History

First-Person Account of the Hebron Massacre

Dutch-born author and journalist Pierre Van Paassen gives first-hand testimony of the 1929 riot in Hebron. This excerpt comes from his book Days of Our Years.

29.11.15, 23:25
(PHOTO: Pierre Van Paassen in Montreal, Canada, 1945. Source: Jewish Public Library)
 
Pierre Van Paassen was a non-Jewish advocate for Zionism in the 1930s and 1940s. He authored several books on the Land of Israel and the Jewish people including The Forgotten Alley, a book published during World War II that advocated for Jewish rights and decried the Nazis. He also co-authored The Battle for Jerusalem in 1941 with Zev Jabotinsky, John Henry Patterson, and Josiah Wedgwood. Today, a street in Jersualem is named in his honor.
 
His autobiography, Days of Our Years from 1939 contains a harrowing description of the Hebron massacre. The following is an excerpt:
 
Falsified photographs showing the Omar mosque of Jerusalem in ruins, with an inscription that the edifice had been bombed by the Zionists, were handed out to the Arabs of Hebron as they were leaving their place of worship on Friday evening, August the twenty-third. A Jew passing by on his way to the synagogue was stabbed to death. When he heard of the murder, Rabbi Slonim, a man born and bred in the city and a friend of the Arab notables, notified the British police commander that the Arabs seemed to be strangely excited. He was told to mind his own business. An hour later the synagogue was attacked by a mob, and the Jews at prayer were slaughtered. On the Saturday morning following, the Yeshiva...was put to the sack, and the students were slain. A delegation of Jewish citizens thereupon set out to visit the police station, but was met by the lynchers. The Jews returned and took refuge in the house of Rabbi Slonim where they remained until evening, when the mob appeared before the door. Unable to batter it down, the Arabs climbed up the trees at the rear of the house and, dropping onto the balcony, entered through the windows on the first floor.
 
Mounted police -- Arab troopers in the service of the government-- had appeared outside by this time, and some of the Jews ran down the stairs of Slonim's house and out into the roadway. They implored the policemen to dismount and protect their friends and relatives inside the house and clung around the necks of the horses. From the upper windows came the terrifying screams of the old people, but the police galloped off, leaving the boys in the road to be cut down by Arabs arriving from all sides for the orgy of blood.
 
What occurred in the upper chambers of Slonim's house could be seen when we found the twelve-foot-high ceiling splashed with blood. The rooms looked like a slaughterhouse. When I visited the place in the company of Captain Marek Schwartz, a former Austrian artillery officer, Mr. Abraham Goldberg of New York, and Mr. Ernst Davies, correspondent of the old Berliner Tageblatt, the blood stood in a huge pool on the slightly sagging stone floor of the house. Clocks, crockery, tables and windows had been smashed to smithereens. Of the unlooted articles, not a single item had been left intact except a large black-and-white photograph of Dr. Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. Around the picture's frame the murderers had draped the blood-drenched underwear of a woman.
 
We stood silently contemplating the scene of slaughter when the door was flung open by a British solder with fixed bayonet. In strolled Mr. Keith-Roach, governor of the Jaffa district, followed by a colonel of the Green Howards battalion of the King's African Rifles. They took a hasty glance around that awful room, and Mr. Roach remarked to his companion, "Shall we have lunch now or drive to Jerusalem first?"
 
In Jerusalem the Government published a refutation of the rumors that the dead Jews of Hebron had been tortured before they had their throats slit. This made me rush back to that city accompanied by two medical men, Dr. Dantziger and Dr. Ticho. I intended to gather up the severed sexual organs and the cut-off women's breasts we had seen lying scattered over the floor and in the beds. But when we came to Hebron a telephone call from Jerusalem had ordered our access barred to the Slonim house. A heavy guard had been placed before the door. Only then did I recall that I had inadvertently told a fellow newspaperman in Jerusalem about our gruesome discoveries.
 
On the same day of the Hebron massacre, the Arabs had rioted in Jerusalem, crying: "Death to the Jews! The government is with us!" The fact that the attacks on Jewish communities in different parts of the country had occurred simultaneously was interpreted by the Mufti's newspaper Falastin as irrefutable evidence of the spontaneity of the outburst of Arab indignation. The Acting High Commissioner, Mr. H.C. Luke, had informed newspapermen that the government had been completely taken unawares. Yet a full ten days earlier it was he who had ordered the various hospitals, and especially the Rothschild clinic of which Dr. Dantziger was chief surgeon, to have a large number of beds in readiness in view of the government's expectation of a riotous outbreak.
 
To visit the 1929 TARPAT memorial and other sites in Hebron:
 
United States contact info:

http://www.hebronfund.org
1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
718-677-6886
info@hebronfund.org

In Israel contact the offices of the Jewish Community of Hebron at:
http://en.hebron.org.il/
02-996-5333
office@hebron.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hebronofficial
 
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