Dina Poljakoff -Jewish nurse who was offered an Iron Cross.

The role of Finland during World War 2 is a strange one. They were part of the axis powers, not so much because they were great fans of the Nazi regime, but because they saw a powerful ally in Germany to fight the soviets.

There were about 2000 Jews in Finland during World War 2, 300 of them were refugees from Germany and Austria.


In 1941 Germany stationed troops in northern Finland and Finland then joined Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union. Some 300 Jews served in the Finnish army during the war. The German authorities requested that the
Finnish government hand over its Jewish community, but the Finns refused.
Reportedly, when SS chief Heinrich Himmler brought up the ׂJewish question
with Prime Minister Johann Wilhelm Rangell in mid-1942, Rangell replied that there was no Jewish question in Finland; he firmly stated that the country had but 2,000 respected Jewish citizens, some of who who fought in the army just like everyone else, and as such closed the issue to discussion. The Germans did not press the issue, as they were afraid to lose Finnish cooperation against the Soviets. However, later that year, Gestapo chief Heinrich Muller convinced the head of the Finnish State Police, Arno Anthoni, to deport Jewish refugees. Undertaken in secret, the deportation plan was discovered by the Finnish cabinet, which managed to stop it from being fully implemented. Nevertheless, eight Jews were handed over to the Germans. Ultimately, only one of the eight survived. Many clergymen and politicians condemned the deportation, and as a result the Finnish government refused to surrender any more Jews to the Germans. The majority of the Finnish Jews and refugees remained unharmed during the war. However they did hand over some Soviet Jewish prisoners of war over to the Nazis.

Finnish Jewish soldiers outside a field synagogue during WW2

Dina Poljakoff was a Finnish nurse. Although she was Jewish, she was offered the Iron Cross by Nazi Germany during World War II.

A native of Finland, Poljakoff was studying dentistry before the outbreak of World War II.During the war, she worked as a nurse for Lotta Svärd, an auxiliary organization associated with the White Guard. She served in the front lines of combat during World War II alongside German military units. She was not the only Jewish nurse to perform such service; her cousin, Chaje Steinbock, also worked as a nurse and accumulated a scrapbook of heartfelt messages of thanks from German soldiers who had been under her care.

Dina Poljakoff made quite an impression on her German patients, to the point that she was nominated for the Iron Cross. She was one of three Finnish Jews to be offered the award; like the other two (Leo Skurnik and Salomon Klass), she did not accept the award. Unlike the other two, she did not ask for her name to be withdrawn from the recipient list, and on the day of the awards ceremony she checked the display table to verify that her award was there, before leaving without it.

Poljakoff immigrated to Israel after the war, where she died in 2005.

sources

https://academic.oup.com/hgs/article-abstract/9/1/70/554146?redirectedFrom=PDF


https://www.tracesofwar.com/persons/77291/Poljakoff-Dina.htm

https://frankensaurus.com/Dina_Poljakoff

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Jews in World War 2

bomb

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.

leo

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.

synagogue

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.

usarmy

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.

leolichten

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.

jewishbritish

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.

troops

 

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Sources

The Telegraph

Haaretz

Wikipedia

 

Roosevelt directives June 1941

0615-coversa

Although the US stayed initially neutral during WWII,it had been making preparations for an eventual war with the Axis powers.

Worsening relations with the Axis powers prompted President Roosevelt to order all German assets in the U.S. frozen on June 14, 1941. On June 16 he ordered the withdrawal of German and Italian consular staffs by July 10.

 

June-41-U.S.-ousts-Germany-2

The executive order was signed for  freezing all German and Italian assets.
The order was also  coupled with new regulations giving the Government complete
authority over European assets in the United States.

The executive order read in part: “It has come to the knowledge of this Government that agencies of the German Reich in this country, including German consular establishments, have been engaged in activities wholly outside the scope of their legitimate duties. These activities have been of an improper and unwarranted character. They render the continued presence in the United States of those agencies and consular establishments inimical to the welfare of this country.”

freezing

In December that year the US entered the war after the Pearl Harbor attack.

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

New York Times

New York Herald Tribune