Avraham Gafni 1928-2022

Avraham Gafni from Innsbruck – formerly: Erich Weinreb – died in Israel on February 11, 2022, at the age of 93. He was driven out of Innsbruck as the last of his generation and found refuge and a new home in Israel.

His beloved wife followed him a week later. Zipora Gafni died on February 18, 2022.

Avraham and Zipora Gafni in Kirjat Tiw’on, Israel 2013 (foto: Horst Schreiber)

Avraham Gafni, born Erich Weinreb in Innsbruck in 1928, grew up after the early death of his mother with his grandparents Wolf and Amalie Turteltaub, who were among the few religious Jews in Innsbruck. They celebrated Shabbat and all Jewish festivals. Erich and his grandfather visited the synagogue in Innsbruck’s Sillgasse every week on Friday evenings.

The happy childhood that Avraham fondly remembered ended abruptly in 1938 when the National Socialists seized power. “Suddenly I was a little Jewish pig,” said Avraham Gafni many years later. From one day to the next, his life changed abruptly. Towards the end of the school year, his teacher called out the students in the class one by one. When Erich’s turn came, the teacher called him “Judensau” (‘Jewish pig’) and brutally slaped him in the face. From then on, he could only meet his friends secretly.

During the November pogrom in November 1938, his grandfather was brutally beaten and taken into “protective custody” together with an uncle, a great-uncle and a cousin.

At the end of November 1938, the Turbeltaub family had to leave Innsbruck, so Erich came to Vienna with his grandparents and two younger siblings, Poldi and Gitta. In the spring of 1939, his grandfather managed to send him and his brother alone on an illegal refugee ship to Palestine – his six-year-old sister was too young to make the trip.

After his arrival in Palestine, Erich Weinreb found a new home with a family and was called Avraham Gafni from then on. He soon learned that almost all of his relatives had perished. His grandparents and little sister Gitta were shot by the Nazis in Riga in 1942. Many other family members were murdered in Nazi death camps.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Avraham worked in the merchant marine, married, had three daughters, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After returning to Innsbruck in 1963 – for the first time since he had been forced to leave, he visited his old hometown regularly and spent two to three weeks there every year.

On May 10, 2011, Innsbruck’s Mayor Christine Oppitz-Plörer awarded him the Cross of Merit of the City of Innsbruck by resolution of the Municipal Council. In her speech, she said that Avraham was receiving the award as a “sign of great respect and appreciation” and in recognition that he was able to “live his commitment to Innsbruck despite the terrible experiences during the time of the persecution of the Jews”.

With Avraham Gafni, our community has lost a very good and humorous friend – and the city of Innsbruck has lost its last contemporary witness among the victims of the November pogrom of 1938.

May Avraham and Zipora be accepted into the covenant of life!