Multiple identities

In 1947, 24-year old Gavriel Sissmann boarded a Mossad ship with his fellow Shoah survivors to sail to British Mandate Palestine. The ship was Intercepted by the British and redirected to Cyprus. While in a DP camp Sissmann joined the clandestine Jewish Haganah. Two years later he reached the Promised Land. 

As with all immigrants, Sissmann learned Hebrew and was drafted into the IDF. He loved the army. He wanted to make it his career. To do so, he needed to pass a security check. While questioning his fellow soldiers, the security learned to their surprise that one evening, while drunk, Sissmann had showed his fellow officers a photo of himself in a Waffen-SS uniform! Imbibed, he had confessed he was not Gavriel Sissmann, but none other than Ulrich Schnaft – a German who had served in the SS.

In WWII, the German Schnaft had fallen into American captivity. After having been found not-guilty of war crimes, he was released at the end of the war. On his wanderings around a war-torn Germany, he went on to befriend a Jewish refugee. It was an encounter that was to change his life. 

Millions were without food or shelter in Germany. Schnaft needed to get out and find himself another country. With this in mind, he came to a monumental decision: what had happened to this Jewish survivor, had actually happened to him. Schnaft had a new identity. He was now a Jew who had lived through the Shoah. Schnaft was now a certain Gavriel Sissmann. 

His drunk confession to his fellow soldiers lead to his disqualification from the Israeli army. Shamed and homeless, he found a place in Haifa and had an affair with his landlord’s German-Jewish wife. Furious, the man expelled the couple out of sight. 

With West Germany later undergoing an economic miracle, the lovebirds decided to make their nest there. They set sail to Italy where at the Italian border, trouble awaited. Because there were no diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, every Israeli passport was stamped by the Israeli government with “not valid in Germany.” As irony would have it, it was the German Waffen-SS Schnaft, who was forbidden to return to Germany due to his Israeli passport! 

Because his partner still had her German passport, she was allowed to enter Germany, leaving her sweetheart behind. From there she went back to Israel, where in Haifa under the mediterranean sunset, she kissed and made up with her Jewish German husband. It wasn’t long before she persuaded him that they should move to Germany because life would be financially better.  

Stateless and penniless Schnaft decided to present himself at the Egyptian embassy in Italy. He told them he was a German and Israeli officer and offered to sell Israeli military secrets in exchange for passage into Germany. Schnaft handed in his Israeli passport, supplied the Egyptians with a wealth of Israeli intelligence and was rewarded with pocket money, an Egyptian passport in the name of Robert Hayat. 

One month later he entered Germany.  

An eternal opportunist, the penniless Schnaft decided to seek out the former love of his life in the hope she would run back to him if he told her his troubles. Finding her, he confessed his Nazi past and his dealings with the Egyptians. 

He also gave her his temporary address.

When he left, she told her husband. The man, still smarting from his wife’s affair, immediately contacted the Israeli Security Agency. 

Mossad sent an Israeli agent posing as an Iraqi officer to meet with Schnaft in Germany. The agent claimed he also served in the Waffen-SS and persuaded Schnaft to return to Israel to spy for Iraq. Now under the name David Weissberg, he exited the airport, only to be grabbed by the Mossad who stuffed him in a car. On the short journey, the German-Gentile-Israeli-Jewish-Egyptian-Iraqi-Spy confessed everything.

Schnaft was sentenced and released from prison after 7 years. All trace of him disappeared. His cell mate however, claimed in his memoir that Schnaft had retuned to Germany, become a Lutheran minister, and was now a supporter of Israel.