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Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, and was raised speaking both Hebrew and German. According to literary scholar Nili Scharf Gold, a childhood trauma in Germany had an impact on his later poetry: he had an argument with a childhood friend of his, Ruth Hanover, that caused her to bicycle home angrily; she fell and as a result had to get her leg amputated. Several years later, she was unable to join the rest of her family, who fled the Nazi takeover, due to her missing leg, and ended up being killed in the Holocaust. Amichai occasionally referred to her in his poems as "Little Ruth". Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 12 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936. He first worked as a physical education teacher. He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the defence force of the Jewish community in pre-state Israel. As a young man he fought in World War II as a member of the British Army Jewish Brigade, and in the Negev on the southern front in the Israeli War of Independence. Amichai traced his beginnings as a writer to when he was stationed with the British army in Egypt. There he happened to find an anthology of modern British poetry, and the works of Dylan Thomas, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden included in that book inspired his first serious thoughts about becoming a writer. Amichai began writing poetry in 1946, at age 22. He also changed his name to Yehuda Amichai ..
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