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Jewish Brigade

JEWISH BRIGADE

Established by the British war cabinet in 1944 as the only Jewish military unit to fight the Axis powers.

The Jewish Brigade represented the culmination of efforts by Jews in both Palestine and the United States to create an independent Jewish fighting force. In 1939, Jews in Palestine began to volunteer for military service, and after repeated pressure from the Jewish Agency and other Jewish organizations, in 1942 the British agreed to form a Palestine Regiment. The Palestine Regiment was sent to serve in the Middle East, although its responsibilities there were primarily restricted to guard duty.

Finally, in September 1944, the British created the Jewish Brigade (in Hebrew, Ha-Hayil ) out of the Palestine Regiment, a field artillery regiment, and other auxiliary service units. The men, numbering approximately 5,000, were placed under the command of a Canadian-born Jew, Brigadier Ernest Frank Benjamin of the Royal Engineers, and they continued their training with the Eighth Army in Italy. In early 1945, the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade saw their first fighting at Alfonsine, and in April 1945 they led the offensive across the Senio River.

As they moved into northern Italy, the Jewish soldiers met Holocaust survivors for the first time; thereafter they provided them with food, clothing, and assistance immigrating to Palestine. They continued these activities in Belgium, Austria, Germany, and Holland and also assisted the Allied authorities in searching for Holocaust survivors.

In 1946, the Jewish Brigade was disbanded, partly because of increasing tension between the Yishuv and the mandatory authorities.

see also jewish agency for palestine; yishuv.


Bibliography


Beckman, Morris. The Jewish Brigade: An Army with Two Masters, 19441945. Staplehurst: Spellmount, 1998.

Blum, Howard. The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation and World War II. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Rabinowitz, Louis. Soldiers from Judaea, Palestinian Jewish Units in the Middle East, 19411943. New York: American Zionist Emergency Council, 1945.

bryan daves

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