Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Peres Collapses in Warsaw Hours After Auschwitz Visit

December 1, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Vice Premier Shimon Peres collapsed at an official reception in Warsaw on Wednesday night, and flew back to Israel Thursday morning after spending the night at a clinic undergoing an extensive medical examination.

He was not found to be suffering from any ailment.

Peres was examined again Thursday at Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv, and was pronounced, as he told TV viewers Thursday night, “fit and well.”

Peres’ brief blackout was attributed to a rigorous schedule Wednesday that included an emotionally exhausting visit to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The incident did not cut short Peres’ three-day Polish visit, which was scheduled to end Thursday.

Peres is expected to be back at his job Sunday morning, after taking the weekend off to rest.

The 66-year-old vice premier, who is also finance minister and leader of Israel’s Labor Party, was hospitalized for two weeks last month after a similar collapse while visiting Druse villages in northern Israel.

He was diagnosed then as suffering from an acute infection of the urinary tract which entered his bloodstream. He was discharged from the Emek Hospital in Afula on Oct. 30 with a clean bill of health but continued to take antibiotics.

Peres’ political adviser, Nimrod Novik, said Thursday that he was still under medication and “should not have undertaken such a heavy schedule” of meetings, which left him without time for a full meal.

Novik said that when Peres fainted at the reception, he did not lose consciousness completely. He was quickly surrounded by Polish and Israeli doctors, one of whom was the Polish minister of health, Dr. Andrzej Kosiniak-Kamysz.

Peres recovered himself almost immediately and insisted on walking to the ambulance that had been called.


Novik said the Israeli minister was close to tears at Auschwitz.

Peres called for the speedy removal of a Carmelite convent from the Auschwitz grounds, in compliance with a promise the Catholic Church made to Jewish leaders nearly three years ago.

“I raised the issue with the Polish government and they have promised to deal with it,” he told reporters who accompanied him to Auschwitz.

He spoke movingly of the significance of the site, where 1.35 million Jews perished during the war.

“It is like a journey into death, a journey into the Holocaust itself,” Peres said.

He may have been referring not only to Auschwitz but to Poland’s historic anti-Semitism, when he spoke of “this land which is soaked with Jewish culture, but is saturated through and through with Jewish blood.”

Some of Peres’ hosts broached the subject of anti-Semitism obliquely.

Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity trade union movement, told his guest, “Your nation is a nation that has suffered the most in the last thousand years. We want you to remember that Poland was the home of many Jews in the last thousand years.”

He spoke of Poland in the past as a country of two peoples. He begged Israelis to “come and visit us, feel at home,” now that diplomatic relations between the two countries are expected to be normalized.

Recommended from JTA