Gathering information about Jewish Oslo, I stumbled upon the fact about Hurum airplane crash in 1949. Hurum is approximately an hour away from Oslo, that’s why it was among the last spots in my list of interesting places for thorough studies. However, when I learned more, I was surprised how many amazing facts are hidden in the history of this place.
After Israel foundation in 1948, Jews from all corners of the world floated there. Special children invigoration and preparation program was created. Its aim was to facilitate the North African Jews (Morocco and Tunis) to move back to the historic motherland. Norway helped by rendering for Jews’ use former Hirden SS preparation Camp (military formation of Norwegian Nazi Party – Nasjonal Samling) located couple of hours away from Oslo, where teaching and facilitating staff, consisting of the Norwegians, Moroccans and Tunisians were hired. The first group of children aged between 5-14 was hosted in the beginning of 1949. In general over 400 people participated in this program, each group staying in Norway up to 8 months. Many would wonder why exactly Norway, located far away from the route between North Africa and Israel, became a partner of this project/operation.
Norwegian ‘Europahjelpen’ was among the refugee supporting organizations in post-military years and ‘Aliat Hanoar’, involved in Jewish teenagers immigration, appealed for its support. Since no appropriate place in the countries close to the travel route was found, it was suggested to send the Jewish kids to the Norwegian camp. An interesting fact is that Europahjelpen was headed by Matilda Oftedal Broch, whose brother occupied one of the leading posts in Norway Nazi Party.
But lets get back to our story. Two aircrafts DC-3 of now forgotten ‘Aero- Holland’ started their journey from Tunis to Norway on November 20, 1949.
Aero-Holland corporate postcard. The same DC-3 PH-TFA crashed on November 20th 1949
The airplane carried 58 kids and social workers on its board. One of the planes had to stop in Brussels for radio facilities repair. Unfortunately this stop turned out to be fatal for it. The weather in the point of destination (Oslo, Norway) was bad, thus the connection with the airplane was lost on its approach to the airport. Some assumed that the crew decided to land somewhere else in order to wait until the weather stabilizes, however the expectations were vain and the active search of the airplane started. Presumable landing place was determined relatively fast: somewhere between Hurum, where the sound of the low flying plane was heard and the airport of destination – Fornebu, near Oslo.
from Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet November 22, 1949
Government asked locals for help in order to find the airplane as soon as possible, however continuous nasty weather prevented full-range searches from starting immediately. Only two days later two forest men came out to the place of disaster. They sad picture opened in front of them: trees, cut by the plane, wrecks all around the wide territory and silence. There was a slight hope of rescue, thus the crash was worsened by the weather conditions. Keep it in mind, that the airplane flew from warm Tunis and was found two days later in a snowy forest among Oslo hills.
However, miracles still happen nowadays. At the rear of the airplane the sole survivor – twelve-year-old Isaac Allal was found. As he explained after, he saved his life simply following the directions of the crew. Just after the plane got into the bad weather zone, all the passengers were instructed to fasten their seat belts. Isac followed. Kids, many of which never saw an airplane before, considered flying to be an amusement ride and kept on having fun. An unemotional statistic can add, that the back seat passengers have more chances to survive after the airplane crash.
Isaac immediately became known all around Norway and, according to his wife’s words (interview dated 2009), even HM Norwegian King Håkon VII suggested to adopt him. Even though such an unusual offer was denied, HM King Håkon VII did not forget about the boy and presented him a bicycle for Bar Mitzvah (Jewish religious ritual commemorating of a boy on his 13th birthday).
Euphoria after the miraculous redemption of Isac was shaded by the mourning after the passed passengers and the crew members. This disaster was shocking for the whole country and, due to the number of victims, was among the most distractive ones at that time. Ruling Labor Party collected donations, which were used for building the village ‘Norway’ for Tunisian immigrants in Israel.
pictures of perished children from a newspaper Morgenbladet November 23, 1949
And now, why did the airplane crash? It is true that the weather was nasty and the pilots could hardly see. However another reason caused the disaster. Approaching the airport, the crew reported: “contact 1000 feet”. That meant that the airplane flew on the height of 300 m and had a visual contact with the land. It was very dangerous in low cloud cover in hilly area. Unfortunately the traffic controller was inexperienced and did not pay attention to it. Afterwards, the investigation commission was unsatisfied with the traffic controller work, however the members of the crew, piloting the airplane too low, were mostly blamed. Apart of that, the height of the hills was shown as 164 m in the English map used during the flight, whereas the real height was 361m!
Monument was erected in memory of 27 Jewish children, 3 social workers and 4 crew members who perished at the spot in the air accident in 1949. The memorial was erected after a request of a sole survivor Isaac Allal.
The airplanes crashed 65 years ago, but the event is not forgotten. Next to the monument on the fjord bank, close to the place of the crash, annually memorable events take place. Another monument was erected exactly at the place of the crash on Isaac’s request. He visited Norway in 1971 and met his saviors. Even though the village, founded by the Norwegians is called ‘Yanuv’, several original houses in honor of those days remained. Also there is a street in Tel-Aviv named ‘ Oslo Children’ in honor of the passed kids. It seems that the story came to an end, however there is still no final dot in it. Due to the hostile attitude of the Arab countries to Israel, the Jewish immigration from Tunis was not completely legal. As a result, just after the air crash, Tunisian government who did not want to be an Israel alliance for Arab countries, claimed to bring their passed citizens back to bury them.
From time to time the families of the passed kids asked for their reinterment in Israel. On the one hand there are only a few Jews left in Tunis and the graves will be left unattended. On the other hand, which is more important, the kids were heading to Israel and their wish should come true, even posthumous. But as usually, the last word remains after the politicians and they are not in a rush to solve this issue.