27 September 2010 - 19 Tishri 5771 - י"ט תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"א
Honouring Jacques Bonneville, the man who saved a prime minister’s life Print E-mail

Earlier this year-Raphael Gamzou, the Representative of Israel in Taipei,  lanted several trees in Israel to honour and  commemorate the late Jacques Bonneville. A certifi cate was presented to his son Patrick Bonneville, who told the following story to Gamzou which is a moving meeting between history and diplomacy.

Jacques Bonneville was a French businessman in the French African Colony of Djibouti in the 1940s. He would be called to serve as a judge from time to time. In April 1947 he sentenced two men to jail for four months for escaping a neighbouring African British colony.

The two men were militants of an underground organisation that were struggling to bring an end to the British mandate. Unbeknown to him at the time one of them later on became the prime minister of Israel.

The British asked the French colonial authorities of Djibouti to extradite them.

Had Jacques Bonneville not sent them to jail, the French were obliged to respect the request and the two would have faced execution.

Fast-forward almost 50 years. Jacques Bonneville is in Paris and while watching television he recognises the Israeli Prime Minister Shamir  surprisingly, to him the person he was seeing was one of the two men he had saved back in Djibouti in April 1947.

When Bonneville’s son Patrick arrived in Taipei last year, he told this story to Gamzou and asked if it was possible to verify the facts.

Gamzou checked Shamir’s biography where indeed the story about the gesture of the French judge in Djibouti is told. He decided to check another source, his mother, Ms Hava Gamzou.

Ms Gamzou happens to be friends with Ms Shulamit Shamir, the spouse of the former Prime Minister. Ms Shamir said she clearly  remembered her husband praising the French judge who saved his and his friend’s live. His friend was the later Deputy Speaker of Israeli Parliament, Mr Aryeh Ben-Eliezer.

Patrick Bonneville himself has also aided Jewish history. Between 1985 and 1987, when he was Consul-General in Shanghai, he found in the archives of the French consulate hundreds of files of civil acts and personal documents of Jewish refugees who fled from Europe to Shanghai during the Holocaust.

Since they did not have any country to sponsor them, the French Consulate assisted them with registration of marriages, births, deaths, etc.

Patrick understood the importance of these documents for researchers of Jewish history and he sent them to the National Archive in Nantes, France, in order to guarantee their conservation.Thus, he made them available for personal family enquiries and for historical research.

“Many of these Jews were probably saved by the Republic Of China (R.O.C.), Consul-General in Vienna in 1938 and the late Ho Feng-shan, who was recognised by Israel as a Righteous Among the Nations,” summarised Gamzou.

The seven trees planted are honouring two generations of Bonnevilles who have marked Jewish history.

(Issue September 2010)


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