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Jytte (Judith) Israel

“I owe my life to the brave people who helped us during the war”

Writer: Christina Damgaard Andersen

“I owe my life to the brave people who helped us during the war”

Photographer Credit: Yael Pharhi Gravesen

Born in 1936 to a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants who escaped persecution in Tsarist Russia, Jytte was just three years old, when Denmark was occupied. To this day, she still remembers the noisy planes flying over the city on the 9th of April 1940. Her father was an ardent communist who joined the resistance group BOPA. His resistance work made it impossible for him to live at home, and their home was often searched by the police and the Gestapo. Just prior to the action against the Danish Jews, her father was denounced, and he was arrested together with his resistance group. He was subsequently imprisoned first in Denmark, and then deported to different prisons and camps in Germany. Together with her mother and two sisters, Jytte escaped by sailing to Sweden on the bottom of a coal ship. The Germans were checking the ships, but a local family distracted the Germans by offering them cognac. In Sweden they were reunited with her grandparents and Jytte was able to attend school. On the 30th of May 1945, the family was able to return to Denmark, on the exact same day her father also returned home, and the family was reunited. They were given a new apartment by the government, and all of their personal belongings had been kept safe by neighbors. Since 1981 Jytte has lived in Israel where she has children and grandchildren. She first completed a degree in nursing, and afterwards opened a kindergarten in Israel. Jytte has also studied archeology and participated in many archeological digs. In the 1960’s she helped lead the excavation of the Roman theater in Beit She’an. For many years, she was married to David Israel, a veteran of the Israeli War of Independence and captain in the Israeli army. Jytte enjoys birdwatching, traveling, diving and volunteering with Holocaust survivors. She visits many schools and hospitals to share her story. She considers it not only a joy, but also a duty to share her story to spread awareness of the rescue and the fight for democracy. She highlights how she owes her life to all the people who dared to risk their own safety to save her, and that this is the reason why she wants to tell her story to anyone who will listen.

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