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Ruth Kluger Dead at 74

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Ruth Kluger (Aliav), who worked with the Mossad to smuggle Jews out of Nazi occupied Europe on secret and illegal boats to Palestine, died after a protracted illness at the age of 74 last month in Tel Aviv. Kluger took the Hebrew name Aliav after the State of Israel was established at the suggestion of David Ben Gurion because of her work involving “aliya bet” (illegal immigration).

She was born in Kiev, immigrated to Palestine in 1930 at the age of 24 and joined the Mossad in 1939 on an aliya bet mission to Rumania where she operated between 1939 and 1941. A chapter in the book. “The Last Escape,” which Kluger co-authored with Peggy Mann, published in 1973, dealing with her aliya bet activities, contains a portion which describes how she persuaded King Carol of Rumania to let one of the illegal boats sail. But in 1941 the Rumanian authorities expelled her.

Kluger continued similar work in Egypt and Turkey where she organized the immigration of Jews from Arab countries to Palestine. She was the first Mossad agent to reach Paris after the liberation in 1944 and immediately applied herself to the task of rescuing Jewish refugee children. In 1947 Gen. Charles de Gaulle awarded her the Cross of Lorraine for her work in the French underground during the war, a decoration rarely given to a woman. In the same year the government of France presented her with the Legion of Honor Medal.

During Israel’s War of Independence, Kluger raised funds for arms which she helped to smuggle into the country. She continued her past-graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and later in the United States, She was the recipient of many international awards. Among them was the Massada Prize in 1973 and the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize in 1977 for her book. Kluger adopted and raised two children, survivors of the Holocaust. She was buried in Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek, her first home in Palestine, on Feb. 19.

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