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“By the time a letter comes, months could go by and life happens in the meantime,” Halper said.
Kaplan was transferred to the Eighth Army of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery in 1942. Montgomery was the general who lead the British forces, including the Rhodesians and South Africans in their greatest victories against the Germans in North Africa during World War II.
One of the last letters Karin received from Kaplan explained that he had not been in touch because he was too busy burning her letters after she informed him that she met someone else and was engaged to be married.
The two lost contact. After serving in North Africa, Europe and East Africa and helping to bring World War II refugees to Palestine, Kaplan relocated to a kibbutz, where he met his wife, a Holocaust survivor. The couple later moved to Rhodesia.
In 2008, 70 years after Kaplan and Karin met, Halper reconnected them. They were 87 and 89, respectively. The former lovebirds, both widowed, struck up a friendship over the phone. Kaplan’s son made photocopies of the letters and sent them to his father.
“Haig was moved as well,” Karin said. “He apologized for burning my letters and said he had done it on impulse.” I asked her why she decided to save hers. “I think that a written word has value — it’s different than a spoken word, it’s wrong to burn words written with emotion and meaning,” she said.
Then one day a couple years later, their communication abruptly ended. Kaplan’s sister called Karin and told her that Kaplan had died suddenly from a stroke.
“Even now when I reread these letters, they touch me. I feel very connected,” said Karin.
Abra Cohen is a journalist based in Tel Aviv.