Jewish Brigade

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Slipdigit, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I did not know that such a formation existed within the British Army until I read your comments about it previously, Ron. I noticed that you mentioned it again and it set me to wondering about the fates of men captured from this unit.

    Were soldiers of the Jewish Brigade afforded the rights of a PoW, as indicated by the several treaties addressing this subject or did they face the same trials as Jewish residents in the counties occupied by Germany during the war?
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    A very interesting comment there.

    The only reference work I have on the Jewish Brigade is Morris Beckman's "The Jewish Brigade, an Army with two masters 1944-45" and unfortunately I have yet to find any reference made to that situation.

    A brief visit to the Jewish Agency site says this about the general subject of Jewish prisoners and I shall see what else I can dig up on the internet

    Jewish Soldiers and Prisoners of War during World War II


  3. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hi Jeff,

    It is a matter for conjecture only. Neither Morris Beckman's book (as indicated by Ron) or Howards Blum's "The Brigade" (published three years later) carries a reference to PoWs as none was captured while the Brigade was in action in Northern Italy.


  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  5. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Ron on the subject matter as a whole, are you aware of any British Jewish Pow's that were in fact singled out. I'm sure some must have been. But have you researched this at all? The Jewish Brigade came under British administration so would have been taken as British prisoners if they had been taken. Was there a history that you are aware of, of British Jewish forces being singled out for being Jewish? I am aware of course of Channel Island civilians being treated in same way as other European Jews were. Something we cant say never happened on our soil. But how were pow's treated if you have any knowledge it would be intersting to know. Purely from the side of how their fellow members of units taken prisoner with them would react or report later.
  6. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I've read of a US soldier who was Jewish who was sent to Nordhausen, but I can't remember where it was. I have also read of a group of soldiers in the Ardennes who "lost" their tags to help protect a squad-mate who was of the Jewish faith. Circumcision in the US among Christians was not uncommon at that time and is very common nowadays.

    I used to work with a surgeon who was Jewish, and is now deceased. He was a surgeon at a battalion aid station. We talked about his service quite often and he mentioned one time of his fears of being captured, as he was so close to the fighting. He was in North Africa during the early campaigns and said he was more concerned about mistreatment then than later on in the fighting in Europe.
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Jeff et al

    If one is prepared to spend the time, there is, on the internet, a fair amount of info on the subject .
    I have highlit the relevant passage on this document originating from Yad Vashem and it bears out my original thoughts on the subject.


    (Jewish and Soviet prisoners of war), two hundred thousand Jewish soldiers of the various Allied armies and more than five million Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II. The Jewish POWs were treated differently based on which army they belonged to.
    Jewish soldiers from the armies of Western countries, including the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and its Jewish units from Palestine, were generally treated the same as any other POWs from those countries. The policy was very different for Jews serving in the Polish and Soviet armies. About 65,000 Polish-Jewish soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans. The Germans separated out the Jewish prisoners; they tortured them, gave them meager food rations, and made them do hard labor. By mid- 1940, 25,000 Jewish prisoners of war had perished. Prisoners of war from the German-occupied territories of Poland were sent to ghettos, where they shared the fate of the rest of the Jews there. Jews from the Soviet-occupied parts of Poland were sent to camps in the Lublin district, where no more than a few hundred survived. About 85,000 Jewish soldiers from the Soviet army were taken prisoner; all of them were killed by the Germans, no matter what rank. After the Jews, the largest group murdered by the Nazis were Soviet prisoners of war. About 5.7 million soldiers of the Soviet army were captured by the Germans; 3.5 million perished. Given starvation rations and treated brutally, many succumbed, while others were murdered outright. This treatment was a direct result of Nazi ideology which considered Slavs (including Russians) to be subhuman. Russian soldiers were seen as especially dangerous because they were supposedly imbued with Bolshevism. Among other places, thousands of Soviet POWs were imprisoned in Auschwitz and Majdanek. In Auschwitz, they were the first victims of murder experiments using Zyklon B gas. In order to escape this terrible treatment, many Soviet POWs volunteered to become guards in the concentration camps, where some became notorious
    for their cruelty. A Jewish Soviet POW, Aleksandr Pechersky, led the Sobibor uprising.
  8. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Thanks Ron, I only ask because I came across a site while posting on Otto's other site about Brotish pow's at Auschwitz camps, which gave some detail about serving Jewish folk in allied uniform across the world in ww2. Gave some figures of served etc. Was a good site and would have fitten in well with this thread, but cant for the life of me find the thing again now. Suppose I'll find it agian sometime and will put it up, its worth a read.

  9. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

    Troops from the Palestinian labour coys were captured in Greece. I have seen a photo in the German propaganda magazine Signal which shows a Jewish soldier being questioned upon his capture
  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  11. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Several Brigade veterans, like Haim Laskov and Shlomo Shamir, made it to command posts in the Haganah during the 1948 Independence War.
  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hi Warlord
    You draw our attention to:
    Several Brigade veterans, like Haim Laskov and Shlomo Shamir, made it to command posts in the Haganah during the 1948 Independence War.

    You are quite correct, of course, and many of the Jewish Brigade eventually found themselves back in what was later to become the State of Israel and were of the right age to participate in the wars that were to come.

    The museum at Beit Ha G'duddim, just North of Netanya, graphically shows all the links from both WW1 & WW2 servicemen and women to the nascent State of Isreael and I heartily recommend a visit there if one is in the area.

    I have managed three trips there in the past and wrote about the museum here:



    On re-reading my original posting I see that I promised to post a couple of WW1 pics. I thought these two were fairly evocative of the period.

    Attached Files:

    Sanne likes this.
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Jewish personnel operated in clandestine units within the British Army and members of the Hagana unit, which would have been an illegal organisation in the old mandate of Palestine,were murdered at Mauthausen in early 1945.Not that their treatment here was any different to the treatment meted out to SOE operatives and to Russian POW NCOs who were murdered here under the "Bullet decree".

    Attached Files:

  14. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Was the Jewish Brigade an evolution of the SIG and 10th Commando?
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Possibly a stupid Q.

    Was the Jewish Brigade made up of people of just the Jewish faith? Or was it just prodominately made up of Jews?

  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Not a stupid question at all.

    My late brother Mick was in the Jewish Brigade in Italy but I can't ever remember us discussing that question after the war.
    BBC - WW2 People's War - Sgt.Major Mick Goldstein, Royal Fusiliers and Jewish Brigade

    My own gut reaction would be that it would have been most unlikely for a non-Jew to have volunteered for the Jewish Brigade, but having said, that it wouldn't surprise in the least me to hear from someone that they know of such a case :)

  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks Ron,

    It was the list of books you sent me that got me thinking.

    I wondered if they may have been like some Indian formations for example with British Officers albeit their's was more of a nationality related formation rather than religious - so non Jewish British officers.

    So if the officer's were Jewish right up to I would assume a Brigadier. After mentioning nationality above I'm now think was it made up of purely British Jews or did it consist of any nationality as long as they were of the Jewish faith?

    Quite interesting really. Anyone know the reasoning behind its formation? I'm supposing mainly political/propaganda?

    Thanks again
  18. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Britain had made several 'political' accomodations with the Palestinian Jews, several of whom (including Moshe Dyan) served in SOE, and many served in the Jewish Brigade, the site linked below gives the orbat for the Brigade.
    The Jewish Brigade

    there was also a documentary film

    In Our Own Hands (1998) - IMDb

    The historian Martin Sugarman has written a good book on the British Jews in the Forces it's title is Fighting Back-British Jewry's Contribution in the Second World War, and was published by Valentine Mitchell in 2010.
  19. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    From Hansard 1947

    HANSARD 1803–2005 1940s 1947 July 1947 1 July 1947 Commons Sitting BRITISH ARMY
    Jewish Brigade Group

    HC Deb 01 July 1947 vol 439 cc1125-7 1125 § 28. General Sir George Jeffreys asked the Secretary of State for War how many Jews were enlisted in the Jewish Brigade and served outside Palestine during the recent war; what were the numbers of the Jewish Brigade; whether it was necessary to complete it with non-Jews owing to the lack of Jewish recruits; and if he will give the casualty figures of the Jewish Brigade.

    § Mr. Bellenger Three thousand, one hundred and seventy Jews were serving in the Jewish Brigade Group outside Palestine at the end of the war in Europe. The total strength of the Brigade Group was then 4,021. The answer to the third part of the Question is, No, Sir; the non-Jewish personnel were included because a nucleus of experienced officers and other ranks was necessary, not because of lack of Jews; there were many Jews in other units. The answer to the last part of the Question is 33 killed, 157 wounded and four missing.

    § Sir G. Jeffreys Are we to infer from the Minister's reply that the actual services of the Jewish Brigade were not of a very important kind, and that the actual 1126 part they took in the fighting was not a very great part?

    § Mr. Bellenger I, personally, should not like to draw that deduction from my answer. I have given the facts, and the House must draw its own conclusions.

    § Mr. Janner Is my right hon. Friend aware that ever since 1939 the Jewish Agency had pressed for a Jewish Brigade or Group to be formed, that their request was not granted until 1944, that the first opportunity the Brigade had of fighting was in 1945, and that high tributes were paid to them by the Leader of the Opposition and by other eminent persons?

    § Mr. Stokes And in 1946 they blew up the King David.

    § Mr. Janner On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling in this matter, Mr. Speaker? My hon. Friend has made a statement which is a direct insult' to a very gallant force, and I am asking you, Sir, whether he was in Order in making that imputation without having the slightest ground on which to make it?

    § Mr. Stokes The White Paper.

    § Mr. Speaker This is a matter of great controversy and I know that each side feels very strongly about it, but I think that the hon. Member was not out of Order.

    § Mr. Wilkes Without wishing in any way to add to the amount of heat that has been generated, would it not be wise for the House to remember that, owing to the late formation in the course of the war of this force, through no fault of the Jewish people in Palestine, at the same time as the formation of the Brigade itself. 22,000 Jews were actually serving as attached forces to the British Army, with divisions and brigades, all over the Middle East and in Europe, and should not this fact weigh with the House?

    § Mr. Speaker I am bound to point out that this Question relates only to the Jewish Brigade, and not to those serving in the Armed Forces.

    § 37. Mr. Edelman asked the Secretary of State for War what percentage of the Jews of the Jewish Brigade were volunteers and what percentage conscripts; when was a request first made by Jews to form a fighting brigade and when was permission given; and what com- 1127 parison the enlistment of Palestinian Jews in His Majesty's Forces during the war bears with that of His Majesty's other subjects.

    § Mr. J. Freeman As regards the first part of the Question, exact figures are not available; the great majority, however, were volunteers. The first official request by Jews to form a Jewish Force was made on 26th November, 1943. A signal was sent to the then Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, on 2nd September. 1944, ordering him to raise this force. Insufficient information is available readily to answer the last part of the Question.

    § Mr. Edelman Will my hon. Friend answer the first part of the Question, which asks what percentage were volunteers and what percentage were conscripts?

    § Mr. Freeman I have already stated that I have not got the figures, but the great majority were volunteers.

    § Earl Winterton In justice to the very large number of Jews, the majority of them non-Zionists, who served with great gallantry in His Majesty's Forces, will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that this relates only to the comparatively small number from the Jewish Brigade in Palestine? Is that so?

    § Mr. Freeman Yes, Sir.
  20. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

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