Rafi Benshalom

בנשלום רפי

Rafi Benshalom – Friedl Richárd, Frigyes

Born in Kolozsvár (Cluj) on 6.5.1920 Died on 5.9.1996 in Israel

Member of “Hashomer Hatzair”


Rafi’s father died when he was three years old. In 1931 he moved to Germany with his mother and brother and then, in 1933, they moved to Bratislava. At the age of fourteen Rafi joined the “Hashomer Hatzair” movement and in 1937 he was sent to Prague to set up a ken there.

Rafi was enlisted in the Slovak army and served as a photographer. In 1941 he went underground in Trenčin. On the last night of 1943 the council of the movement decided that Rafi, together with Pil (Alpan), who both spoke Hungarian, would move to Hungary in order to work in the underground in the organization of the movement and the rescue of Jews. After the German invasion on 19.3.1944, Rafi represented the movement and the Zionist youth movements underground in the Jewish Zionist institutions. He had contacts with the military, the police and non- Jewish opposition groups. Rafi, who spoke fluent German and looked Aryan, excelled in negotiations and in making allies. He freed prisoners from jails. Tamra, his girlfriend, who later became his wife, was a loyal partner in his activities.

After the liberation of Hungary, Rafi moved to Prague and founded the Eretz Israel office. In 1947 he made aliya with Tamar and his son Danny and joined Kibbutz Ha’ogen. Rafi was an active member of his kibbutz and of the Kibbutz Artzi. He enrolled in the Israeli Foreign Service and served as the first secretary at the Israeli Embassy in Czechoslovakia and as the Israeli Ambassador in Mali, Cambodia and Romania.

In 1977 his book “We Struggled for Life” was published (Moreshet and Sifriat Hapoalim Publishing House). In this book Rafi documented and described the Zionist youth movements underground operations in Hungary (the English translation and the new edition in Hebrew were published in 2001). He was a member of the Society for the Research of the History of Zionist Youth Movements in Hungary.

Rafi Benshalom is the author of the authentic and unique composition : Ne’evaknu Lema’an Hahayim ( We Struggled for Life ) published by the Sifriat Hapoalim in 1978 and in 1979. ( Hebrew ) Reprinted by ‘The Society for the Research of the History of the Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary’ in 2001.The book translated to English – Rafi Benshalom: We Struggled for Life. Published by ‘The Society for the Research of the History of the Zionist Youth Movement in Hungary’ – in Israel in 2001.

The Hungarian translation published in Budapest by Holocaust Dokumentációs Központ és Emlékgyüjtemény Közalapít -vány in 2003 : Rafi Bensalom: Mert élni akartunk. (We Struggled for Life )