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Hugo Lehrs


Biography of Hugo Lehrs

Dr. Hugo Lehrs

Dr Hugo Lehrs was born 10.6.1904 in Berlin, Germany. At an early age he became a convinced Zionist and was a member and later leader in the Blau Weiss K.J.V. youth movement. He studied medicine in Berlin and Freiburg. As a medical student he was active in the Zionist  student organization. He moved to Hamburg to prepare for Aliya (immigration to Palestine/Israel), specializing in tropical and contagious diseases.   

Soon after the rise of the Nazis.  a swastika was put on his desk at the hospital. This was a sufficient stimulus to persuade him to leave Germany. He came to British Mandate Palestine with his wife in early 1933 and settled in Safed. As he could not make a living from medicine, the couple opened a "pension" (inn) and had a successful business. In this period he also joined the Haganah. In 1937 he moved to Tel Aviv, where he worked at first in the post of director of the quarantine in the new port of Tel Aviv, and later in government hospitals in Pardes Katz and Yafo.

In 1944, he moved to Jerusalem where he was appointed deputy head of the British ward of the government hospital in the Russian compound. This was a separate ward for treatment of British citizens. Lehrs impressed his superiors and in 1945 he was promoted to being head of the government hospital for contagious diseases in Bet Tsafafa, an Arab neighborhood.

The hospital was composed of several buildings, and bordered, on the eastern side of Beit Tsafafa, on the Bethlehem road. The patients were Arabs. The staff was Jewish, Arab and British.

Following the UN Partition decision of "Kaf tet november" (November 29, 1949) the security situation deteriorated in Jerusalem and the security of the Jewish staff was increasingly threatened. This was the beginning of the first phase of the Israel War of Independence.

The British chief nurse of the hospital received a letter in Arabic threatening that she must remove the Jewish nurses from the hospital. else they would be murdered. Similar letters were sent to Jewish doctors. On December 21, Lehrs met with Avraham Katznelson, head of the health department of the Vaad Leumi. Katznelson warned him that his continued work in the hospital was dangerous. Kaznelson reported that Lehrs insisted that given his status and position, the Arabs would not harm him.

On the morning of December 28, 1947, Dr. Lehrs arrived at the hospital and began the morning rounds in the various buildings. At 10:15, he emerged from one of the buildings accompanied by an Arab nurse and doctor. As they were walking on a path between the buildings, they were confronted by three armed Arabs. They opened fire on Lehrs from close range and fled. According to one version, they had first asked "Which one is the Jew?" Lehrs was interred on the cemetery on Mt. Olives. The Mt. Olives cemetery was part of the territory captured and illegal occupied by the Jordan Legion in May of 1948. The Jordanians ethnically cleansed the Jewish population of East Jerusalem. Under Jordanian rule, the cemetery was desecrated. 

In 1957, Lehrs\ name was inscribed in a monument to the casualties who fell in defense of the Jewish quarter and others who had been buried in Mt Olives.

Following the Six day war, his grave was located in the Mt. Olives Cemetery. A military tombstone was erected with the inscription, "Fell in the line of duty."


Ami Isseroff




Wikipedia - Hugo Lehrs (Hebrew)


Izkor project - Israel Defense Department (Link not functional)  

September, 12, 2009



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