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Over 4 000 Jews fought - and died - on D-Day

  • D-Day Einstein_oppenheimer
Today, SAJR publishes the introduction to an 8-part series of articles on the 1,8-mil Jews who fought in Allied armies during WWII. Shabbos marks the 71st anniversary of the D-Day landings. That was almost 20% of all Jews remaining alive in 1945! 250 000 died in combat and nearly 200 000 after being taken as Nazi POWs. They knew that capture by the Nazis meant death camps for them, but they stayed the course. In total 4,2% of all US soldiers, 1,5% of Canadians and 1% of British forces were Jewish. Read on...
by ANT KATZ | Jun 02, 2015

The anniversary of the D-Day landings falls on this Shabbos, June 6. World Jewry tends to think of D-Day as the beginning of the campaign that would liberate the camps, which is understandable given the massive part the Shoah plays on the psyche of every Jew.

We tend to forget, however, that over 4 000 of the soldiers who landed on the four Normandy beaches on D-Day were Jewish. They made up 4,2 per cent of the Americans; one per cent of the British; and 1,5 per cent of the Canadian forces.

We also forget the large numbers among those 4 000 who perished and lie among the graves in Normand, which is evidenced by the three types of Jewish headstones used by the US, Canadian and British forces.

In total, about one and a half million Jewish soldiers fought in Allied forces, including: The Soviet Union, US, Poland, Great Britain (including the Jewish Brigade), Australia, New-Zealand, Canada, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, South-Africa, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Yugoslavia.

40 000 Jews also fought as partisans or in the underground (not including ghetto uprisings) in various theatres of war. All-in-all about 250 000 Jewish soldiers died in battle and around 200 000 were taken as POWs by the Germans (over 100 000 from the Red Army alone). Almost none remained alive by war’s end.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW PICTURE

 D-Day Masthead HOME

Stones on a Canadian soldier’s gravestone – all Allied forces had special headstones for their Jewish servicemen who were buried among their fellow-countrymen


Another 40 000 Jews from Eretz Yisrael were drafted into the British Army. 5 000 of them went into the Jewish Brigade, of whom 668 died during the war.

The 21 400 Canadian troops who landed on Juno beach were primarily co-ordinated by a British Jew, David Teacher, who was born in Hastings and brought up both in England and Mandate Palestine. Teacher joined the RAF based in Scotland. In 1943 he obtained a special “unofficial” weekend pass to marry his childhood sweetheart at Prestwich’s Holy Law Synagogue.

From June to August 1944, Teacher helped direct Canadian assault troops. “We slept in the sand and for the first two or three weeks we were under constant fire from German guns,” Teacher later recalled.

Jewish soldiers were told of the dangers of being captured, as they faced being put on cattle trucks to the concentration camps in Poland. But it did not deter them from front-line service.

Hard information has been difficult to come by, but Jewish Report has done a  research into the efforts and sacrifices of Jews in the Second World War after being tipped off by Cape Town reader Percy Tucker last month.

Our website, www.sajr.co.za, will be running a series of eight articles over the next few weeks - packed with information and pictures of interest (including several taken by Percy Tucker and Gail Leibman.

D-Day Einstein_oppenheimer


For example, one episode tells the story of the Manhattan Project, the code name for the secret development of the “atom bomb” - which was an almost exclusively Jewish-led project. Pictured are Albert Einstein and project director, Ernest Oppenheimer, putting their heads together


Jewish Report’s call to readers who could supply information, anecdotes and pictures was also well-responded to. Readers are welcome to submit anything they have to offer to:
online.editor@sajr.co.za and use the subject line WWII. Seven great submissions have already garnered a wealth of information, specifically on the part played by SA Jewry - and a book that was published on their efforts by the Board of Deputies.

Approximately 92 British Jewish men died on D-Day and in the Normandy landings, but not every serviceman identified himself as Jewish, often because of fears of being captured and sent to a concentration camp, according to the (British) Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex).

Many Jewish servicemen removed or “lost” their identifying dog-tags for this reason. One young British Jew who died was Private Norman Vine of the 6th Airborne Division, shot down parachuting into France on D-Day aged 20. Another, Captain Lionel Lee - who was awarded the Military Cross after serving with the Royal Armoured Corp - died aged 27.

Jewish Report’s series of articles cataloguing the Jews of the Second World War, will forever remain on the Internet and we hope they will be read for years to come.

D-Day Percy Week1

Percy Tucker of Cape Town, who inspired this investigative series, took this splendid picture of the grave of a Jewish Canadian serviceman who paid the ultimate price on  Juno  beach on D-Day


1 Comment

  1. 1 Ed Donchey 03 Aug
    I just returned from the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Their brochure mentioned that of the 9,387 headstones, there were only 149 Stars of David. That is puzziling. Can you comment on this seemingly erroneous statement?

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