70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

Amos Manor (1918–2007)

By Zsuzsa Shiri - 2018-03-06

​Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

Amos Manor, head of the Shin Bet Homeland Security Service from 1953 to 1963, and one of the first leaders of Mossad, is undoubtedly among the Hungarians who had given a lot to Israel, but his name is known only to the initiates. In fact, this is almost natural, as it has been part of his job to try and stay in the background. However, he contributed greatly to establishing the security of the young Israel, and his merits demand that we learn about him on the seventieth anniversary.

Amos Manor was born as Artur Mendelowitz August 1918 in Máramarossziget, which was then still part of Hungary. He came from a well-to-do family and after leaving high school he was sent to Mulhouse, France to continue his studies, but he was forced to return home after the outbreak of the war. In the Second World War he was first called into the Hungarian army and later into forced labor, and finally deported to Auschwitz with his parents and siblings in the first Hungarian transport. He lost his parents, a brother and a sister there; he had gone through several death camps, but he survived, and was liberated from Mauthausen weighing only forty kilos.


As an adolescent he participated in a Zionist movement in Sziget, and immediately after the war he wanted to immigrate into the land of Israel. The British have forbidden Jews to immigrate to the Palestinian Mandate in these years, but the Zionist movement and the Mossad , still in the process of being formed, tried to smuggle in as many Jews as possible by organizing the illegal aliyah bet (alternative aliyah). With their help, he tried to reach his new home, still as Artur Mendelowitz. At this time, the Mossad people noticed the tall, handsome, confident and energetic young man, and they recruited him. For three years, instead of the longed-for new home, he organized the secret emigration in Bucharest, launched ships filled with Jews from the Black Sea, and in 1949 he and his wife Zippora, using fake passports, made their way to the Promised Land.

The Homeland Security Service Shin Bet established in Israel also wanted to recruit the talented young man speaking seven languages: Hungarian, English, French, German, Romanian, Yiddish and Hebrew. His first pseudonym for the company was Walter Rapaport, and then it was changed to Amos Manor. He was first the head of the Counterintelligence Division, and from then in 1952 he was appointed deputy director of Shabak (Shin Bet = שירות הביטחון הכללי = Sherut ha-Bitaẖon haKlali = General Security Service, Hebrew abbreviation Shabak). The motto of the company is מגן ולא יראה “Magen veLo Yera'e”, meaning “Defender that shall not be seen” or “The unseen shield.” Next year, his boss, Isser Harel, became the chief of Mossad (or שירותי המודיעין והביטחון = Security and Intelligence Agency) specializing in foreign affairs, and Prime Minister David Ben Gurion appointed Manor to the Leader of Shin Bet. He worked at this post for ten years to overall satisfaction.

Of course, it is not possible to discuss his results, but among them are his developing the intelligence cooperation with America, the discovery of the beginnings of a terrorist organization among Israeli Jews, and the uncovering of several major spies. At that time, 600-700 people were the company he reporting to him. First of all, they were watching the diplomats of the communist countries trying to find out which diplomat was a secret agent. They prevented strategically important products being under the embargo from being misdirected to the Soviets by means of Israeli mediators and, of course, monitored Arab terror groups against Israel, the communists financed by the Soviets and the extremist parties.


His world-wide success was evident in the fact that he acquired and forwarded to America the famous secret speech of Khrushchev unveiling Stalin, which was made in 1956 at the twentieth congress of the Soviet Communist Party. Victor Grajewsky, a Polish Jewish journalist, accidentally came across it and handed it over to the Israeli intelligence service led by Manor, who had clearly recognized its importance. With the approval of Ben Gurion, it was handed over to America and then published in The New York Times and broadcast in all the Eastern European languages ​​on America's Voice. The rest is history.


After 1964 Amos Manor decommissioned from the service and started his business, mainly in the hotel industry, where he also made significant successes. In 2007 he died as a prosperous man. His remembrance was initiated by Shin Bet some months ago in the form of a book about him.

Amos Manor in 1998 - photo: Moshe Milner / GPO

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