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A refugee from the Nazis, she helped create the Haganah and IDF canine models

Esther Cohen was born in 1930 in Würzburg, Germany, as Else Karola Sichel. Her household of hers fled earlier than the Holocaust and he or she subsequently joined the Haganah militia and later the IDF’s canine division, the Oketz Unit.

“I bear in mind the Nazi rise to energy and Hitler visiting my city,” Cohen advised JNS.

She witnessed the gradual deteriorating circumstances for Jews. She recollects an incident round Christmas time in 1934: She was out together with her grandmother they usually noticed decorations.

A woman requested, “Are you excited that Santa Claus will convey you presents?”

A 4-year-old Cohen replied, “We do not imagine in Santa Claus, we now have the Hanukkah man.” Her grandmother interrupted, telling the bewildered German girl: “The kid does not know what she’s speaking about!”

She recollects one other incident the place she wished to see a Shirley Temple movie however Jews have been forbidden from going to the cinema after the Nuremberg Legal guidelines had been handed in 1935. Nevertheless, a sympathetic non-Jewish neighbor volunteered to take her. However she didn’t benefit from the movie for worry that somebody would work out that she was Jewish.

Her household escaped to the British Mandate of Palestine in September 1938, when she was 8 years previous.

Cohen mentioned that it was not simple adjusting to a brand new nation. They managed to get her grandparents out of Germany shortly after Kristallnacht, following a lot paperwork. Her dad and mom of hers opened a grocery retailer.

It was within the retailer that she met Austrian-born cynologist (canine scientist) Rudolphina Menzel (1891–1973).

Menzel helped to determine the canine unit for the Haganah, the forerunner of the modern-day IDF Oketz Unit. “I at all times liked canines,” Cohen mentioned.

Menzel used largely Boxers that she had introduced over from Austria. The Haganah additionally relied on German-origin breeds equivalent to German Shepherds, Dobermann Pinschers and Nice Danes as a result of these have been the breeds that Jews had introduced from Europe.

Menzel was additionally concerned in reviving Canaan Canine, Israel’s nationwide canine breed. However Cohen mentioned that Canaans can’t be used for battle as a result of “they aren’t so brave.” She describes Menzel’s work with canines as “extremely modern” and “adaptable.”

Cohen was in a scout motion as a toddler and lots of in his circle of pals ended up becoming a member of the Haganah. Her work de ella within the canine unit started in a camp at Kfar Haim, close to Haifa. She finally turned an officer and an teacher for the unit. Cohen mentioned that she acquired a lot of her expertise from her from Menzel and from her from her personal sensible expertise from her.

Esther Cohen joined the Haganah after which the IDF. Courtesy.

Not afraid to do something

Certainly one of her first duties was to show a bunch consisting of some Holocaust survivors about canine killing habits. “I used to be solely 19 and but right here I used to be dealing with individuals who have been rather more skilled in life than me, and I needed to clarify one thing troublesome. It was very difficult. However after that was completed, I used to be not afraid to do something.”

Cohen recollects one incident on the outbreak of the 1948-49 Struggle of Independence when she and her household took a bus to see her grandparents close to Haifa and have been pressured to show again resulting from fireplace by Arab forces. She additionally witnessed a skirmish between the Haganah and the Irgun, a rival Jewish militia earlier than they ended up merging into the IDF.

Her Haganah coaching included instruction within the KAPAP system of defensive techniques, hand-to-hand fight and self-defense. She additionally realized stick-fighting and jujitsu. She had a sidearm.

The Oketz Unit skilled canines for quite a few duties together with guard responsibility and search-and-rescue. Cohen additionally revealed that they used messenger canines and employed spies embedded deep inside the Arab traces who used a whistle that had a frequency that people couldn’t hear to summon the messenger canines. These spies would ship priceless info by way of these canines again to the Israeli facet.

“Lengthy earlier than modern-day communication, this was a protected and environment friendly approach to ship messages that actually helped within the battle,” Cohen mentioned.

“Canine are pack animals and it’s important to present them who the alpha is. However you additionally must reward them,” she mentioned. Cohen additionally recollects one explicit canine that will pretend a limp when requested to carry out troublesome drills, they usually due to this fact couldn’t use it. Not many canines have been killed in motion, however she witnessed seven of them succumb to rabies.

She was later stationed at Tzrifin. On one event Egyptian forces noticed a large Nice Dane within the Negev and mistakenly reported that the Israelis have been utilizing “skilled tigers.”

Cohen left the IDF in 1950. The Oketz Unit she helped create was disbanded in 1954, though the navy continued to make use of canines. Oketz was revived in 1974 and the unit noticed motion in Lebanon.

Cohen finally married her childhood good friend, Alexander Cohen, and the couple moved to a farm. At the moment she enjoys a quiet retirement in Haifa and has two youngsters, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.

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