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David Shaltiel, 1949

David Shaltiel (1903 Berlin - 1969) is most well-known for being the district commander of the Haganah in Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. He was born into a Portuguese orthodox Jewish family in Hamburg.

At 16, Shaltiel joined the Zionist youth movement Blau Weiss, and he went to Palestine in 1923. However, he was not happy there, and returned to Europe in 1925. From 1925-1930 he was enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. In 1934 he returned to Palestine. There he started working for the Haganah, being charged with buying arms in Europe. In 1936 he was captured in Aachen, Germany, by Gestapo. Shaltiel spent the three next years in prisons/ concentration camps, including Dachau and Buchenwald. When he was sent to Berlin in 1939 the Haganah succeeded in freeing him. He then went back to Palestine. There he was at first condemned to death for murder by the British, but a British War Council later acquitted him. In 1942-43, he was the Haganah Commander in Haifa.

He was Haganah's link to the Jewish undergrounds, Irgun and Lehi, and helped them coordinate many missions with the Haganah. Among them the widely condemned attack at Deir Yassin. In 1948, he was the local Haganah district commander when the village was attacked by Irgun and Lehi Jewish fighters despite a non-aggression pact signed between the Zionists and the Mukhtar of the village, the villagers wanting to remain neutral in the war. At first Shaltiel did not agree with attacking Deir Yassin, but after a day he surrendered and wrote a letter to them saying that he had "no objection to your carrying out the operation". Yitzchak Levi, head of the Jerusalem branch of Haganah Intelligence, proposed that the inhabitants should be notified that the truce was over, but Shaltiel then refused to endanger the operation by warning them.

He was also the mastermind behind Operation Kedem, which had the goal of capturing "East Jerusalem". The mission was carried out July 8, 1948 by Irgun troops and was a total failure. From that moment, he was, (according to himself), disgraced and his name was erased from official Israel history.


Lüth, Erich: David Shaltiel. Hamburger- Fremdenlegionär - Diplomat - Verteidiger von Jerusalem.

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