1 September 1933
Telegram from Hans Bloch to his wife, Erna
At 2:15 in the afternoon of 1 September, Hans Bloch sent a telegram from Tunis to his wife, Erna, in Paris consisting of just eight words: “TRES VRAISEMBLABLE DECISION PALESTINE DEPART MARDI OU JEUDI”—“VERY LIKELY DECISION PALESTINE, DEPARTURE MONDAY OR THURSDAY.”
The fifty-three-year-old physician Hans Bloch (1881–1943) had spent the previous fourteen days in Tunis in the French protectorate of Tunisia in order to gain a first-hand impression of the living conditions and professional opportunities there. Earlier, in April 1933, he and his wife had fled from Berlin to France with their two young children and they were now considering either immigrating to the North African city or “making aliyah” (settling in Palestine). The family was increasingly feeling the strain of their uncertain future and the constant need to weigh both options.
Although Bloch had been a Zionist since his youth and had even served for a time as the chairman of the Union of Zionist Revisionists in Germany, he was unsure whether aliyah was the best option. He viewed his job prospects in Palestine as “quite hopeless.” However, it had quickly become clear to him that he did not feel comfortable in Tunis, which he disparagingly referred to as a “colonial province”: “Its exoticism and Mediterranean charm only conceal this truth temporarily. And nothing that happens here is of any relevance to us.” Nevertheless, the primary reason he selected Palestine over Tunis was the arrival of the family’s eagerly awaited immigration certificates while he was abroad.
At the same time that he sent the telegram, he wrote a letter explaining his decision in greater detail: “I think the most important point is that we will never regret Palestine. Even if we are forced to endure a great deal of hardship, we will have preserved our honor and our good consciences. But if we fail here [in Tunis] or some other foreign country—and who can predict the future?—then Palestine is lost and I will never be able to face the Zionist world, my world, with any honor.”
When he returned to Paris, all four family members immigrated to Eretz Israel.