Josué (Yehoshua) Lifshitz was born in 1896, and immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) in 1912 from Ukraine. His parents were among the founders of Tel Aviv. During World War I, Yehoshua and his brother were drafted into the Turkish Army but in the wake of the Balfour declaration the brothers deserted, returned from Syria to Eretz Israel and enlisted in the British Army.
In 1917, Yehoshua completed his army service, and graduated from the Hebrew Gymnasium in Herzilya. Lord Herbert Samuel, first British High Commissioner of the British Mandate in Eretz Israel, was invited to the graduation ceremony where he presented each student with a bible inscribed with a personalized dedication.
A short time later Lifshitz sailed for France where he studied at the Sorbonne, married and settled down. After the outbreak of World War II he joined the "Armée Juive" a Jewish underground movement in France, and assumed the identity of a deceased man – Henri Robert Champagnac. His responsibilities in the underground included finding hiding places for Jews on French farms and providing hidden Jews with forged documents. He worked together with Pastor Idebert Exbrayat, who was active in underground activities and was recognized after the war as a Righteous Among the Nations.
After approximately a year of clandestine activity, Lifshitz was appointed head of an underground group in Limoges. He recruited young Jews and trained them using the experience he had gained in World War I. The recruits were sworn in on the treasured bible that Lifshitz had received from the High Commissioner, and a flag emblazoned with the Star of David. They were then sent on various missions as part of the French underground. Some reached Eretz Israel and joined the ranks of the Jewish Brigade.
Towards the end of the war in France, Lifshitz was arrested and the swearing-in flag was confiscated, but it was returned to him after France was liberated. The flag and bible were eventually transferred to the Organization of French Resistance Veterans, and today both are displayed in Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum.
Yad Vashem Museum Artifacts Collection
Loaned by L’Organisation des Anciens de la Résistance Juive en France
Photos, Courtesy of Danielle (Lifshitz) Malka, France