Monday, September 15, 2014

Who Was Thomas Berry? (UPDATED)

While searching for information about a murder in Haifa in January 1948, i came across this item from the Palestine Post of January 15 that year:-

Where was the Villa Rosemary?

I found this description about the area:

There was one empty lot above us, which is probably now Rehov Graetz 12. There was a large tract of olive trees owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, extending all the way to the train station. There were very few cars and no traffic. Our street ended up the hill in a public garden. There were footpaths from there to Talbiyeh, also an Arab neighborhood. There was a British army camp [down at the bottom of our street on the other side] at the corner of Emek Refaim and what is today Graetz, with two tennis courts. Around the corner, off today’s Dor V’dorshav was a little hotel, Villa Rosemary, and the Leprosy Hospital further on.

And another:

The house of the Aloni Family5 Gester (comes out of Zvi Gretz), the German of the two buildings adjoining the Villa Rosemary (the Templars’ guest house) which was used as their office.

The map:

It would seem that the two were shot a bit up from Emeq Refaim.

The Jewish woman, I now see, was the daughter of a future Minister in Israel's first government, Bechor Shitreet, and the longest-serving one at that.

Her portrait:

But who was Berry?  Was he Jewish?  If not, did he convert?

This note indicates his real name was Claude H. and was nicknamed Bill so, he wasn't a "Tom".

If he was employed in "Ordnance", he could have been a demolitions specialist and perhaps engaged in the dismantling of bombs.

So, were the shooters Arabs, as claimed, --- or Jews, members of one of the three undergrounds still operating?  Since the location of the shooting was in the area's British-declared Security Zone, who could more easily gained entrance.

And now, pursuing my piqued curiosity, I see someone was also intrigued and wrote an article, in Hebrew, on the incident.  I have asked the author to see it.


Eldad Brin, the article's author and tour guide, did indeed send his work to me.

He, too, cannot arrive at any absolute conclusion.  He also mentions either the Irgun or Lechi as suspects based on Dan Yahav's book as well as the British themselves since it seems Berry was an informer for the Hagana.  He notes that Tikva's family had received a warning of a possible murder attempt which could have come from Arabs or even the British who sought to halt his informing.

The couple had actually decided to leave the neighborhood (Claude lived separately in the nearby Greek Colony).

The problem is that they were killed close by to a British installation, there were conflicting reports as to whether the killers were truly observed or not and other reports from additional newspapers add to the confused picture.

He did locate an intelligence report of the Etzioni Brigade that noted that the killers were seen to have fled to the nearby house of an Arab, Wahid Nameri/Namri, which would strengthen the possibility that indeed Arabs were responsible for the murders.

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