Sonia Milshtein

Sonia Milshtein’s testimony:

Sonia Milshtein, a member of kibbutz Ein Shemer of HaShomer Hatzair, was trained as a nurse in Europe and worked in the nearby Ein Shemer camp, supervising its health clinics from the year 1949.

Ms. Ida Visotski, who was her friend since their time in Poland, was in charge of all the health services in the camps. Ida and Avraham Shternberg appointed Sonia to be in charge of the health clinics in Ein Shemer camp (A, B, C) to which children from the camp were taken to,and who took the children out of the camps.

Ms. Milshtein claimed that the medical staff never received clear instructions regarding the medical care needed for the camp’s residents. Decisions were to be taken based on the professional understanding of the staff. Moreover, although there were some Yemenite women working as part of the healthcare system, they were tasked with teaching the camp’s residents sanitation and hygiene, and not to help the medical staff in communicating with the new Yemenite immigrants, since this was not seen as feasible.

Despite admitting all the immigrants had immigration documents specifying their family members and connections, the medical staff neglected to document each child’s kinship when they were taken out of their family’s custody for medical attention. According to Sonia, this kind of documentation was not needed, because of the urgency of the medical attention. Facial recognition was supposed to be sufficient for identifying the children.

Ms. Milshtein completely rejected the allegations, brought forward by the committee's attorney, regarding the frequent evacuation of healthy children from the camps. Sonia claims she first heard about the allegations of kidnapping years later from media reports. When asked at the committee of inquiry about the medical state of the children that were evacuated from the camp, Ms. Milshtein claimed she doesn't know, since she wasn't present when the decisions were made. She said she has no information regarding where the children were taken to and where from. She insisted she did not witness children coming back to the camp, as that was not part of her responsibilities.

In contrast, in an interview with Avner Farhi, about a year prior to her testimony at the committee of inquiry, she did provide information regarding the children's fate.
Ms. Milshtein explained in the interview how the children were sent in bundles on ambulances, without any identifying documents and she provided information a as to which hospitals they were taken to. Moreover, she revealed that children were adopted by WIZO Institutes, particularly with the assistance of Ms. Ahuva Goldferb. And claims that she also sees no flaw in adopting parents paying for these children, who allegedly could not find their biological parents. These statements contradict Sonia’s testimony in front of the committee of inquiry about not knowing anything about the fate of the children.

In responding to later questions, Ms. Milshtein insisted that documenting all the ill children - with information regarding their parents, where were they sent to and where were they returned to - was impractical due to the shortage of staff and the urgent nature of their work. When asked how one can manage a medical treatment without the patient's names (for instance when prescribing medication), she replies she has no idea, and that she did not deal with that. Furthermore, she rejected the allegations that the medical staff considered the Yemenite immigrants as primitive and that they assumed the children would be better off growing somewhere else.

When Ms. Milshtein mentioned she was transferred to managing clinics for children infected with Polio in kibbutzim - in a replay to the attorney’s question regarding documentation of the children there - she claimed that each patient had a patient sheet and their mother was beside them. That was in contrast to the conditions of the Yemenite immigrants, whose details were not recorded when they reached the clinic.

She explained the imparity in their treatment, by the conditions in the camps and in the character of country at the time. The committee’s attorney confronted Ms. Milshtein with Roza Poshinsky’s (Kochinsky) testimony. Ms. Poshinsky, who worked at the camp as a nurse in 1949, admitted to evacuating healthy children from the camp on ambulances to a hospital in Afula which she didn't return them from. The children who were declared dead were actually still alive. Milshtein rejected those claims, and accused Poshinsky of lying or being brainwashed. When the attorney exhibited a list of healthy children who were in the hospital, she claimed that there was nowhere to take the children back to. [2659]

Later in her testimony, the attorney confronted Ms. Milshtein with a statement by Haim Giat, who attended the hearings. Giat testified that when he was 6 years old, his cousin Yehuda Giat was kidnapped by Ein Shemer clinic whose employees told his parents that Yehuda had died. Yehuda’s mother, Yehudit Giat, refused to accept it, and started a commotion in the clinic, which ended when her child was returned to her. Haim said he witnessed the incident and saw Sonia Milshtein herself give Yehuda back to his mother. After that his cousin did not return to the clinic.

Haim said this incident is well known to his entire family. Furthermore, his brother, Yitzhak Giat, was kidnapped too, immediately after his birth, and the family was told he died at birth without recieving a death certificate; they were not shown the body or a grave. He also mentions that Ami Hovav, an investigator from the Shalgi and Bahalul-Minkovsky committees, previously contacted him and tried to persuade him not to persue his case.

An Interview with Avner Farhi, 17.05.94, transcription, page 44:

Milshtein: ”the parents were not found, they were delivered to WIZO”

Farhi: ”if you were…”

Milshtein: “WIZO needs to subsist, why shouldn't it, if the parents have the means why shouldn't they support WIZO?”

Farhi: ”Right, but what about the biological parents?”

Milshtein: “But they were not found”

Farhi: ”Why weren't they found?”

Milshtein: “because there was no record, there were no documents”

Farhi: ” I can't really understand, at that time you took a child, put it in an ambulance with no registration and with no identification document, right?”

Milshtein: “True”

Farhi: ”And then you expected the nurse to recognize the children and know to whom they belong? You claim that the parents allegedly couldn't recognize their children, so how can Ahuva recognise 20 new children that she doesn't know, everyday?”

Milshtein: “She doesn't need to recognize them.”

page 2664 - the committee's protocol:

Drora Nahmani (the committee attorney): “Now, when you were busy dealing with children infected with Polio, you kept records, or you didn't do so again?”

Sonia Milshtein: “I didn't keep records. The nurses managed patients' sickness sheets, and apart from that each child had a mother”

Nahmani: “At the Polio (clinic)?”

Milshtein: “These were children from Kibbutzim”

Nahmani: “No, but not children of immigrants?”

Milshtein: “No”

Nahmani: “In other words, when talking about children infected with Polio from Kibbutzim - the mother has to be by their bed and they have a personal sheet. Then records were kept. But what about children of immigrants?”

Ms. Milshtein: “But that was years later, and there weren't 15 thousand people crowded together, with so many diseases. How can you compare? A camp with 15 thousand people, all ill - grownups and children, and no nurses and no one to document.“

page 2668 - the committee's protocol:

Nahmani: “So you mean, let's sum it up - you did not know where the children were taken from, you did not know what state of health they were actually in - while you were in charge of all that process?”

Milshtein: “Right”

Nahmani: “And also you didn't do anything in order to find out how to return the children to their parents?”

Milshtein: “True, I didn't keep any records.”

Nahmani: “In other words, these children were sentenced from the start to be unidentified, and that was clear from the beginning?”

Milshtein: “That was the reality then. And that's it. It's true that tragedies happened, when one gets a draft order for a child who died 18 years earlier.”