As the title suggests, this blog is about Jews in WWII. However it is not about Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. This is about the Jews who fought on both sides, for the allied troops but also for the Axis powers.
This may sound crazy but some Jews even got awarded an Iron Cross.
Major Leo Skurnik was a Jewish soldier/medical officer in the Finnish army.
In September 1941 he organized an evacuation of a German field hospital when it came under Soviet attack. In excess of 600 patients, including SS soldiers, were evacuated.For this action he was awarded the Iron Cross.
Skurnik was one of three Finnish Jews who were bestowed the Iron Cross class 2 . All refused to accept the award.
More then 300 Finnish Jewish soldiers found themselves ‘allied’ to the Nazis when Finland, who had a mutual enemy in the Soviet Union, joined the war in June 1941.
Despite Germany demanding that Finland introduce anti-Semitic laws like in the rest of Nazi-controlled Europe, the Finns refused, treating their Jewish soldiers with respect. They even allowed the Jewish soldiers to practice their religion.
There was even a field synagogue for these soldiers, some German soldiers sometimes even visited the synagogue and showed respect for the Jews who prayed there, despite the propaganda they had subjected to for years.
It was not so much the case that these Finnish Jewish soldiers subscribed to the Nazi philosophy ,but more of a case of fighting an enemy which was feared more in Finland, the Soviet Union.
On the other hand there were Jews fighting for the allies. About 500,000 American Jews served in the various branches of the United States armed services. approximately 52,000 of these received U.S. military awards/ They fought in Europe and the Pacific.
One of the American Jewish soldiers was private Leo Lichten. He was killed in action just outside the village of Prummern,in Germany near the Dutch border.
On November 20,1944.Leo’s company, Company A, received the order, 1944, to attack pillboxes (small bunkers).The weather conditions were severe , and the ground was muddy, making the battle even more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Leo stormed one of the pillboxes, and was killed by machine gun fire. His body was laid to rest in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten. Last year I visited his grave and paid my respects.
The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group,also known as the Jewish Brigade Group or Jewish Brigade, was a military division of the British Army during World War II. It was formed in late 1944 and consisted of recruits of Jews from the then Mandatory Palestine and was commanded by Anglo-Jewish officers. It served in the latter stages of the Italian Campaign.
In October 1944, led by Brigadier Ernest F. Benjamin, the brigade group was sent to Italy where it joined British 8th Army in November 1944, which was engaged in the Italian Campaign under 15th Army Group.
The brigade group did partake in the Spring Offensive of 1945. On March 19–20, 1945, it initiated two attacks. It moved to the Senio River sector, where it fought against the German 4th Parachute Division commanded by General lieutenant Heinrich Trettner. On April 9, the brigade crossed the river and established a bridgehead, widening it the following day. At the duration of the operations in Italy the Jewish Brigade suffered 30 casualties and 70 wounded.
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