Jewish Servicemen POWs in Second World War

#1
G'Day Folks
I have often wondered the fate of Jewish servicemen in the British Armed Forces taken prisoner by the German Army in WW2 but have never read of this in any memoirs or history. For instance, in 1940 following the battle for France the Germans took thousands of British prisoners amongst whom were undoubtedly some Jewish soldiers. Were they shot out of hand? Were their identities concealed? Were they removed from the main POW population for "special treatment"? Was there any protest by the men's comrades? In short what happened and how? Is any Arrser aware of any regimental history describing these events.

I'm not a journo, walt or scribbler, just a former :rmp: warrant officer with an interest.
 
#2
As far as I know, all Jewish p.o.ws were treated in accordance with the then current conventions on treatment of armed combatants. This would include unarmed pioneer troops, many of whom were "jewish German " refugees. Am sure someone more informed will provide the relevant links.
 

Mr_Fingerz

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
#4
I know that Jewish G.I.'s (and others who "Appeared Jewish") from the 106th & 28th Infantry Divisions captured in the Ardennes were seperated from POW's @ Stalag IX-B and sent to Berga Concentration Camp in Thuringia.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/27/m...=9629d5012ee0febb&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland

I would hope any of the British POW's of Jewish heritage would have been treated according to the Geneva/Hague conventions.
 
#5
Amongst the South African troops captured at Tobruk in 1942 were a fair amount of Jewish servicemen and they were not treated any differently to the rest. I had the pleasure of knowing one of them, a friend of my grandfather's (he himself served in Italy), both sadly now deceased. He wrote a book about his experiences- Inside Story by Ike Rosmarin. Ike was devoted to the Red Cross for the rest of his life, he said that without those food packages a lot of the blokes wouldn't have survived.
 

cpunk

LE
Moderator
#6
Broadly they were treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions as any other Brit POW was, although I wouldn't be in the least surprised if some weren't subject to additional brutality. I recall that Pat Reid mentions a Jewish British POW called Goldman being at Colditz as one of the officer prisoners' orderlies in 'The Colditz Story'.
 
#7
Found this interesting little bit

http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft Word - 5751.pdf

(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.
 

Mr_Fingerz

LE
Book Reviewer
#8
Could you please change the colour? A light blue-green on a light blue background just merges and makes it unreadable after 30secs.
 
#9
There seems to be no evidence that the Germans tried to filter out British & Commonwealth Jews from amongst British & Commonwealth PoWs.

However, German & European Jews in exile and in service with British forces were usually given new identities to conceal their origins, as the Germans may have had an argument under international law that these people were not legitimate PoWs. Viz, Louis Hagen who became "Lewis Haig" when he joined the Glider Pilot Regiment.
 
#10
4(T) said:
There seems to be no evidence that the Germans tried to filter out British & Commonwealth Jews from amongst British & Commonwealth PoWs.

However, German & European Jews in exile and in service with British forces were usually given new identities to conceal their origins, as the Germans may have had an argument under international law that these people were not legitimate PoWs. Viz, Louis Hagen who became "Lewis Haig" when he joined the Glider Pilot Regiment.
Another good example is Munich University economics graduate Rudolf Freidlaender who served as Robert Lodge in the SSRF and SAS. He was captured three times. Once in Sicily then escaped and recatured from Italy then escaped again and evaded through to allied lines. The Germans didnlt always p[lay according to the laws of war, in particular againts raiders. Friedlaender/Lodge was captured again and probably tortured before being shot in September 1944 in the Vosges - along with other captured SAS men and quite a few frenchmen. Their names are on the Phantom memorial at the NMA.
 
#11
I understand that they were treated IAW the Genva Conventions, although one Jewish ex-serviceman I spoke with recalled burying his ID when it looked as if his unit was being overrun in the Desert, specifically because he knew about Geman attitudes.
The Germans would have been bound to keep to the Conventions, if only for fear of reprisal. I'm less sure how well those Jews would have been treated if we'd lost the war: does anybody know how the French/Dutch etc Jewish POW were treated? On the Eastern Front (Poland, USSR) the Germans seem to have shot them out of hand, but that went for pretty well anybody else that they came across, so it's hard to discern 'discrimination'
 
#12
It was compulsory that all successful volunteers for 3 Tp (X Tp) of No.10 Cdo (IA) chose a British name and were given a regimental record, typically the Buffs. 3 Tp had the criteria of being fluent German speakers with home or residential experience in Germany or a ‘German’ territory. Most were Austrian and many were Jewish.

However, after Hitler’s Commando Order of ’42, all captured Special Service troops were supposed to be interrogated and killed. :omg: Fortunately this was largely ignored and never regarded as a consideration by the men.

On occasions British soldiers with foreign names were given the option of a temporary name change identity while in certain theatres. Most examples of this I have found were during N. Africa for British soldiers with German or Italian surnames. Doesn’t appear to have been much take-up though?

No.9

ps Re Polish/Soviet Jews, bit of a bad situation there. Pre-war Poland was the most anti Semitic country in Greater Europe and had a high concentration of Jewish citizens. After the German invasion they found it was not hard to get Polac support in Jewish persecution. Progressively there were very large numbers of Jewish refugees on the run. Small bands of Partisans (ex army or civilian) were typically hostile to Polish Jewish citizens and rejected them. After Hitler turned on Stalin, many found a home of sorts with Soviet Partisans, who generally were indifferent to their religion.

Some displaced Jews became active Partisans – at least one group form their own Unit – but most were camp followers just trying to survive. Military resources, in any even, were meagre. SOE reports while good intelligence efforts persisted, actual field Partisans only accounted for a very small percentage of otherwise displaced persons, and it was evaluated that at best only one in ten had any kind of weapon. In many/most cases sabotage was effected by British trained mission operatives.

The Germans, and generally the gentile Polacs, held the view that Jews were automatically Communist and therefore an enemy of the State. As far as Hitler was concerned, they were all ‘bandits’ and as such more ‘vermin’ than ‘untermensch’.
 
#13
We've got a wealth of knowledge amongst our membership. :D Thank you very much for all the prompt and informative replies including links to further sources, which I've begun to follow up. More years ago than I care to remember I spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel and spoke to a former member of the Jewish Brigade who told me about his service. I didn't realise though that the Germans respected our Jewish soldiers' POW status.

Many thanks to all posters :rmp:
 
#14
In almost every CWGC I have visited in North Africa, Italy Germany I was always amazed at just how Many Jewish Graves where there even in Berlin there are a lot of Jewish RAF dead
 
#15
AHP: you might want to have a look around this site http://www.specialforcesroh.com/browse.php

Probably a bit more depth than your subject but it does record certain individual histories, some of which have been mentioned by other posters.
 
#16
tropper66 said:
In almost every CWGC I have visited in North Africa, Italy Germany I was always amazed at just how Many Jewish Graves where there even in Berlin there are a lot of Jewish RAF dead
Thats because Britian has had a large Jewish population since the end of the 19th Century. Immigration isn't a new phenomena. The holocaust has overshadowed almost every other aspect of the Jewish contribuition to the world wars.
 
#17
At the fall of Calais in 1940 virtually the whole of 2nd Bn. The Kings Royal Rifle Corps (along with 1st Bn. The Rifle Brigade, the Queen Victoria's Rifles and the Queens Westminster Rifles) was taken prisoner amongst them was one Bugler Reuben Silver. He was from a family of East End Jews and I think other family members were serving in the KRR's at the time. He spent the whole of the war in a POW camp along with his comrades, seems to have come to no harm because of his background, and was repatriated in 1945. He remained in the Regiment and later became Bugle Major of 2 Green Jackets (KRRC) immediately preceding the legendary Bugle Major Colin Green. He was serving with the battalion in Berlin in 1961 when he died of a heart attack and is buried there. There's a cracking photo of him in the Sgts. Mess of 2RGJ, as swarthy dark-haired, sharp-featured and compact man, immaculately dressed in his Greens, Cross-Belt and Rifle Cap. A brother of his was Provost Sergeant of one of Apprentice Colleges in the mid-60's I believe
 
#18
Ancient_Hush_Puppy said:
We've got a wealth of knowledge amongst our membership. :D Thank you very much for all the prompt and informative replies including links to further sources, which I've begun to follow up. More years ago than I care to remember I spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel and spoke to a former member of the Jewish Brigade who told me about his service. I didn't realise though that the Germans respected our Jewish soldiers' POW status.

Many thanks to all posters :rmp:
A good source for you might be AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex- Servicemen) which represents Jewish ex-servicemen in the UK. They have a small museum also and a curator I think so they may have information you.
 
#19
Jaeger said:
At the fall of Calais in 1940 virtually the whole of 2nd Bn. The Kings Royal Rifle Corps (along with 1st Bn. The Rifle Brigade, the Queen Victoria's Rifles and the Queens Westminster Rifles) was taken prisoner amongst them was one Bugler Reuben Silver. He was from a family of East End Jews and I think other family members were serving in the KRR's at the time. He spent the whole of the war in a POW camp along with his comrades, seems to have come to no harm because of his background, and was repatriated in 1945. He remained in the Regiment and later became Bugle Major of 2 Green Jackets (KRRC) immediately preceding the legendary Bugle Major Colin Green. He was serving with the battalion in Berlin in 1961 when he died of a heart attack and is buried there. There's a cracking photo of him in the Sgts. Mess of 2RGJ, as swarthy dark-haired, sharp-featured and compact man, immaculately dressed in his Greens, Cross-Belt and Rifle Cap. A brother of his was Provost Sergeant of one of Apprentice Colleges in the mid-60's I believe
I also read of a Ranger (9th KRRC), a Jew, who was captured in Crete. He ended the war in Colditz as an officers batman.
 
R

renamed_user

Guest
#20
On a similar subject regarding PoW's. How was it that when the French surrendered in 1940, some of their armed forces were taken into captivity but a large number remained under arms and indeed fought under the vichy regime against the allies?
Was it a case of signing up for the new German controlled state or refusing and finding yourself behind the wire?
 

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