgun and Lechi created together the Jewish Resistance Movement and they fought shoulder to shoulder.

Altalena is, again, a tragic event in the history of our people. The Irgun brought this ship loaded with mainly French arms. I would like to say that we are grateful to the French government of those days who helped us to amass those arms and ammunition.

[Other speaker 52:51; Begin starts at 53:16]

I personally got from the deputy minister for defense the announcement that the ship should come as soon as possible. We sent the radio cable to the ship with all speed ahead, full speed ahead. We were very happy about it. It was for our people. But without going into detail, there was the tragedy that the men of the provisional government, some of them, decided, actually, even to destroy the ship.

[Other speaker 53:49]