Michel Victor Assouid, the son of Essel and David, was born in Paris in 1926 of a mixed marriage – his father was Jewish and his mother was non-Jewish. He received a Christian education in his childhood, and knew nothing about Jews and Judaism. At the age of 13 his parents took him to Tunisia.
In 1943, when Tunisia was under Nazi rule, he escaped and joined General de Gaulle's Free French forces who were engaged in the ferocious battles in the Italian campaign as part of the Allied invasion. At the mountain battle of Monte Casino, Michel Assouid was decorated for bravery with the French Military Cross (Croix de Guerre).
His division then moved to the French front where they were involved in the battle near Belfort. Assouid then crossed the Rhine with the French forces who invaded German territory.
After the German surrender, for the first time he met with his Jewish brothers who had survived the death camps. This contact affected him deeply. The revelation of the cruelty and suffering of the victims which he had seen with his own eyes caused him many sleepless nights, and he was even unable to rest during the day.
He returned to his father’s home in Tunisia, dejected by the unforgettable memories of what he had seen, and he was unable to settle down. Miraculously, he saw the light. He found what he had been searching for when he learned about Israel’s War of Independence, and about the ships carrying arms and volunteers and sailing to Israel to assist their brothers in their fight for their homeland. Without any hesitation, he parted from his parents and sailed to Marseilles. On the day he boarded the “Altalena,” he sent a postcard to his father and wrote, “Today I am going home.” It was the last communication that his parents received from him concerning his hope for a new life.
The “Altalena” sailed from Marseilles on 11th June 1948, laden with equipment, arms, ammunition, and some 850 volunteer soldiers. The vast majority were refugees who had been trained by Etzel instructors. When the “Altalena” reached Israel's shore, its arrival opened a stormy and grievous episode in the history of the new State of Israel. A misunderstanding that caused a blunder of national dimensions for the newborn state, with tragic consequences. Jews fired weapons upon Jews, causing close to 60 casualties, including 18 fatalities. One of those who died in this incident was Michel Assouid, who was killed on the Tel Aviv beach on 26th June, 1948.
He was laid to rest with the other Etzel fallen at the Nachlat Yitzhak military cemetery.
He had returned to his homeland full of hope for a new life not fulfilled.
Link to Altalena Story
Source: Translated from the Yizkor website by Joe Woolf, with the addition of researcher’s note.