Josef Burg was born in Dresden, Germany in 1909, and received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Leipzig in 1933. During his youth in Germany, Burg was active in the Mizrahi movement and active in promoting immigration to Palestine. In November 1938, on Kristallnacht, Burg was saved from arrest by the Gestapo, and he came to Palestine the following spring.
After the war, Burg went to France and became the director of the Paris-based Central European section of Mizrahi and Hapoel Mizrahi, which aided Holocaust survivors and established institutions for homeless Jewish children. Among his responsibilities was to seek out Jewish children who were either adopted or hidden during the war.
Burg returned to Israel in 1949 and served in the Knesset until 1987 as the leader of the National Religious Party. He also held numerous ministerial positions. In 1979, Menachem Begin chose Burg to lead Israel's team that attempted to negotiate Palestinian autonomy with the Egyptians.
Dr. Burg was the elder statesman of Israeli politics and religious Zionism. A dignified leader and esteemed scholar, he embodied the bridge between the religious and secular worlds. His son, Avraham, was at the time of his death, Speaker of the Knesset.
Sources: Yad Vashem.
Howard Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998).
Photo: Israeli GPO photographer, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.