In Part Three, you read about the empty graves belonging to children that were reported dead. Many of you asked why this shocking discovery that only hit the main press in August of 1997 did not cause drastic measures to be taken, and how the official Israeli government committee allowed itself to close down, less than five months after this discovery, as the committee would work only one day a week, for a mere 2-3 hours (not counting the several weeks the committee decided not to work for one reason or other).
Part of the answer may be found, maybe, in the first official response to the results of the grave openings, given by Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the head of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, located in Abu-Kbir. To quote Dr. Hiss, from his press statement, on the 16th of August, 1997:
“When opening a grave, one must make sure to dig to the depth of the grave, and in the children’s burial plot in Kiriyat Shaul only a shallow opening of the graves was conducted, not as required. Every forensic doctor knows that bones that have been buried for tens of years can move to the sides and to a greater depth, from a distance of tens of centimeters up to a few meters, from their original burial spot. This is due to earth movement, and water penetration.” The good Dr. did not comment on the fact that witnesses to the digs, and even the film, confirm that while conducting these digs they dug until they hit solid concrete. Another reason that Dr. Hiss states is that “It is necessary to remember we are speaking of infants, and small children, with very small bones, and to identify them there is need to conduct a thorough examination of the earth clods”. One of the witnesses to the digs said, when reading the article reporting Hiss’s statement: “And people are going to believe this? Even the manager of the cemetery was with us! Why isn’t he saying anything?”.
For the legal record, let it be known that the writer of this article is not making any accusations whatsoever, merely stating facts. The readers will reach their own conclusions. This point is crucial for the rest of the article, as well as future articles.
In the hands of the writer of this article, is a 54-page document, dated the 15th of January, 1996. This document is a protocol of Dr. Hiss’s testimony to the official government committee on that date. Before going into the relevant contents of this document, let Dr. Hiss’s description of his credentials, on that date, be known: “I am an expert in pathological anatomy, and an expert in forensic medicine, I am a senior lecturer in pathology and forensic medicine in the Hebrew University, and in the Tel Aviv University”. When asked: “… and how long have you been in the business?”, he answered: “I’ve been a doctor for approximately 20 years, a forensic doctor for about 12, and have been head of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, named after Greenberg, in Abu-Kbir, for 7 years”.
The next page or two speak of the fact he gave an opinion, in writing, to the Shalgi committee, that acted before the Cohen committee. He was asked, by the State attorney, Drora Nachmani-Roth: “Yes, now, your opinion to the Shalgi committee, was, I will read it to you, just a moment, it is written for Dr. Shalgi, the committee for finding the missing children, the population listing in the office of interior, it is written by you on the 9th of December, 1991, and its contents state: ‘I confirm receipt of your letter on the topic from the 24th of November 1991, the bones and bone parts of infants and young children that are mentioned in your letter will survive after tens and hundreds of years, the chance of locating them in their burial place is good, and since the testing (D.N.A., and other methods of bone identification) is being done by experts in identifying human remains, of the Forensic Institute of Medicine, named after Greenberg, where there are forensic doctors expert in human anatomy and archeology, and expert in identification of human remains which will be able to give you the adequate professional information’. Do you recognise the letter you wrote?”. Dr. Hiss answers: “Yes, I recognize its content, I look at it, and verify the truth of what is written”. The State attorney goes on to ask him about any other contact with the Shalgi committee, to which she receives a negative answer. She then asks him if he stands behind the content of the letter he wrote, to which Hiss answers: “Definetely”.
Next, Nachmani presents him with the following question: “I would like you to make clear, perhaps even in detail, if there is need we will ask further questions, on what basis did you form this opinion?”. Hiss then answered: “My short opinion was given based on personal and professional knowledge, and of course information from professional literature that deals with exhumation or removal of human remains from graves or various other burial sites that were buried there hundreds and even thousands of years ago. In cases of the burying of bodies of infants, children or adults in different places depends, of course, on the temperature, climate, and soil conditions. In the place of burial, the bodies go through a process of decay and, as a result, the soft tissue disappears, and what survives are the bones, which are the hard parts, or tissue, in our body, and they include the bones of the skeleton and teeth, and these remains survive for hundreds of years. Of course there are exceptional cases where either because of the conditions of very warm earth, like the earth in areas with volcanic activity and lava, and high heat activity due to fire, or other reasons, that even these remains can disappear, but in a case that the earth conditions are normal, and there are no floods, not that they ruin the bones, just move them from one place to another – it is usually possible after tens and hundreds of years to locate and identify, by certain scale, the remains that are left from bodies that were buried”.
The protocol goes on for a while, getting into details about identifying the remains found, which is currently irrelevant to us.
What is relevant, however, is the fact that the testimony of Dr. Hiss was given in January of 1996, only a short time after the entire matter was getting much press, due to the surprising testimony of a woman, by the name of Sonia Millstein, who was a nurse in the Ein-Shemer immigration camp, in front of the official committee, around the middle of October, 1995. An article on it appeared in the weekend edition of the “Yediot Acharonot” newspaper, on the 20th, by a journalist by the name of Edna Adato. She was quoted to say: “I saw how the babies were sent in ambulances, in packages, and with no written records being taken”. Sonia Millstein is a kibbutz resident, and was 86 at the time she gave the testimony. It was a man by the name of Avner Farhi who brought this witness to the stand. Her testimony was given, again, in Bet-Agron, the seat of the official committee on the matter. The “Yediot Acharonot” article reports that “For many hours, Millstein was questioned by Drora Nachmani, the State attorney. She tended to shake herself clean of responsibility, by claiming she ‘didn’t know’ or ‘didn’t remember'”. She was also quoted as saying: “I was only in charge of the equipment in the clinics and the staff. I did not meet with the human material in the camps”. The article also reports that Millstein claimed she did not even hear, back then, of parents that lost their children. Another amazing quote of hers was: “The Yemenite mothers were bewildered and confused. They could not keep track of their children. I, as a European mother, would go and ask questions, take notes, and know where my son was. They were not able to do this”. She was asked, by the State attorney: “Why didn’t you make sure that would be done for them?”, to which Millstein answered: “I had other worries back then. If I discovered that, after forty years, my child was alive, I would feel happy. I woud be pleased that my child received a good education in a good family. I am no racist. On the contrary”. The truth of that statement should, of course, be determined by the reader.
This testimony in front of the committee took a very interesting turn when Haim Giat, a 53 year old man, who was in the Ein-Shemer immigration camp too, stood up to testify. He recalled a story, in a voice choked by tears, that he remembers Sonia Millstein from the Ein-Shemer camp. He tells a story, in it, he was only 6 years old, when his cousin, an infant only months old, was taken to the clinic. When Millstein told the child’s parents that the child is dead, they began wrecking havoc in the clinic, and making much noise. Then, to quote Giat, “Millstein walked into the room next door and brought the baby back to his parents, alive and well”. Millstein angrily responded “I swear, that’s a lie!”.
Another interesting piece of testimony presented to the committee, by the State attorney, was a quotation from the testimony of Roza Kotzinski, who was a nurse during that period of time, in the nursing room of camp A in Ein-Shemer, and testified to the committee later on, on the 25th of October, 1995. She was quoted to say: “I would take two or three babies in an ambulance to the Afula Hospital. We would leave healthy babies there. The next day I would ask: where are the babies? And their would tell me they are gone, dead. What do they mean died? But they were healthy, they had no sickness! Today, when people say they died, it’s a lie. They were sold for adoption. Mostly in the United States…” At this point, Millstein again got angry, and said: “Roza Kotzinski’s a liar! Maybe they brainwashed her”. One comment heard, by one of the Yemenite fathers witnessing this testimony was “Maybe they brainwashed Sonia”.
To end the testimony, State attorney Nachmani showed Millstein a list of healthy children, that were present back then in a few of the hospitals in Israel, and later were said to be dead. Millstein’s final reaction was: “I am tired of your questions. They are not relevant to me. I am already 86 years old. I’m allowed to forget….”
Sonia Millstein says she’s allowed to forget. However, thousands of Jewish families bear a pain which the Sonia Millsteins in Israel and abroad have made impossible to forget.
In the next article in this series, you will read more about how the issue is being kept out of the public eye, and of one of the people responsible for the sale of children in the United States.