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Daoud Bessis, last week
Photo: Shaul Golan
Bessis during his military days
Photo: Shaul Golan
Druze who fought Nazis dies
Sheikh Daoud Bessis, whose heroic story was published last week by Ynetnews, passes away at 96
Sheikh Daoud Bessis of Daliyat al-Karmel, who fought the Nazis during World War II and helped rescue Jewish prisoners, died over the weekend at the age of 96.

 

The Druze sheikh's heroic story was published last week by Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynetnews.

 

Bessis' adventures began in 1942, when he volunteered with the British army along with 10 other Druze men from the villages of Daliyat al-Karmel, Beit Jan, and Peki'in, who decided to join the war effort against the Germans.

 

The young soldiers were sent to train at Sarafand Camp, later known as Tzrifin, and were later stationed in Libya, where they joined British troops, led by General Bernard Montgomery, in a bitter battle against the German African Corps, commanded by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and reinforced by Italian brigades.

 

After the battles in Libya, the Druze volunteers were sent with their battalion to Greece, which was under German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation – each controlling a different part of the country.

 

While the two former invasions were crowned with success, the invasion to Greece failed, and many of Her Highness' soldiers were taken into German captivity – Daoud and his friends included.

 

At first, the British prisoners were held in Greece, but were later transferred to Italy – to an area controlled by Germany after Italy signed a cease fire with the Allied Forces.

 

'He waited for his story to be published'

Nearing the end of 1943, the prisoners were moved to Germany. According to Daoud, they were transferred from one base to another for many weeks, until finally in the summer of 1944 they were placed in the southern city of Stalag, which was situated near the border with Austria.

 

"Many times," Daoud recalled, "When we were taken out of the camps on different occasions, we saw Jewish prisoners that were held in concentration camps and worked in forced labor.

 

"Of course we did everything we could to help them; sometimes we even gave them, secretly of course, a little food such as bread, potatoes, cheese and sausages," Daoud noted.

 

"Occasionally," he added, "We also managed to sneak them some underwear and socks. We had to pull many tricks, so that the SS officers guarding them won't notice."

 

Towards the end of 1944, Daoud and two of his Druze friends managed to escape from the camp and reach Italy, where they hid in a cave until the end of the war.

 

The British authorities never acknowledged the Druze volunteers' contribution, and only in May 2010 Daoud Bessis received the Fighters against Nazis Medal from the Israeli Defense Ministry and a decoration for volunteering during the war.

 

Sheikh Bessis is survived by his wife, 11 children, 40 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. "These are the laws of nature and destiny, but it seems that my father waited for his unique story to be made known to many people across the country," his son Ramzi said over the weekend.

 

 

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