British War Hero To Be Investigated Again for Murder of Jewish 'Terrorist'
detective has been hired to investigate an alleged murder of a Jewish
underground fighter in 1947 by a British major.
March 28, 2009
was a founder member of the SAS, was one of the most decorated officers
of the Second World War, and has been hailed as a "legend among
heroism on the battlefield of Major Roy Farran, who died in 2006,
earned him a Distinguished Service Order, three Military Crosses, the
Croix de Guerre and the American Legion of Merit.
other feats, he led a highly successful raid against a German army
headquarters in occupied Italy in which senior Reich generals were
assassinated and their control over a vital front line thrown into
chaos. In a single foray behind the lines in northern France, he led an
SAS Jeep squadron which claimed 500 German soldiers killed or wounded,
for a loss of just 12 British dead, wounded or taken captive.
Major Farran's record of service after the war, when he was seconded to
the British Section of the Palestine Police, cast a shadow over the
rest of his life. He was implicated in the murder of Alexander
Rubowitz, a 16-year-old member of the Jewish underground fighting
British rule, who was kidnapped in Jerusalem in May 1947 - and was
cleared at the time of any involvement in the Jewish teenager's death.
however, his reputation is posthumously at risk again from a fresh
investigation into the ugly incident, and friends fear that it may be
tarnished for ever by the claim that Major Farran was the killer.
Rambam, a private investigator from New York, has been
hired by an
unnamed Israeli living in America to reopen the case. He hopes to find
Rubowitz's body, so that he can be given a proper burial, and discover
more about who was responsible for the boy's murder.
will soon visit Britain, where he hopes that five surviving members of
the Palestine Police whom he has identified as members of the covert
units might be willing to "clear their consciences" and reveal the
burial place of their alleged victim. "There are people in the UK who
have personal knowledge of the operations of these so-called 'snatch
squads' because they were participants," Mr Rambam told The Sunday
would have been privy to who the local co-conspirators were, and all
sorts of other good intelligence information that could lead us to
where the body was concealed."
of Major Farran's involvement were first raised after his grey trilby
hat, with his name written inside, was found near the Jerusalem street
corner where witnesses said that Rubowitz was bundled into a car by a
man carrying a pistol.
Farran commanded one of the police squads, while Rubowitz distributed
fliers and posters for Lehi - the Jewish organisation nicknamed "The
Stern Gang", which killed and wounded dozens of British officers as
part of the campaign to drive Britain from Palestine.
released recently by the Public Records Office appear to implicate
Major Farran. A written statement from a more senior officer claims
that Major Farran had confessed to having killed the boy during an
interrogation, by "bashing his head in with a stone". However, Major
Farran was tried for murder in 1947 and was acquitted for lack of
evidence, a fact which has led some to accuse the British authorities
of a cover-up.
he emigrated to Canada, where he maintained his innocence until his
death. His family declined to comment to The Sunday Telegraph but
Gerald Green, 80, a close friend who served alongside him in the
Palestine Police, said he was innocent and the documents were a
deliberate effort, perhaps concocted by a superior officer, to frame
Farran was a lifelong friend, and a murderer he was certainly not,"
said Mr Green, who now lives in the Cotswolds. "The whole thing was a
put-up stunt. He was one of the most highly decorated officers. He was
a legend among fighting men. Someone tried to pin something on him to
provoke trouble out there."
added: "I can think of many atrocities committed by Jewish terrorists."
He recalled how many of his friends had been killed or badly injured,
including one who was paralysed for life. Asked whether Major Farran
had a violent temper, Mr Green said: "No, Roy was always very calm."
October 1947, the entire investigation file was burned by the British
authorities in Palestine. Mr Rambam believes this was an officially
sanctioned cover-up. But copies of some documents had been already sent
to London, where they were kept secret for almost 60 years until being
disclosed in 2005.
after the case against him collapsed, Major Farran returned home to
Liverpool. Soon afterwards, a letter bomb sent to his address killed
his brother, Rex. This was apparently dispatched by the Lehi, one of
the most dangerous groups in the Jewish underground which fought to
establish the state of Israel.
he visits Britain, Mr Rambam hopes to meet surviving members of the
so-called "Q" patrols, the secret counter-terrorism force charged with
suppressing the Jewish underground.
client wants to find Rubowitz's body so that the boy can finally be
given a proper burial. The documents suggest his corpse was disposed of
somewhere along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
murder took place at a time of particular tension between Britain and
Palestine's Jews. Shortly after the Second World War, London tried to
avoid Arab unrest by stopping Jewish immigration to Palestine,
including the arrival of Holocaust survivors. The Jewish uprising
intensified, climaxing in 1946 when another underground movement, the
Irgun, bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, then Britain's
Farran's squad was one of two covert units charged with penetrating the
Jewish underground. They showed little restraint and public documents
suggest they did torture suspects, including Rubowitz.
Edward Horne, 87, who serves as President of the Palestine Police Old
Comrades' Association, said: "It's not the way the British do things,
we were not fighting the Gestapo. I was vehemently against the squads,
the incident never should have happened."
"Roy Farran's Long Shadow"
a recently released book prove that Alberta's one-time top cop
an Israeli teen 64 years ago?
description of the murder is brutal and brief.
place more than 60 years ago, somewhere along a lonely stretch of road
between Jerusalem and Jericho. A 16-year-old boy, Alexander Rubowitz,
is abducted by a shadowy team of "special forces" British policemen
while putting up posters for the Zionist cause in what was then a
He is taken
to an unknown location in an unmarked police car, most likely to a
remote olive grove in the Judean Hills about an hour outside of the
city. He's interrogated, tortured and finally beaten to death with a
His body is
stripped and stabbed repeatedly. His clothes are burned. His remains
are never found, his killers never brought to justice.
identity of the murderer, at least according to British author David
Cesarani's historical book Major Farran's Hat: Murder, Scandal and
Britain's War Against Jewish Terrorism, is no longer in question.
picked up a rock and smashed it against the boy's head," Cesarani
writes. "After one or more blows Alexander Rubowitz died."
of the story, Cesarani insists, is not conjecture. In 2004,
declassified files from a nearly 60-year-old police report surfaced in
the National Archives in London, England. For Cesarani, a University of
London research professor who has made his academic name as an expert
in Jewish history, this puts to rest the mystery surrounding the fate
murdered in cold blood by war hero, newspaper publisher and one-time
solicitor-general of Alberta Roy Farran.
court in Jerusalem acquitted Farran of the murder in 1947 and his
family believes he's not guilty.
"He was a
charming man," says Cesarani, in an interview from his home in London.
"He was funny, he was a great raconteur, he was full of joie de vivre.
Everybody who met him remembered him fondly. They have very endearing
memories of Roy Farran. Just looking at the portraits of him, he was
handsome, he was debonair, women threw themselves at him. This was a
man who had a light and wonderful side."
Cesarani adds, "he also had a dark side. He was a trained killer. He
June 12, 2006, Farran was given a hero's burial with a military guard
leading a procession 10 blocks to his final resting place in Calgary.
More in-depth obituaries would make passing reference to the fact this
revered man, who boldly battled everything from Nazis in the Second
World War to fluoridation in Alberta, spent most of his life under the
dark shadow of an unsolved mystery.
after the disappearance of Rubowitz, the boy has at least figuratively
book, released last year, is seen by some as the historical equivalent
of a smoking gun that, once and for all, outlines the boy's fate -- if
not the location of his body.
characters have surfaced to breathe new life into an old mystery.
an unnamed client, a Brooklyn
private eye named Steven
Rambam has become the public face of efforts to close the
case, find the boy's body and declare Farran a murderer.
supporters, the book and the accusations prove nothing and are a
continued assault on the reputation of a good man no longer around to
Rubowitz's family, the 64-year ordeal continues to take its toll.
never doubted who was responsible.
Rubowitz was a toddler when his uncle Alexander was killed.
frustrated by the mystery of Rubowitz's missing remains, he took
matters into his own hands.
Calgary trying to meet Farran, but his lawyer and assistant did not
allow me to do so," says Moshe, in an interview from his home in Beer
Sheva, south of Jerusalem.
"I saw him
riding a horse in the head of the Stampede. We went to Calgary to get
from Farran any information that will lead to finding the bones and
bring them to (a) cemetery. That is why I went with a rabbi (and not a
lawyer) and after consulting with some of the leaders within the Jewish
wanted to ask him is where the body was buried. All we wanted was to
bring him to a proper grave, which we do not have but a stone in Mount
Herzl cemetery. Up to the '70s we did not have even that and the sorrow
and disappointment were so great."
private investigator Rambam, that final piece of the puzzle may soon be
we're pretty close," says Rambam, who estimates his agency has spent
more than 500 hours investigating the case, but refuses to disclose who
he is working for.
we are close to finding the body. We have almost certainly determined
who assisted Farran in hiding the body. We believe we know the exact
area in which it's hidden. We believe we've identified a number of
people who, if they chose to, could identify the exact location of the
Farran was guilty, why did he do it?
What led an
undeniably brave war hero to this horrifying "night of madness?"
Major Farran's Hat puts that night into historical and political
paints a picture of a British Empire in its dying years, struggling to
maintain control of a chaotic Palestine. Farran comes across, much like
he does in his own 1948 memoir Winged Dagger, as a globe-trotting
soldier exceptionally skilled at both covert operations and killing his
doesn't downplay Farran's wartime heroism, but suggests its genesis
stemmed from his deep commitment to Imperialism.
England and raised in British India, Farran would go on to become one
of the most decorated soldiers of the Second World War.
three times awarded the Military Cross and earned a reputation for
ruthless efficiency as an SAS officer. In 1946, he came to Palestine at
the end of the British mandate, setting up "Q" patrols with the
Palestine police to infiltrate Jewish terrorist cells that were trying
to push the British out of the region.
Palestine was a mess at this time, providing Farran with more
distressing evidence that his beloved Empire was crumbling.
of the British Empire pained him." says Cesarani. "Roy didn't know or
care much about Jews until he came to Palestine in 1946. And then I
think he had very conflicted feelings."
long after arriving in the Middle East, Cesarani claims, Farran became
resolutely anti-Zionist. While there is no evidence he was
anti-Semitic, he found the actions of the Jewish terrorists to be a
grave insult to God and country.
Cesarani argues, was Farran's state of mind when patrolling the streets
looking for anyone who might have information that would further his
campaign. On May 6, 1947, Cesarani says, Farran and his men came across
Alexander Rubowitz clutching an armful of anti-British posters on
Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem.
to the book, Farran confessed to killing the teen to his superior
officer the next day. Other incriminating evidence surfaced.
damning was the discovery of a hat found at the scene that appeared to
contain Farran's name on a label. Before the soldier could be charged,
he fled to Syria, which some saw as further evidence of his guilt.
eventually charged with murder and faced a military court in southwest
Jerusalem on Oct. 1, 1947. Farran pleaded not guilty in a trial that
made headlines around the world.
legal manoeuvring, the alleged confession never made it to the trial,
Cesarani notes. The hat could not be proven to be Farran's.
day, without a body or any eyewitnesses, Farran was acquitted,
commanding front page headlines in British newspapers. Cesarani says
evidence, including the alleged confession, was carefully destroyed by
lawyers following the trial.
disappearance remained officially unsolved. But the case didn't end
was quick and lethal.
year to the day Rubowitz was abducted, a parcel arrived by mail to
Farran's parents' United Kingdom home in Codsall, Wolverhampton. It was
addressed to "R. Farran."
away visiting friends in Scotland. His brother, Rex, opened it.
was rigged and a bomb exploded. Rex was rushed to hospital, but died
days later. The device was widely rumoured to have been the work of the
Lehi, also known as the Stern gang, an underground Jewish military
group Rubowitz was part of.
traumatized Farran's family for decades to come -- they took their
Christmas parcels to the police before they dared to open them.
wouldn't go into hiding.
in 1950 and moved to Calgary, initially to become a dairy farmer. In
Alberta, he was perhaps less adventurous, but still feisty. He founded
newspapers, entered municipal politics and eventually became Alberta's
solicitor general under then premier Peter Lougheed.
Farran's position of power, accusations of the past murder and a
long-standing coverup by the British military were never far behind.
rumour's been floating around for a long time. I remember in the Senate
people asking about that," says former senator and Lougheed-era MLA Ron
"A lot of
us knew about it, particularly in the Jewish community. It seems that
there have been a number who feel he did murder the boy. I don't know
if it's really been proven," he says.
wrapped up in hearsay and rumours. He was there, he was on the scene,
he did escape . . . there was a lot of circumstantial stuff. Clearly,
there was a price on Roy's head."
family did not respond to requests for an interview by the Herald. But
a close friend says they do not believe he murdered Rubowitz.
"He told me
personally that he never committed such a crime," says Andre Lorent.
"As far as
I'm concerned and the family is concerned, we don't believe it. I don't
believe that Roy would have committed this."
"If I have
to choose between somebody who wrote a book (60) years removed from
that time and Roy, I would side behind Roy Farran 100 per cent. We
think it's sad to accuse Roy of things he cannot refute."
Green, who served alongside Farran in the Palestine police, told The
Telegraph newspaper in England last year that he believes his friend
was innocent. Green, now in his 80s, suggested the documents that
surfaced in 2004 could have been doctored by a superior officer to
himself, while saying very little about the scandal in later years,
also proclaimed his innocence.
In the 1948
first-edition version of Winged Dagger, Farran claims "at the time of
the alleged kidnapping I was having dinner with three Arabs in another
part of Jerusalem. Everyone knew that that was an unshakable alibi."
chapter entitled Escape From Palestine, 1947, Farran goes on to suggest
he was being "thrown to the wolves" for political reasons. At the time,
a UN fact-finding commission was in Palestine looking into the British
was meant to show "British impartiality to the world," Farran wrote.
His escape and flight to Syria, he explained, was merely an attempt to
flee to a neutral country where he could argue with the British
government under protection from the Syrians.
Cesarani insists proof of Farran's guilt is now on file.
acknowledges it was impossible to challenge the not guilty verdict of
the court martial until 2004 when parts of a police report surfaced in
the National Archives. First discovered by an Israeli journalist, his
findings were only published in Hebrew. Cesarani's book is the first to
record, in English, what this evidence suggested.
went to the public records . . . and had a look at that file there was
absolutely no doubt from what it contained," Cesarani says.
investigation into the disappearance into Alexander Rubowitz concluded
that Roy Farran had murdered him and that Roy had himself admitted to
the killing of Alexander Rubowitz in a statement he made to his boss
Cesarani concedes this evidence would probably be considered hearsay in
a court of law, since it's a second-hand report told to a police
inspector by Farran's superior.
has been enough to convince at least one Farran supporter of his guilt.
Yacowar, a film studies professor from the University of Calgary,
looked to Farran as a mentor in the 1950s when he was hired as a cub
reporter for the North Hill News, a paper Farran founded. Last year,
Yacowar wrote an article for Alberta Views that began with the alarming
opening sentence: "Apparently I have idolized a sadistic war criminal."
says he had heard rumblings about the Rubowitz affair when he was
working for Farran, but didn't want to believe it. Because of
Cesarani's book, he now does.
Yacowar can't help but speak admiringly of his former mentor, who he
said had more influence on his life than anyone, other than his parents.
"I met him
when I was 16," he says. "That's one of the ironies that struck me.
When he hired me, this Jewish kid, I was the age of the Jewish kid he
of New Brunswick history professor David Charters studied the Farran
case as early as the 1970s when he wrote an article on the matter. He
again touched on the subject in his 1989 book The British Army and
Jewish Insurgency in Palestine, 1945-47.
acknowledges Major Farran's Hat seems to offer the definitive account
of what really happened.
wrote my article 30 years ago there was one very thin file on the
Farran case and there were clearly gaps in it," Charters says. "Because
of that I had to be very careful about what I wrote. There was enough
ambiguity and uncertainty that I wasn't prepared to come out and say,
'This guy committed murder.'
not enough evidence there for that to have stood up to a libel case, so
I had to be very careful. Now I think the story is pretty much out
there. I don't think there are any surprises waiting in the wings, and
it's pretty clear that he did do it."
years later, Rubowitz's body has not been found.
Many of the
witnesses that may have been able to back Cesarani's claims have long
since died. Farran is no longer around to defend himself.
Alexander Rubowitz remains a symbol of the Zionist struggle, a teenage
warrior who paid the ultimate price for the Jewish state.
the incident came at a key time in Middle East
politics. Within a few weeks of Farran's acquittal, Britain pulled out
of Palestine. In November 1947, the United Nations voted in favour of
the partition of Palestine and proposed the creation of a Jewish state,
an Arab state, and a UN-administered Jerusalem. Israel declared
independence in 1948.
Jerusalem, a plaque dedicated to Rubowitz commemorates the abduction on
the street where it allegedly happened, boldly stating the teen was
abducted by "Special Forces" of the British police.
Rubowitz and wife named their son, now 42, after Alexander.
"I am proud
to be a nephew to that boy who gave his life for a state that (had) not
existed at that time. Most of us did not have a chance to know him, but
we all grew up on his memory as a hero."
while having no doubt about his guilt, says Farran's "night of madness"
doesn't prevent us from admiring Farran's heroism and later civic duty
hopes the book leads people to think more critically about the impact
war has on a man's ability to determine right from wrong.
"We have to
be mature and grown up and learn to see people in the shades of grey
that most really have," Cesarani says.
impossible for someone to be saintly at the best of times. And I think
it's downright naive to believe you can take a young man, particularly
someone raised in a Colonial environment, put that young man in a
uniform, put him through six, seven years of brutal warfare and expect
him at the end of it to be sweetness and light.
shouldn't be at all a surprise to discover at some point during those
brutal hard years, he did something bad."
died at the age of 85 in 2006, tributes poured in from all quarters,
including from military cohorts such as the late Art Smith, and Mayor
Dave Bronconnier also sang his praises.
should do a Canadian movie about him," said former captain Bill Wilson
in 2006. "He was definitely one of the finest men I've ever met in my
life -- soldier, citizen, member of city council -- all those things
are great in his life."
who knew Farran in Alberta, reopening the Rubowitz case is a pointless
assault on his memory.
and dead now. What can be gained? It's better to keep in him in fond
memory," says Ghitter.
to remember him in a very positive light. He contributed considerably
during his public life in Alberta. He had a remarkable life."
Steven Rambam is less forgiving.
"I have no
doubt that somewhere in Alberta or in Canada there is someone that Mr.
Farran spoke to about this matter and has information that can assist
us," he says.
thing to do is to provide this information so we can give this boy a
17 March 2009
THERE were witnesses to the murder, the perpetrator who had actually
confessed was acquitted. Yet 62 years later, the body of the victim has
not been recovered. A substantial reward for information leading to the
recovery of the remains of the victim was offered this week by American
private investigator Steven
Rambam, whose Pallorium detective agency
operates in New York, San Antonio, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Toronto and
Jerusalem. Rambam has been retained to set the historical record
straight, find the remains and bring about closure for members of the
victim's family. Addressing a press conference at the Begin Heritage
Center in Jerusalem this week, Rambam was not at liberty to disclose
the name of his client, nor the actual sum of the reward.
case involves the abduction and murder on May 6, 1947 of 16-year old
Alexander Rubowitz, a member of the Lehi underground organization, who
was captured by Roy Alexander Farran, who headed a special British
Palestine police unit. Rubowitz was tortured and later killed by
Farran, who smashed in his head with a rock. Farran filed a full report
with his commanding officer, but the document in which he implicated
himself has conveniently disappeared. Rambam presented a comprehensive
report of his investigations and said that the case was still being
investigated by the Israel authorities. Although Farran has since died
after a long, diverse and successful career in Canada, at least five
members of his squad are still living and should be tried for war
crimes, said Rambam. While he believes that they can be forced to
testify, he doubts that they would ever be brought to trial.
most dramatic part of the press conference was when Rubowitz's
commander Yael Ben Dov rose to speak, and related the story with a
degree of passion and recall as if it had taken place only yesterday.
After the arrest of Geula Cohen, who had been the Lehi broadcaster and
head of Lehi's information effort, Lehi's only means of promoting its
views was through posters and the distribution of leaflets. The British
were always on the alert for poster people and had no compunction about
shooting them. Thus distribution of leaflets and the pasting of posters
was very dangerous. For all that, Rubowitz volunteered, and refused to
heed warnings from his Lehi colleagues. He had a mission, and he
intended to fulfill it. But the British had their eye on him and
apprehended him in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, where he was so
well known that witnesses to his abduction were able to identify him.
Ben Dov recalled being told about the abduction by a group of children
who had picked up a hat that had been knocked off the head of one of
the members of the police squad in the struggle in which Rubowitz was
forced into a car. Inside the hat's head band was Farran's name.
three cousins want to give him a proper Jewish burial. Rambam thought
that there was a 50/50 chance of recovering the remains by May 6 this
year. There are leads, he said, but was either unwilling or unable to
explain why the location, in which eye witnesses had seen the murder
committed, was not excavated. Nor could he say whether it will be in
the few weeks between now and May 6.
The Makings of History - Beyond
Israel Defense Forces' missing persons unit is searching for the
remains of Alexander Rubowitz, a teenage member of the pre-state Lehi
underground militia who was murdered in 1947, and has even enlisted the
help of a private investigations firm in New York. Two unit members
attended a press conference on the matter this week at the Menachem
Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. An American detective, Steve Rambam,
claimed there is a chance that Rubowitz's remains will be found in Wadi
Kelt east of Jerusalem, in the West Bank.
was an interesting event. Although nothing historically new was
revealed, at a time when Likud is preparing to form a government, it
once again illustrated the centrality of history in Israeli political
When he was approximately 16 years old,
Rubowitz was arrested. It was the evening of May 6, 1947 and he was in
the process of distributing Lehi flyers in Jerusalem's Rehavia
neighborhood. The members of the British counter-terror unit who
arrested him drove him toward Jericho. One of them, Roy Farran, beat
Rubowitz to death with a rock, and his body was never discovered.
case kicked up a storm. Farran was court-martialed, acquitted, and
returned to England. Lehi members sent him a letter bomb, which killed
his brother. Farran emigrated to Canada where he entered politics; late
in life he served as solicitor general of the state of Alberta. He died
about three years ago. Farran always denied killing Rubowitz, but
official British documents that were unsealed five years ago strengthen
the suspicions against him.
Initially, Rubowitz was only
included in the heroic pantheon of the right-wing terrorist groups
Etzel and Lehi. But over time, Israeli cultural memory grew to include
individuals who did not operate under the auspices of the Labor
Movement, at which point Rubowitz's name went up on a memorial plaque,
next to the site of his arrest. There is also a street in Jerusalem
named after him.
The Rubowitz affair is quite well known; the
unsealing of the British papers documenting the case was covered in a
Haaretz article by. A new book on Rubowitz's murder has just come out
("Major Farran's Hat"), written by the well-known British historian
David Cesarani, and Canadian Television CBC is making a film about the
case. The main element keeping Rubowitz's case alive is the question
mark that continues to hover over it: Where is the body? As long as it
isn't found, Rubowitz is officially considered missing.
months ago, a veteran of the Revisionist Movement who lives in the
United States contacted Pallorium Inc., the investigative services firm
owned by Steve Rambam, a former member of the Betar youth movement, and
asked him to investigate Rubowitz's murder. At a press conference he
convened in Jerusalem this week, Rambam claimed to have a lead on the
body's burial site. He said he is working together with the IDF, but
refused to go into details.
This story resembles the search
for the body of Avshalom Feinberg, of the Nili underground organization
working with the British against the Turks in World War II, which was
found after the Six-Day War with the help of a few elderly Bedouin in
Sinai. As with the Feinberg case, the Rubowitz case also has a
political aspect to it. According to Rambam, he has managed to track
down several of Farran's associates, and the law allows for trying them
as war criminals.