The Brief War of An Only Son: PFC Jochanan Tartakower, May 3, 1925 – September 29, 1944

PFC Jochanan Tartakower
315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
United States Army

“….for the past few years I have been preparing myself mentally for that event,
and now I feel that the hour is coming when I,
in my small way,
will avenge the crimes committed.

And I think in my place, being an infantryman,
I will get my best chance.

I think a lot about the movement and about Aretz;
it is curious how war can influence your thinking,
and being in the army and fighting even more.”

May 3, 1925 (Lodz Poland) – September 29, 1944 (France)
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –


On January 10, 1945, the New York Times published a Casualty List covering the New York Metropolitan area, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut, which – though by no means the largest Casualty List that appeared in the Times during the war – was staggering in terms of its nominal visual impact, let alone the number of names appearing within it.

The List was extracted from a nationwide Casualty List comprised of 6,178 names, specifically being limited to members of the Army killed and wounded in the European Theater of War.  Like other Casualty Lists that appeared in wartime newspapers, the presentation of information was simple, stark, and straightforward:

Entries were limited to the soldier’s surname, his given (first and middle) names, the name of his next-of-kin (mother; father; wife; friend; aunt; uncle), specific residential address (for soldiers who resided in the five boroughs of New York), while for soldiers from New Jersey or Connecticut, the “address” was limited to his city or town of residence.

Each name on the list represented a person – a world – that extended well beyond the nominal confines of a name, rank, serial number, and military unit.  Each name on the list embodied a past, a brief present, and future that would not be.  Each name on the embodied and symbolized told a unique story.

One of the names on the list was – like many names on the list – for a simple Private First Class.  His name?  Jochanan Tartakower.  His story was markedly – if not dramatically – different from most.

He was born in Poland in 1925, the only child of Dr. Arieh and Malwina Tartakower. 

Dr. Tartakower, a graduate of the University of Vienna with specializations in demography and sociology, had a lifelong involvement in a variety of leadership and academic research positions in Jewish affairs, particularly in the realms of Labor Zionism, aid and assistance for Jewish refugees, and ultimately as Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  His life was one of idealism, action, and academic research, the last exemplified through the publication of numerous articles and books, the titles of some of the latter being listed in his Jewish Virtual Library and Wikipedia entries.  Born in Poland in 1897, he died in Jerusalem in November of 1982.


Dr. Arieh Tartakower, from his Wikipedia entry.

Strikingly, however, neither of the above references, nor his obituary at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency mention his son, Jochanan, the course of whose life – dictated by other forces – took a very different course.

Born in Lodz in 1925, Jochanan reached the United States in 1941, where his father had been residing after the 1939 World Zionist Congress in Geneva.  (The accounts of their journeys differ between The American Hebrew and Aufbau.  Both are presented below – with the latter probably being more accurate.)  Malwina had a far more arduous journey, reaching America only after traveling through the Soviet Union, the Yishuv, and possibly Japan, probably reaching her husband and son in 1943. 

Once in America, Jochanan, who listed his home address as 129 West 85th Street in Manhattan, enrolled in City College, where he studied engineering.


The first notice of Jochanan’s death was penned by Max Beer and published in Aufbau on October 27, 1944.  The article and my (approximate!) translation are presented below:


Friday, October 27, 1944

Dr. A. Tartakower – Mitglied der Exekutive des Jüdischen Weltkongresses – und seine Gattin Malwina wurden in diesen Tagen durch das War Department davon verstangt, dass ihr einziger Sohn, der neunzehnjährige Pfc. Jochanan am 29. September in Frankreich “in action” den Tod gefunden hat.  Mit den Eltern trauern alle ihre Freunde um den hochbegabten liebenswerten jungen Mann, der mit Begeisterung in den Krieg zog, als Amerikaner und als Jude.

Jochanan Tartakower, geboren am 3. Mai 1925 in Lodz, war nach einer abenteurlichen Flucht Polen im Jahre 1941 in Amerika eingetroffen, wo sein Vater weilte, nachdem ihn die Invasion Polens im September 1939 auf dem Genfer Zionistkongress uberrascht hatte.  Der Mutter, die der Krieg ebenfalls von ihrem Sohn getrennt hatte, gelang es erst nach vier Jahren, in mühseliger Wanderung uber Russland und Palastina, die Ihren in Amerika wiederzufinden.

Aber die Familie sollte nocht lange vereitn bleiben.  Jochanan, der am City College Ingenieurwissenschaft mit glanzendem Erfolg studierte.  Prasident der Habonim und, wie die Eltern, tif mit hebráischem und judischen Wissen vertraut war, tockte kurze Zeit nach der Ankunft der Mutter in das Heer ein und ging nach Frankreich.

Alle, die den prächtigen, vornehmen jungen Mann gekannt haben, liebten ihn ung sagten im eine glänzende Freunde von Arieh und Malwina Tartakower, die das unermüdliche Wirken des Ehepaares für die Sache des Judentums und der Menschheit kenne, wissen, dass die trotz der schweren Prüfung, die ihnen auferlegt wurde, mit ganzer Seele und mit allen Kräften weiter den Kampf für die grosse Sache führen werden, der ihr Sohn seine Jugend und sein Leben gab.

Max Beer.

Dr. A. Tartakower, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress, and his wife Malwina, were advised by the War Department that their only son, nineteen-year-old Pfc. Jochanan was killed on September 29 in France “in action”.  With the parents, all their friends mourn for the high-spirited, loving young man, who was enthusiastically drawn to war, as an American and a Jew.

Jochanan Tartakower, born May 3, 1925 in Lodz, arrived in America in 1941 – where his father had been staying with the 1939 Geneva Zionist Congress, after the invasion of Poland in September – after an adventurous flight from Poland.  The mother, whom the war had also separated from her son, succeeded only four years later, through toilsome wandering over Russia and Palestine, to find him again in America.

But the family should stay a long time.  Jochanan, who studied engineering sciences at City College with brilliant success.  He was President of Habonim, and acquainted with Hebrew and Jewish knowledge like the parents, a short time after the arrival of the mother, entered the army and went to France.

All those who have known the splendid, distinguished young man loved him, said a brilliant friend of Arieh and Malwina Tartakower, who knew the tireless work of the couple for the cause of Judaism and mankind, that despite the heavy trial which was imposed upon them, will continue the struggle for the great cause, for which her son gave his youth and his life.

Max Beer


The next appearance of Jochanan’s name was in The Jewish Chronicle (and Jewish News, of Detroit) on November 3, 1944.  On that day, the Chronicle published a casualty list which included Jochanan’s name, an exception to the Chronicle’s practice of limiting military casualty (and award) lists to names of servicemen specifically in the armed forces of the British Commonwealth.  Jochanan’s name, which appears near the end of the list, was probably included due to his father’s prominence in Jewish affairs.

Information about some of the men in the above list appears below….

Died of Wounds
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Chenovitch, Barnet, Pte., 6150664, Somerset Light Infantry, Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Died of Wounds June 7, 1944, Imphal-Kohima, Burma
Mr. and Mrs. Solomon and Yetta Chenovitch (parents), 1 Eastdown House, Amhurst Road, Hackney, London, E8, England
Born 1921
Imphal War Cemetery, India – 1, B, 10
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
We Will Remember Them I – 70

Dubinsky, William Henry, Pvt., H/200121, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Calgary Highlanders
Died of Wounds 8/13/44
Mr. and Mrs. Shiyah and Eva (Weinman) Dubinsky (parents), 282 Selkirk Ave. / 222 Pritchard Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Born in Russia 6/26/14
Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France – XII, H, 9
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II II – p. 20

Schwartz, William, Gunner, B/138564, Royal Canadian Artillery, 3rd Field Regiment
Died of Wounds 9/4/44
Mr. Sam Schwartz (father), Room 1104, Ford Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Montecchio War Cemetery, Italy – III, B, 16
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II II – 20

Trocki, Adolf, 2 Lt., 05336, Polish Army West, Cavalry, 1 Polska Dywizja Pancerna, 10 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej, 24 Pułk Ułanów im.
Killed in Action 8/16/44
France, Calvados, Jort
Born in Vilno, Poland, 3/24/15
Platoon commander, killed in tank.; Engineer; Information from SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” web site.  Not in SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” database.;
Cimetiere militaire “Langannerie”, Grainville-Langannerie, Calvados, France – Tombe individuelle, Carre Plot V, Rang A, No. 3 (Initially buried at M.R. 7F/4 246406)
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War II – 121

Wounded in Action

Abramovitz, Hymie, Pte., B/155273, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, The Black Watch
Wounded 7/24/44
Mr. Samuel Abramovitz (father), Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 9/29/44, 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II – 85

, Irvin, Pte., B/142219, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)

Wounded 8/27/44
Mr. and Mrs. Nathan and Bessie Besserman (parents), 64 Montrose Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II – 10, 86

, Philip, Pte., D/86038, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

Wounded three times: @ 8/15/43 (Sicily), @ 7/15/44 (Italy), and @ 9/15/44 (Italy)
Mrs. Yetta Blustein (mother), 2195 Wilson Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Born 1920
The Jewish Chronicle 11/19/43, 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II – 88

, Maurice, Gunner, B/21909, Royal Canadian Artillery

Wounded 9/8/44
(Wife), 41 Essex St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II – 88

Prisoner of War

Greenblatt, Chanan David, CQMS, B/46386, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, Argyle and Southern Highlanders
Captured 8/27/44; POW at Stalag 357
Miss S. Greenblatt (sister), 3327 Dundas St., West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Born in Toronto
The Jewish Chronicle 11/3/44
Canadian Jews in World War II II – 124




Some other Jewish military casualties on Friday, September 29, 1944 – when Jochanan was killed in action – include…

Killed in Action
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Adler, Sheldon L., 2 Lt., 0-820188, Co-Pilot, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mr. and Mrs. Louis and Minerva Adler (parents), Doris Adler (sister), 38 Fort Washington St., New York, N.Y.
Born 1925
Casualty List 1/25/45
New York Times Obituary section 10/29/44

American Jews in World War II – 264

Dragoon, Samuel, T/Sgt., 12041050, Flight Engineer, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mrs. Frances R. Dragoon (wife), c/o S. Jaffe, 2000 Vyse Ave., New York, N.Y.
Mrs. Rose Dragoon (mother); T/Sgt. Max Dragoon (brother), 1326 Washington Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Casualty List 12/15/44
Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh) 9/20/46

American Jews in World War II – 298

(Sergeant Dragoon’s brother, T/Sgt. Max Dragoon, a member of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action 26 days earlier: On September 3, 1944.  His name appeared in Casualty Lists released on October 8 and November 11, 1944.  Awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, he is buried at the American Cemetery, in Epinal, France – (Plot A, Row 15, Grave 33).)

Sheldon Adler and Samuel Dragoon were crewmen aboard B-24H Liberator 41-29439, “GALLOPIN GHOST” (“6L * K”); of the 787th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, the loss of which is covered in MACR 15774.  The plane was piloted by 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis, and crashed near Lyancourt, France, while returning to its base from a trucking mission to Saint Dizier, France.  According to the MACR, the crash was caused by the simultaneous failure of all four engines: “reason unknown”.  There were no survivors among the aircraft’s six crewmen.  The entire crew – Lt. Adler, T/Sgt. Dragoon, Sgt. Wilbur R. Hain (Observer – from Goodspring, Pa.), 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis (Pilot – from Forth Worth, Tx.), T/Sgt. Paul E. Miller (Radio Operator – from San Bernardino, Ca.), and 2 Lt. Herbert F. Minard (Navigator – from Wichita, Ks.) – was buried in a collective plot (Section 82, Grave 125) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, in Saint Louis, Missouri, on October 3, 1949.


This excellent image (UPL 7610) of the Ghost’s nose art, from the American Air Museum website, shows the crew of pilot Lt. Dorsey L. Baker (standing at left), who completed 32 missions, 30 with the 784th Bomb Squadron.  (The Ghost was assigned to the 784th (as “T9 * K“) before being allocated to the 787th Bomb Squadron.)


This image, also from the American Air Museum website (UPL22744; contributed by Eric Foster), shows four of the airmen who were lost when the Ghost crashed in France on September 29, 1944, as well as other crewmen not aboard the plane on that mission.

Standing, left to right: S/Sgt. Owen Killborn, 2 Lt. Sheldon Adler (co-pilot; KIA 9/29), Lt. Caulk, T/Sgt. Paul E. Miller (radio operator; KIA 9/29), T/Sgt. Samuel Dragoon (flight engineer; KIA 9/29;), 1 Lt. Marshall K. Lewis (pilot; KIA 9/29).  Front row: S/Sgt. Dwight O. Foster, 2 Lt. Herbert F. Minard (navigator; KIA 9/29), S/Sgt. Thomasett, S/Sgt. Albert Spencer.


Bloom, Rubin, PFC, 12014488, United States Army, Purple Heart, 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
United States Army, 9th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment
(Wounded previously – @ 8/27/44)
Mrs. Rose Bloom (mother), 1746 Bathgate Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Born 1918
Montefiore Cemetery, Springfield, Queens, N.Y.
Casualty Lists 10/27/44, 1/10/45
American Jews in World War II – 280

, Lazar Yakovlevich [Бондас, Лазар Яковлевич], Captain [Капитан]

U.S.S.R., Red Army
39th Tank Brigade; Assistant Commander (Headquarters)
Wounded 9/29/44; Died of wounds at 1141st Evacuation Hospital on 12/24/44
Born 1913, Ryazan, Ryazan Oblast
Aron Yakovlevich Bondas (brother)
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Not Listed
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945гг – нет в списке]

, Paul P., T/4, 32132780, United States Army, Purple Heart
United States Army, 4th Armored Division, 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized)
Mr. Benjamin Cravetz (father), 312 Seneca St., Fulton, N.Y.
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France – Plot C, Row 8, Grave 45
Daily Sentinel (Rome, N.Y.) 1/25/45
Syracuse Herald-Journal 1/28/42
American Jews in World War II – 294

, Sam Jack, PFC, 36643868, United States Army, Purple Heart

United States Army, 36th Infantry Division, 142nd Infantry Regiment, C Company
Mr. and Mrs. Efrom and Rose Glickerman (parents), 1403 S. Tripp St., Chicago, Il.
Born 2/22/22
Cemetery location unknown American Jews in World War II – 100

, Sidney W., Pvt., 32988824, United States Army, Purple Heart

United States Army, 91st Infantry Division, 363rd Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Anna Goldsmith (wife), 1171 Morrison Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
Born 1/13/18
Workmen’s Circle #281 Cemetery, Glen Wild, N.Y.
Casualty List 12/15/44
American Jews in World War II – 327

, Marvin H., Pvt., 42079049, United States Army, Purple Heart

4th Armored Division, 51st Armored Infantry Battalion
Mrs. Sadie G. Greenberger (mother), 2825 Grand Concourse, Bronx, N.Y.
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France – Plot C, Row 6, Grave 45
Casualty List 1/10/45
American Jews in World War II – 335

, Raymond E., PFC, 16177224, United States Army, Purple Heart, 1 OLC

United States Army, 36th Infantry Division, 141st Infantry Regiment, B Company
Mrs. Lillian Hora (mother), 18667 Cherrylawn St., Detroit, Mi.
Born 1919
Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France – Plot A, Row 8, Grave 39
American Jews in World War II – 191

, Lev (Leonid) Moiseevich (Mikhaylovich) [Кантор, (Лев (Леонид) Моисеевич (Михайлович)], Junior Lieutenant [Младший Лейтенант], 53 combat missions

U.S.S.R., Military Air Forces – VVS
Aerial Gunner – Bombardier
561st Autonomous Army Aviation Squadron

Aircraft type unknown – probably U-2 , Po-2, Pe-2, or Il-4
Born 1912
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Not Listed
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945гг – нет в списке]

, Pinchas, Pvt., Polish People’s Army, at Poland, Warsaw-Brodno

6th Infantry Regiment
Mr. Szymcha Szwarfuter (father)
Born Slovakia, Zilinda, Konska; 1919
Powazkowska Street Cemetery, Warsaw-Zoliborz, Mazowieckie, Poland
Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War 2 – Volume I – 69

Wounded in Action

Kelner, Irving, Cpl., B/40965, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
Lincoln and Welland Regiment
Mr. and Mrs. Israel and Molly Kelner (parents); Norman, David, Morris, and Ruth (siblings), 410 Parliament St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Casualty List (USA) 11/29/44
The Jewish Chronicle 1/12/45
Canadian Jews in World War II, Volume II – 42, 102

, Leo, Cpl., K/57228, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

Canadian Scottish Regiment
(mother) 2033 Bennings Road, Washington, D.C.; (cousin), 1307 S. McBride St., Syracuse, N.Y.
Residence also at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 12/1/44
Canadian Jews in World War II, Volume II – 115

, Mickey Herman, Gunner, D/138332, Royal Canadian Artillery

(parents), 5587 Esplanade Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Jewish Chronicle 12/1/44
Canadian Jews in World War II, Volume II – 117

, Samuel H., 1 Lt., United States Army, Wounded by shrapnel in leg (in Germany)

Mrs. Esther Weinstein (mother), George and Meyer (brothers), 68-33 76th St., Middle Village, N.Y.
Born 1910
Casualty List 12/3/44
Long Island Daily Press 12/2/44
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

, Jack, PFC, United States Army (in France)

Mr. Harry Woolner (father), 1907 E. Firth St., Philadelphia, Pa.
Born 1921
Philadelphia Record 11/12/44
American Jews in World War II – Not listed


Then, news about Jochanan appeared in the November 10 issue of The American Hebrew…

American Hebrew – November 10, 1944

Jews in Uniform

Unhappy Ending.

Jochanan Tartakower, born in 1925, in Lodz, Poland, escaped from Poland in 1939.  Alone he traveled to Russia and the Orient, arriving in New York from Japan several years later, to be re-united with his father, Dr. Arieh Tartakower, head of the Relief Department of the World Jewish Congress, who, being one of the leaders of the Polish Jewish Community, was well known to the Nazis and was on the Gestapo list for early capture.  Dr. Tartakower had been able to elude the Nazis at the outset of hostilities and had succeeded in reaching the United States, without his family.  Mrs. Tartakower, Jochanan’s mother, was detained and only succeeded in rejoining her family long after Jochanan’s arrival in America.  The happy re-united family were enjoying life here in New York.  Jochanan, the only child of the Tartakowers, attended C.C.N.Y. School of Engineering, where he was an honor student.  He was active as President of Habonim, a Zionist youth group in New York, and had a host of friends.  He joined Uncle Sam’s fighting forces at the age of 18 and was assigned to the infantry.  He was sent to the European theatre of operations to meet his old enemies, the Nazis, this time on more equal terms, as a well equipped fighting man.

Dr. Tartakower recently received a telegram from the War Department:  “We regret to advise you that your son, Private First Class Jochanan Tartakower, A.U.S., has been killed in action on September 29, 1944.”


Fittingly; appropriately; movingly, Arieh memorialized his son in his next book:  The Jewish Refugee, which was published by the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the AJC (American Jewish Congress) and WJC (World Jewish Congress).  The title and dedicatory pages of The Jewish Refugee are shown below:


In 1947, Jochanan’s name appeared in Volume II – the state-by-state directory of casualties and award recipients – of the two-volume American Jews in World War II.  (The reference work has been cited in many of my prior posts, and will be mentioned wherever pertinent for future blog entries.)  Here is the cover…

…while Jochanan’s name appears on page 459, appropriately under “New York”.  This page is representative of the presentation of names in American Jews in World War II:  Likely due to the sheer number of entries – 38,888 – based on information recorded by the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB) – information is limited to names, ranks, military awards, city or town of residence, and casualty status (killed in action, or killed – non-battle).  Though the NJWB index cards typically include names of next of kin, home addresses, and sometimes serial numbers, military theater of action, and date when a serviceman was a casualty, none of this latter (invaluable) information was ever published.


The following essay appeared in a publication entitled Furrows, a publication of Ichud Habonim (the Labor-Zionist youth movement), in November of 1944.  Its very title – F u r r o w s – visually connoted farming; plowing; soil; land – while “kvutza” denoted “communal settlement” prior to Israel’s 1948 re-establishment.  Furrows was published in New York City between 1942 and 1964. 


“Johanan Tartakower was killed in action in the European Theater of Operations on September 29th, 1944. He was one of our best haverim.’’

He was my friend, too – that is why these words are meaningless to me.  I cannot transform and reduce this intangible thing into pitifully inadequate sentences.  I can only wonder at the empty space that is left in my life and try to fill it with memories of Johanan and of the days we spent at Kvutza, of the work we did when he was my rosh mahaneh, of the dreams we had together of Eretz Yisrael and “our” kibbutz.

And I can say with a determination which I have never felt, before that we must not let the chain of halutzim be broken.  We must fill the gap.  We must believe in the things Johanan died for and fight for them.  Freedom and peace are meaningless if we are not conscious of their worth and do not accept their responsibilities – and freedom and peace must prevail lest future Johanans shall die, lest the Jewish people never find their future.

I shall endeavor to do what my friend Johanan wanted to do – I will try to realize his dreams.  That is the best tribute I can give him, and I call to all those others who believe as Johanan did to rouse themselves, to accept the task of the halutz, so that the vision of which Johanan was symbolic shall find new strength and fervor.

Harry Brumberger
Furrows, November, 1944


In September of 1985, a Conference Room named in Yochanan’s honor was opened at Kibbutz Kfar Blum, in northern Israel.  The images show the ribbon cutting (by Jochanan’s mother, Malwina?), Arieh affixing a commemorative plaque upon the Conference Room’s entrance, the Conference Room itself (where Jochanan’s photographic portrait – the image atop this post – is displayed), music played at the ceremony – with Dr. Tartakower contemplatively resting his head upon his hand – and next, presenting a speech, while Malwina watches from the audience.



It is ironic, considering the scope of Arieh’s academic and literary oeuvre, that history gave Jochanan so very little opportunity and time to record his own thoughts, and eventually, perhaps, arrive at his own understanding of “the world”. 

Still, two short fragments of his writing, apparently preserved and incorporated by a friend – “B.K.” – within correspondence or a newsletter of the Labor Zionist movement, are still extant, and are presented (in italics) below.  Given that these were penned while Jochanan was no more than nineteen years old, they reveal a man wise beyond his very few years; intellectually and morally conscious of the nature of the era in which he was living, as a Jew, an American soldier, and a hopeful pioneer in the re-establishment of a Jewish state. 

Perhaps his others correspondence – V-mail? – hand-written letters? – still exists, somewhere.   If and until they are discovered, let these small passages speak for him:

It was a great blow to us when we learned that Yochanan was killed in action in France.  Indeed, those of us who knew him well, who worked and lived with him in Habonim, found it very difficult to force ourselves to realise that Yochanan was no longer with us, would not be on the chava with us, and would never live and work together with us as chalutzim in our kibbutz in Aretz,

To say that Yochanan was one of the best chavorim in New York and also one of the finest and most sincere chalutzim in the movement would be superfluous.  To those of us who knew him, however, these words have real significance in our memories. We remember that summer in Killingworth shortly after he came to this country, memories of putting up ohalim together, moving the tent platforms up to the Bonim Kikar, siphoning gasoline from one vehicle to another, singing around the Medura.  We remember him working more actively than most of us in the New York Galil and especially in the Manhattan Machaneh of which he was a driving force, though not a very loquacious one.  Especially we remember him as part of our present K.A. group which meant so much to him.  We see him sitting at K.A. meetings in the office or in some cafeteria, where long-winded debates on chalutziut were often held.  During these debates, he was usually silent, but when he did speak it was apparent that he, more than the rest of us knew what chalutziut means.  To him it had for a long time been his whole life.

It just does not seem fair that Yochanan should have been killed.  He had gone through so much.  His family was separated during the occupation of Poland.  His father, Aryeh Tartakower, a prominent Zionist leader, came to America first.  It was only in 1942 that Yochanan managed to reach the United States after a long and dangerous journey.  His mother finally arrived here shortly before he went into the Army.  To Yochanan, therefore, this war was very real and very important, not only because he was more deeply aware of the issues and the character of the enemy, but also because he saw things through the eyes of a chalutz.  It was only after his death that we learned that he could have been withdrawn to a desk job because of his knowledge of languages but that he refused the offer because, as ho told his commanding officer, he came to Europe to fight.  In a letter from England he wrote:

“….for the past few years I have been preparing myself mentally for that event, and now I feel that the hour is coming when I, in my small way, will avenge the crimes committed.  And I think in my place, being an infantryman, I will get my best chance.  I think a lot about the movement and about Aretz; it is curious how war can influence your thinking, and being in the army and fighting even more.”

Yes, he thought a lot about the movement and about Aretz.  To be a chalutz in Aretz was his goal in life.  Sometimes he would be sad because of the thought that he might never achieve this goal.  But throughout the time that he was in the Service, he always thought about K.A., was writing constantly to chaverim, demanding news on how the K.A. was developing, and making the problems of the K.A. his problems no matter how far away and isolated he was.

In a letter written just a few days before his death, after having gone through the thick of all the fighting in France, he wrote:

“I have thought of it constantly and as far as I am concerned all the hardships and risks I have gone through made me only a better chalutz, and above all more conscious of my immediate future.  So, my theory is that ex-servicemen, after the war is over, will make a hell of a lot better chalutzim than anybody else, for the simple reason that they have changed their mode of living once already and are not afraid to do it again.”

It is with tears in our eyes that we bid farewell to Yochanan, our chaver.  We will try to live up to his standards of chalutzic character, to his devotion and self-sacrifice.  We promise to avenge Yocbanan in the way he would have liked it, with a larger aliyah from our movement to Aretz, with fields which we shall reclaim and cultivate in his memory, and with houses and farm buildings which we shall build on our soil.  Though he is gone, we know that Yochanan will be with us always as an inspiration during the difficult times that lie ahead in accomplishing the great task which was to him life itself. – B.K


Jochanan’s matzeva at Long Island National Cemetery in Suffolk County, New York, photographed by FindAGrave contributor Glenn.


An aerial view of Kfar Blum – photographed by Ofir Ben Tov – in Israel’s Upper Galilee.  The view looks south, with the tree-lined Jordan River winding between the Kibbutz and the two center-pivot irrigation circles to its east.  The Sea of Galilee lies in the distance.

The land is furrowed.  The land, is green.


I would like to extend my sincere and grateful appreciation to Annette Fine and Yonatan Porat, of Kibbutz Kfar Blum, for their generosity in sharing material – particularly photographs – pertaining to Jochanan and his parents.  Without their assistance, “this” post would not have been possible.  



Dublin, Louis I., and Kohs, Samuel C., American Jews in World War II – The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom, The Dial Press, New York, N.Y., 1947

Morris, Henry, Edited by Gerald Smith, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945, Brassey’s, United Kingdom, London, 1989

Morris, Henry, Edited by Hilary Halter, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945 – An Addendum, AJEX, United Kingdom, London, 1994

Canadian Jews in World War II – Part I: Decorations, Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1948

Canadian Jews in World War II – Part II: Casualties, Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1948.

Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volumes I through XI, Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 1994 – 2014


Aryeh Tartakower (at Wikipedia)

Arieh Tartakower (at Jewish Virtual Library)

Aryeh Tartakower Dead at 85 (at Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Furrows (New York Public Library catalog record)

Kfar Blum Volunteers (at

Pastoral Hotel – Kfar Blum (at

Thoughts from The Frontier:  Great Sorrow and Small Solace (Jewish Frontier, January, 1945)

“Come and see – Jewish soldiers with the Magen David!”


And there are encounters with old Jews.  Yesterday we had an inspection – a military routine at which our rifles and revolvers were checked.  On a balcony stood two old people – an old Jew and his aged wife, who had been dragging themselves from the front to the South.  They stood watching the scene and weeping.  Without uttering a word they stood up there, their eyes streaming.  And many of the boys could not tear their eyes away from the weeping eyes of a Jewish mother.


Sir Clifford’s mind seems to be occupied with two worries: first, he is anxious to keep the doors of Palestine closed; second, he is afraid that the stream of refugees might be turned to England and America. 


This article, published in the Jewish Frontier in early 1945, movingly recounts meetings between Jewish refugees in Italy, and Jewish soldiers serving of the Jewish Brigade.  The article is actually in the form of three essays, by soldiers “Eliyahu”, “Moshe”, and “J.B-R.”.  Their full names are not given, perhaps because the war was then ongoing. 

Presumably, they were members of the “Jewish Brigade” (also known as the “Jewish Brigade Group”, and “Jewish Infantry Brigade Group”) which was itself comprised of three infantry battalions (1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and, the 200th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery) of the Palestine Regiment, which itself was created in 1942. 

In view of the time-frame of the article’s publication it was presumably written some time after October and December of 1944, while the Brigade was engaged in the Italian Campaign as part of the British Eighth Army. 


Great Sorrow and Small Solace
Letters from Palestine Soldiers on the Italian Front

Jewish Frontier
January, 1945

WE HEARD that in the town of Terni on the road to Ancona there were about one hundred Jews.  H. and myself set out for Terni, arriving there towards evening.  We thought that a hundred Jews in a small town would be easy to locate.

For a long time we walked around town without finding a single Jew.

Finally, in desperation, we began approaching every person whose physiognomy suggested a Jewish origin, addressing him with Shalom, but no one replied to our salutation.  We had with us the address of a Jew by the name of Gil and began looking for him.  The place turned out to be the building of the Fascist youth which was now converted into a Refugee Center.  It is a large house containing many refugees of different kinds, such as Italians from bombed out cities, Yugoslavs and others.  One corner was set aside for Jews.

After wandering from office to office we were taken charge of by an Italian woman official, who went with us to look for the only Jew whose name we knew.  We did not find him.  While walking I told the lady that it was very important for me to find some Jewish refugees.  She took me into a small room, where we saw an old woman with a face that told stories of horror and sufferings.  At the sight of a soldier, the woman made a peculiar motion as if to ward off a blow.  I was actually frightened by that motion.  When it transpired that she was the wife of the man we were looking for, I addressed her in Yiddish an in German, telling her I was a Jewish soldier from Palestine.  She then began crying, laughing screaming, all at once and she called her children and neighbors together shouting in Yiddish:

“Praise and glory be to Thee, Ruler of the Universe, that we have lived to this day!”

The small children clung to us and looked straight into our eyes with petrified expressions on their faces; their eyes seemed to me like one large tear.  I felt my whole “gallantry” break down before these glances.  A mother of four children spoke with tears in her eyes:

“Dear boys, you have come to help us – do something for our children…”

Pointing to the children I said: “We may be able to help them right away in a practical way, by training them for Palestine, by hakhshara.”  I thought I would have to explain the meaning of the word hakhshara.  But that very instant I was surrounded by children who covered me with kisses and tears.  From that moment there never ceased the clinging and the mute look into my eyes, telling me more than words could of the Jewish child’s yearning for redemption.

In the house we learned the first details about that group of Jews.  There are about one hundred Jews in the town.  Some of them have been to all the concentration camps, in Calvaria and Campagna, until they reached this section of Italy.  And here it is that the miracle of liberation took place.  Others have never been in concentration camps; for nine years they hid in the snow-covered mountains, and only recently, when the region was freed, did they come out of hiding.

The children took us to the hotel where refugees are fed by AMG and which therefore serves as a center for all the Jews.  There we lived through moving scenes:

One man rushed into the hotel crying:

“Come and see – Jewish soldiers with the Magen David!”

At first those inside refused to believe the news and thought it was a joke.  But in a minute we were surrounded by many Jews – Yiddish-speaking, French-speaking, Serb-speaking, German-speaking, Italian-speaking Jews, who did not always find a common speech but who now found the common language of hearts beating in unison.  They pounced on us madly, embracing us or merely touching our insignia with trembling hands and then kissing their fingers, as one salutes a mezuza or a Scroll of the Law.  The children, who were rather timid at the beginning, daring only to pat our uniforms, now came closer – and again I saw the great tears in their eyes.  No one spoke.  There was only the affectionate touching and the hugging.  The grown-ups wept aloud on seeing the excitement of the children.  And everybody repeated: “Well for us that we have lived to see this day!”

We entered the spacious dining room and on all sides came requests: “Sit by our side!”  We sat down near a small group of youngsters and children, but the old woman who argued that she had been the first to welcome us claimed a privilege and took a seat opposite us…

Later in the evening we decided to have a talk.  An Italian Jew opened the discussion with a few moving words about this great and unexpected holiday, the first recompense for the suffering they had endured.  And in order to emphasize the bond between the soldiers, the emissaries of the Land of Israel, and the ruined Diaspora, he asked that we address a few words to them in Hebrew.

I began with a few words in Hebrew, telling them about the aspirations of the Jewish soldier and his dreams of the great day of meeting his rescued brethren, which is the deepest aim of our war.  H. translated my words into German which the chairman rendered into Italian.  The atmosphere was charged with a strange tension when the Hebrew words were heard.  Those who did not understand them behaved as they would at a solemn religious rite while the considerable number who did follow my words reiterated every one as it was pronounced.  There was constant drying of tears.  Bliss radiated from the children’s eyes.

We went on to the second part of the discussion, which was the most important one.  At the request of most of those present I spoke in Yiddish.  I explained the object of our visit.  I warned them against illusions, telling them that our possibilities were limited but that we could help them in certain respects.  The crowd became emotional again.  I told them of the opportunities of hakhshara, about the possibility of putting them in contact with certain institutions, such as the Palestine Bureau and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Questions were asked about the chances of entering the United States.  I told them the sad story of the famous Roosevelt “guests” at Oswego, merely confining myself to facts and refraining from comments.  No more questions were then asked about America.

The next day, from nine o’clock in the morning until six in the afternoon, we engaged in private talks with every one who sought one with us.  I cannot recall such a hard day’s work in my life.  The tension rose from minute to minute.  Every one had his own tale of woe.  In every conversation, without a single exception, there came a sudden pause, a moment when the speaker lost his power of speech.

A man of sixty-four years of age came in.  It is worth noting that we were usually surprised on being told of the ages of our interlocutors.  We always imagined they must be younger, because they usually looked about fifteen years less than their true age.  This may be explained by the fact that they are the sturdiest who managed to survive such harrowing experiences.   The sixty-four year old man looked like a forty-five year old.  He had been a rich man in Rumania.  His wife was “taken away” by the Germans.  Of all he had there was only one daughter left who was in Palestine and his only hope in life was to establish contact with her.  Yes, there was something else he had left.  He took out of his pocket a bundle of documents bearing witness to twenty years of Zionist activity in many fields.  Suddenly came the pause.  The three of us remained petrified without looking at one another’s face.  As he left the room the Jew said: “Don’t be surprised, boys!  After four years I have just opened my heart for the first time.  How can one help being moved?”

A fifty-year-old Jew came in looking at the most forty years of age.  He spoke with a great deal of humor, in a juicy, idiomatic Yiddish.  He had been a rich man in Belgium.  His wife was “taken away.”  His two sons were with him.  Immediately he announced:  “I want you to know that I do not want for anything.  But I will not forego the right of spending a few minutes with you.  That is coming to me!”  he was a bit of an Orthodox Jew and he interspersed his narrative with pointed remarks at the expense of the Ribbono shel Olam (Ruler of the Universe): One day he saved himself from the Germans by hiding in a pigsty.  He then resolved not to allow the Ribbono shel Olam to be accustomed to have his Jews live in a pigsty and he moved into a room…

We had brought along some foodstuffs, presents from our soldiers.  We tried to find a suitable form for distributing those gifts.  Here too we were witnesses to moving scenes.  One man kissed the package of cigarettes he received: “No, I shall not smoke them.  They are sacred – they bear a Hebrew inscription…”  The same occurred when a Jewish girl got a cake of soap with a Hebrew inscription.  Another girl, a member of a Zionist youth movement in Germany, actually danced on getting a package marked in Hebrew Shai la-Hayal (soldier’s gift package) – sent from Palestine.

An old man from France presented me with a precious gift, a French yellow badge with the inscription Juif in the Magen David.  He parted with the badge with the remark: “That is for the Archives in Jerusalem.’  “But in Berlin,” I assured him, “I shall carry it on my chest.”

We selected four children as candidates for the hakhshara (training farm) – two boys aged 13 and 14, and two girls aged 17 and 18.  They had been hiding in monasteries and private homes where they were indeed saved from the executioners but where they were subjected to pressure to adopt Christianity.  As we strolled with the children through the town we met a local woman who had saved one of those families during the most critical days, but insisted that they adopt Christianity.  The children introduced her to me.  She was touched to see how attached the children had become to me.  But suddenly one of the girls jumped up: “Oh, it is so wonderful that we have remained Jews – or we wouldn’t be fit to go to Palestine.”  For a moment the atmosphere was strained…

Soon all relief the refugees receive from AMG will be discontinued.  They were offered space in an Italian hostel for the poor under impossible conditions.  Most of them will be left without any livelihood whatever.  Only three of them work for the government.  Until now they existed on the proceeds of the sale of their belongings, but by now they have left only what they wear on their persons.  The refugees from Trieste and Fiume hope for the liberation of their cities.  Some would be ready to go to Palestine immediately, others hope to be granted that opportunity after they will have found their relatives.

When I took leave of them for the second time at seven o’clock in the morning – many of them came to the hotel in the morning – they loaded us with so much hope and affection for the Jewish soldiers that they will be justified only if we strain ourselves to the very utmost to help them.



ONE MEETS Jews here, many Jews.  Yesterday there was quite a gathering.  When we arrived in this district we discovered a group of Jews who had already met some of our men a week or two after they were saved from the Germans.

Yesterday we had a visit from the children who are going out for hakhshara.  Unlimited confidence was necessary to induce a Jewish mother, after all the experiences of the past years, to take her to a training farm.  It is not as simple as it sounds.  The children went along with us.  They are incapable of eating.  After the first meal they all took sick.  They are not used to eat their fill.  In the evening we had a discussion.  At first we spoke and then the girls.  What the lips failed to tell the eyes told in the unmistakable language of affection and trust.

It was an atmosphere which purified and uplifted us too.  There was present a Jewish-British captain, a shrewd and smart-alecky “Galician”, who, as he told us, was a Communist.  He was deeply moved by that evening.  It would take long, he told us, until he would “recover “ from the “blow” he received that evening.  There were many things he saw in a new light.

And there are encounters with old Jews.  Yesterday we had an inspection – a military routine at which our rifles and revolvers were checked.  On a balcony stood two old people – an old Jew and his aged wife, who had been dragging themselves from the front to the South.  They stood watching the scene and weeping.  Without uttering a word they stood up there, their eyes streaming.  And many of the boys could not tear their eyes away from the weeping eyes of a Jewish mother.



BY NOW you must have heard the first reports of the activities of the representative of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees in Italy, Sir Clifford Heathcote-Smith.  In Lakhayil, the publication of the Jewish transport units in the British army in Italy, a few interesting details about this matter were published.

Sir Clifford called a meeting of all the Jewish refugees in Rome.  About seventy or eighty men and women were present.  The official agent of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees reported as follows: (1) There are immigration certificates available for ten heads of families, which will be issued to those who have parents or children or a husband or wife or brothers or sisters in Palestine.  (2) The Italian government acceded to the request of the Intergovernmental Committee to grant citizenship to refugees who have been in the country for five years and whose conduct has been in accordance with the law.

Sir Clifford sought to explain to his listeners that Jews have no prospect of entering Palestine.  Palestine, he repeated many times, is a small country, a very small country, which can by no means take in the Jewish refugees.  He illustrated his point by taking out his handkerchief and spreading it before his audience.  “Do you see this handkerchief?” he argued, “Can you make it larger?  Can you make a quilt out of it?  No more can you make Palestine capable of absorbing you.”

Sir Clifford also discussed at length the subject of citizenship.  All the countries in the world, Sir Clifford said, will be closed after the war.  After the war many Jewish refugees are sure to return to their countries of origin, and the Allies will compel the conquered nations to permit the Jews to return to their countries.  But, to be sure, there will be Jews who will refuse to return to their countries of origin on account of their dark memories of the past.  These refugees must begin to think about their future now.  The world will surely be closed.  The healthiest thing would be to accept the magnanimous offer of the Italian government.

After his address the emissary of the Refugee Committee had an opportunity to hear the opinion of the Jewish refugees.  They were very grateful for the noble attitude of the Italian government; very grateful to Sir Clifford Heathcote-Smith; but they did not want any citizenship rights: as far as they were concerned there was only one country, one Homeland – and this was the only citizenship they demanded.

Among those present there was only one person who availed himself of the right to ask for further information on the matter: would he be deprived of the right to receive relief as a refugee if he agreed to become an Italian citizen?  Sir Clifford put him at ease: he would continue to receive relief after becoming an Italian citizen.  The gathering was still under the impression of another metaphor Sir Clifford had used in his address: changing shirts.  He knew Jews, said the agent of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, who had had one passport, a second passport, and a third passport, and who changed citizenship as one changes shirts.  The refugees brought up that sentence several times in their discussion with Sir Clifford, not in anger or in bitterness but with sorrow and with a firm resolve: that has been the case in the past but now there is enough of that.  They would no longer change countries and citizenship like shirts.  There was going to be an end to all that!  What they wanted was Palestine and Jewish citizenship!

Sir Clifford spoke again.  Palestine is a vain illusion.  Jews must be realists.  Jews are not so badly off in the Diaspora.  Witness the position of the five million Jews in the United States (the listeners must have thought: Why aren’t we being offered United States citizenship?)  Jews must remain in the lands if the dispersion.  “I regret that you refuse to consider reality.  A sacred fire in one’s heart is a beautiful thing, but life is a realistic business.”

A single woman who took the speaker’s word as to the smallness of Palestine, begged that the Jews be given any little bit of a country (una pezzaa di terra), no matter how small, describing with her hands how small that country would be – so long as it would be ours.  “If there is no more room in Palestine, let it be in England, let it be in Germany (protests from the audience, expressions of disgust): “We don ‘t want to see their horrid faces any more!”).  Let it be anywhere, aren’t we human beings just like others?”  Sir Clifford expressed his sorrow and offered some consolation: “Look at the position of other nationalities.  Look at the Letts, the Lithuanians, the Estonians.  They have countries…  Soon they may not have them…”  He ended with a call for “loyalty”.  The audience replied with the signing of Hatikva, which was sung with anguish, with defiance.

One of the refugees presented to Sir Clifford the written petition of the refugees who demand only immigration to Palestine and Palestine citizenship.  There were present in the hall some Jewish soldiers from Palestine, the United States, and South Africa.

Sir Clifford’s mind seems to be occupied with two worries: first, he is anxious to keep the doors of Palestine closed; second, he is afraid that the stream of refugees might be turned to England and America.  As a British gentleman, he feels sorry for President Roosevelt who “tried so hard” until he was able to admit those famous “thousand guests” into America.  “He could not admit any more by any means.”  And what could densely populated England or her Dominions, so heavily laden with populations, do?  It is unrealistic and misleading to expect the British Empire, especially after the war, to be able to admit Jews.  But what is to be done with the Jewish refugees?  The “emissary” has been losing sleep and has been spending his days looking for a way out and a radical solution.  Deeply concerned as he is, he could not be content with the reply given him by the refugees in Rome, and he went on a tour to the small towns.  He met refugees everywhere who had just been liberated from the Nazi yoke and he opened up to them his heart, which is “open” to the needs of the Jewish people.

The “emissary” puts a great deal of intellectual effort into the attempt to solve this grave problem – the problem of the refugees’ future after the war.  Since Palestine is only the size of a handkerchief, while England and America are closed, every refugee must try to get himself settled in a country where he is at present.  The Italians have magnanimously consented to grant the rights of citizenship to every refugee who desires it.  The same will probably be done by other countries, such as Yugoslavia and Rumania.  “They, too, will comply with the request of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees.”  Thus, automatically and simultaneously in all countries, a final solution will be found for the refugee problem.  But Sir Clifford is not satisfied with this alone.  He has, besides, a new scheme for settling Jews in Libya.

Lately he visited the village of A_____i where about fifty refugees are to be found.  After a rather long address if “enlightenment,” he put the following three alternatives to a vote: (1) adopt Italian citizenship; (2) migrate into Palestine; (3) a new territory in Libya.  Not one vote was cast for Italian citizenship.  The vote went partly for Palestine and partly for the new “secure” territory in Libya (Sir Clifford having convinced his hearers that there was absolutely no more room left in Palestine).

But Sir Clifford was indefatigable.  He went on a tour to other refugee centers in Italy, with a verve and determination worthy of more constructive purpose in behalf of refugees.  In one of the localities the refugees expressed their desire to be transferred to Bari and thence to Santa Maria so that they might find it easier to go to Palestine.  Sir Clifford, who is usually soft-spoken, this time raised his voice in excitement: “You are talking too much.  Hitler also liked to talk a great deal and tell lies – and he brought a calamity upon the world.  I hate to hear words which do not contain a particle of truth.  Palestine cannot absorb any Jews – and that is all there is to it!  You must draw the necessary ‘conclusions.’”  This time he did not put the alternatives to a vote; he still remembered his failures in other places.  But he was more candid; he warned the Jews that they were not being tolerated anywhere and that the Arabs would not tolerate them either.  He added an interesting political observation: “Palestine was never promised to the Jews.  It belongs to the Arabs.  Get it out of your heads!”

Before the general meeting, Sir Clifford spoke to each refugee separately and wrote down his request.  Finally he declared: “Every one has his own pet desires – whoever heard of so many nonsensical demands?”  But Sir Clifford is not always rude; at times a lyrical note steals into his speech.  He shared with his hearers his wide experience which he acquired in his encounters with many Jews and he ended on a melancholy note: “In all my discussions with the Jews I came across only one sensible person.  It was an old woman who told me ‘Send me wherever you like, but send me where I can find some peace.’”  He added: “This is an instance of that wisdom which most of you lack.”  And again the old colonial official muttered angrily: “The refugees are dullards who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

This man who is waging such a vigorous anti-Zionist campaign is an important official of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, a body which so far failed to rescue Jewish refugees but seems to be able to introduce a positive solution of the refugee problem.  We know that this man is a faithful servant of the White Paper.  But his recent activities transcend even the provisions of that document.  Who gave him the right to humiliate refugees who are isolated from the rest of the world and who had hoped to find in him an emissary of the United Nations, a man concerned with their welfare?

But the worst feature is that man’s handling of the question of actual immigration into Palestine.  Wherever he comes he brings with him “the last remaining certificates,” which he distributes in a very simple manner: he brings ten certificates to every place.  Rome with its eleven thousand Jews, A_____i with its fifty Jews – all get ten certificates each.  And the distribution of the certificates is done without consulting the Palestine Bureau or the Immigration Department of the Agency or any such institution, but according to his own discretion.

Jewish soldiers who have been in the army for several years find compensation for all the hardships they have undergone in helping the refugees, in spending some of their time with the Jewish youth, to alleviate their distress and to give them comfort.  But now come alien officials to destroy what they have done.  We will by no means put up with this diabolical game.  We will not suspend our activities among the refugees – the work of rescue, of training pioneers, and of bringing them cheer and hope.  We shall continue to provide opportunities of hakhshara for the youth and opportunities for learning productive work for the adults.  Under the restricted conditions of our military life we shall nevertheless go on planting seeds of faith in the realization of Zionism and in the possibility of the true solution of the refugee problem – immigration to Palestine.


– Transcribed by Michael G. Moskow, 2010


Jewish Brigade, at

Palestine Regiment, at




Thoughts From The Frontier: The Jewish Frontier, 1933-2005

Located in the New York Public Library’s Steven A. Schwarzman Building, the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library comprises – as very aptly described on the website of the New York Public Library – “…one of the world’s great collections of Hebraica and Judaica.”  The geographic, linguistic, ideological, and temporal breadth of the Dorot Division’s holdings allows researchers – whether professional, amateur, or anywhere-in-between – the opportunity to conduct research into most any aspect of the history of the Jewish people, with special emphasis upon the following areas:

Jews in the United States (particularly New York in the age of immigration)
Yiddish Theater
Jews in Israel, through 1948
Jews in early modern Europe, especially Jewish-Gentile relations
Christian Hebraism
World Jewish newspapers and periodicals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Importantly, are assisted by a highly knowledgeable, accommodating, and congenial staff, in – but of course! – a physical setting and geographic locale of singular historical, cultural, and social significance. 


The image below, from Jerome Ryan’s Travel Photos, shows the reading room of the Dorot Jewish Division.


The Dorot Divison’s collection of Jewish newspapers and periodicals is an unparalleled resource for researching Jewish history in the dual contexts of Jewish military service, and, genealogy.  Researchers are provided with requested items in either original; physical – textual – format, or more often microfilm, the latter especially for periodicals and monographs where the original item is too rare or delicate for manual use.  For example, all prior (and hopefully future!) posts on this blog covering items in The Jewish Chronicle and l’Univers Israélite (“The Jewish World”) were based on copies made from 35mm microfilm.  In terms of copying, there’s sufficient external and internal illumination in the Dorot Division’s research room for digital photography, while the Milstein Microform Reading Room – in Room 119; quite literally “across the hall” from the Dorot Division in Room 111 – has numerous microfilm viewing / reading machines, which allow the creation of digital copies, with a few some temperamental “older” machines providing conventional photocopies. 

One of the periodicals I’ve investigated at the Dorot Jewish Division has been the Jewish Frontier, the monthly magazine of the Labor Zionist Movement, which was published from 1934 through 2005.  According to the Dorot Division’s catalog record, the Frontier was published by the Labor League for Palestine from 1933 through April of 1938, and commencing in May of 1938 by the Jewish Frontier Association.  The Frontier was founded by Hayim Greenberg (also its first editor), Marie Syrkin, and Dr. Haim Fineman, the latter of Temple University in Philadelphia.  Eventually, Marie Syrkin succeeded Hayim Greenberg as editor.  As stated at the website of Ameinu (the successor organization to the Labor Zionist Alliance), the Jewish Frontier’s, “mission was to explore, advance, and, where appropriate, reshape the humanistic ideas and progressive values that underlie modern Labor Zionist thought and belief.” 

My discovery of the Jewish Frontier was fortuitous.  I first learned “about” the publication in the book in Gulie Ne’eman Arad’s America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism (Indiana University Press, 2000).  The book reviews the response of American Jewry – particularly that of its leadership – to the persecution of Jews within and by Nazi Germany, prior to America’s actual entry into the Second World War.  This is framed in the lengthier context of the historical experience of the Jews in the United States, commencing from the mid-nineteenth century, and shows a community (if that word can be used) – particularly its leaders – trapped between competing desires for acceptance by the larger society on the one hand, and, community solidarity on the other.  The book sheds invaluable, illuminating, realistic (and perhaps disillusioning…) light on this period of American Jewish history.   

Dr. Arad’s book concludes with an excerpt from an essay by Shlomo Katz from the May, 1940 issue of the Jewish Frontier.  Entitled “What Shall We Write?”.  Katz’s essay discusses the geographic, social and cultural, and ultimately psychological and cognitive “distance” between the Jews of America – particularly among intellectuals and writers – and those of Europe, prevailing among American Jewry shortly before the start of the Second World War. 

The excerpt from Katz’s essay, as presented in Dr. Arad’s book, appears below:

The concept of the Jewish people throughout the world as a unit may not be strange to him ideologically; he may even argue in favor of such a concept where political theories are concerned.  But personally he has already lost the feeling of unity with the larger whole to a great extent.  Only the slimmest cultural and psychic ties bind him to Jews of Poland, Palestine, Germany or Russia.  That is why he cannot feel about the tragic fate of the European Jews in the same distant and detached terms as he feels about the fate of the Chinese people, for example.  But at the same time he is too far removed from them to be able to identify himself with Polish or German Jews in a personal manner.  The immensity of the tragedy appalls him; he feels directly concerned, but not sufficiently to make him a living part of the drama.  Between him and the European scene there lie years, years that count in building up one’s personality, of life in America.  These years, with all the cultural baggage that was accumulated in them, he does not share with Europe’s Jews; and they stand between him and them.

This was interesting.  This meant something.  (This means something, still.)  This prompted me to look further.

I reviewed issues of the Jewish Frontier published from 1933 through the early 1950s.  What I found was, on a consistent basis, superb, compelling writing.  A sense of realism: Authors who confronted and described situations as they were.  A tempered, moral urgency.  A sense of pride.  A sense of the need for action. 

I do not know what prompted Greenberg, Syrkin, and Fineman to decide upon the title of “Jewish Frontier” for their periodical, but in retrospect, it was very apropos. 

Perhaps it was their perception understanding that pre-1948 Yishuv was – in senses physical, spiritual, and psychological – very much a world of the frontier; on the frontier.  Perhaps it was to connote that when Avraham Aveinu left Ur and crossed the Euphrates River en route to (then) Canaan, he had crossed over not only a physical boundary, but accepted borders and assumptions of thought and action, to stand alone in his belief in one God.  He was alone and undaunted in his faith, on a “frontier” that was not solely physical. 

Perhaps it was both. 

Presently, none of the content of The Jewish Frontier appears to ever have been digitized.  Worthy of being read and pondered even today, in 2017, I hope to present a few essays and articles in future blog posts

For the moment, an appropriate start is the presentation of the full text of Shlomo Katz’s essay of May, 1940.


Ameinu, at

Labor Zionist Alliance, at

New York Public Library, at

New York Public Library, Dorot Jewish Division, at

New York Public Library, Dorot Jewish Division, Jewish Frontier Catalog Record, at
Jewish Frontier Catalog Record

New York Public Library – Milstein Division of U.S., Local History and Genealogy, at

Jerome Ryan’s Mountains of Travel Photos, at

Abraham the Hebrew, at Ohr Hadash, at

Women at War: Driving Through the Desert – Women of the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) – As Depicted in Parade – Middle East Weekly

An essential aspect of all military endeavors is the provision of the material and logistical support – transportation; supply; repair; maintenance; communications; medical services, and more – that can enable a force of combat arms (land, sea, or air; singly, or more often in combination) to conduct offensive or defensive military activity.  The centrality of this aspect of military operations has been manifest in practically every conflict of the twentieth century (and certainly far earlier), by the armed forces of practically every nation engaged in military conflict.

A related aspect of this facet of military service has been – especially during period of mass conscription – the mobilization and conscription of citizens who would not typically not be subject to military service, “freeing up” other citizens to directly serve in combat positions.

A noteworthy example of this was Britain’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, or “A.T.S.”, which, established in September of 1938, was the women’s branch of the British Army during World War Two.  A.T.S. members served as cooks, clerks, storekeepers, drivers, postal workers, and ammunition inspectors.  Though A.T.S. members were prevented from serving in battle, some members of the Service eventually did serve in such tasks as radar operators, anti-aircraft gun crews, and members of the military police.  The nature of such assignments was not without risk, as – according to the Wikipedia entry on the A.T.S. – the A.T.S. incurred 717 deaths during the war out of a total mobilized force of over 190,000 women.

During World War Two, some 30,000 men from the Yishuv served in the British armed forces, at the behest of the Jewish Agency.  Eventually, this recruitment effort extended to women, due to an agreement between British authorities and the Council of Women’s Organizations.  Eventually, some 4,350 women from the Yishuv would serve in the A.T.S. and W.A.A.F. (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). 

A group of A.T.S. drivers from the Yishuv became the subject of a photo essay which appeared in the British military newspaper Parade – Middle-East Weekly, on February 12, 1944, under the title “Convoy Girls of the A.T.S.”

First published in mid-August of 1940, Parade – edited by A.W. Parsons and Captain D.H. Flockhart – was published by the “Inter-Service Publications Directorate for the Joint Publications Board”.  The publication was printed in Cairo by Al Hilal, which was – according to the masthead – the “Sole Distributor for Egypt, Sudan, Syria, “Palestine” and Cyprus”.  As indicated by its title, Parade’s news coverage focused upon – but was certainly not limited to – British military activity in North Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean, in time expanding in scope to encompass news from other theaters of war, and the armed forces of other Allied nations, such as United States, Soviet Union, and other European countries.  The magazine frequently presented photographic essays about national, ethnic, and religious groups throughout the Middle East, as well as military, cultural, and social news from the British Isles.  Likewise, the back page of many issues featured a full-page-size pin-up of a prominent (or not so prominent?!) actress. 

In its day, Parade provided news for Commonwealth military personnel.  In our day, it offers a fascinating, retrospective view of the British military, as well as an “image” (quite literally, considering the abundance of illustrations in each issue!) of the early 1940s, as seen through and portrayed by British military and political leadership during that decade.

The images from “Convoy Girls of the A.T.S.” appear below. 

I hope to bring you further posts based upon images and articles in Parade, in the future.

– Michael G. Moskow


Brief and to the point, the following is the entirety of the text that accompanies the photos:

A Corporal poses beside her truck.

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 4A BWA group of drivers receives a briefing.

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 1A BWThe following image, showing a line-up of Dodge D15 GS trucks, is notable in two respects.

1) A British “roundel” – intended to provide rapid air-to-ground recognition to forestall “friendly-fire” by Allied aviators – is visible on the upturned hood of the middle truck.

2) Note that the face of the driver kneeling in front of her truck (the woman wearing heavy gloves) has been obscured, unlike her comrades.  This leads to conjecture…  Did she request anonymity to protect any family who still might be living in German-occupied Europe?

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 2A BWA Dodge is driven to an assembly point.

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 3A BWA group of drivers receive rations at a rest point.

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 5A BWThe same group as above.

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 6A BWWhether posed or genuine, this photo gives an indication of accommodations (or, lack thereof!) to be found in the desert!

Parade - 1944 02 12 - Convoy Girls of the ATS 7A BW____________________

The American Hebrew of January 19, 1945, in an article covering military service of volunteers from the Yishuv in the Allied armed forces, featured a photo (certainly posed) of a Yishuv A.T.S. driver in Italy.  Her cap badge is quite obvious. 

Here’s a much (!) better view of an A.T.S. cap badge, displayed at the website of the Historama Online History Shop:


Curiously, in place of its typical weekly back-page pin-ups of actresses, during 1943, three issues of Parade featured pin-ups promoting enlistment in the A.T.S.  These pin-ups are shown below.

Two of the pin-ups – by the Austrian artist A. Sevek – are idealized portraits of A.T.S. servicewomen, both wearing service caps bearing the organization’s badge.  Given the differences in the women’s facial features, Sevek’s drawings very likely depicted actual A.T.S. personnel.  Unfortunately (and quite understandably), Parade did not reveal their names.

The third A.T.S. pin-up isn’t – really! – a pin-up at all.  It’s actually a full-page photo (probably posed) of an A.T.S. servicewoman working on the engine of a Ford truck, intriguingly nicknamed “Partisan”.  The ad presents a more realistic – hence less idealized – depiction of an A.T.S. servicewoman in the Yishuv, or, Egyptian desert.  An unspoken message of the ad would seem to be, “Are you ready for the challenge?”

A notable aspect of the ad are the four “blurbs” promoting enlistment in the A.T.S., which answer the lead statement, “She has released a man…”  These are:

  • No – he wasn’t trapped under the bonnet.  He was doing a job, but could have been more usefully employed elsewhere.
  • By joining the A.T.S. this girl has enabled him to be released for more important duties with fighting troops in forward zone.
  • Girls are needed for the A.T.S. in the M.E. as drivers, clerks, storewomen, hospital orderlies, draughtswomen and ‘phone operators.
  • If you join the A.T.S. you will be helping soldiers with their jobs.  You will find the training interesting and conditions good.

The pin-up also includes the locations of A.T.S. recruiting offices.  These were located at:

In Egypt:

114, Rue Fouad, Alexandria
Kasr el Nil Barracks, Cairo

In the Yishuv:

Allenby Street, Tel-Aviv
Princess Mary Avenue, Jerusalem
Kingsway, Haifa

In closing… 

…a restored Ford F60L truck (1941 vintage), from the Wheels and Tracks website.  Just to give you an idea…!


As a part of this research, I’ve attempted to identify the Jewish servicewomen – from the Yishuv and elsewhere – who died while serving in the A.T.S. Their names are listed below.

A list of abbreviations follows each record, representing the following sources of information:

Gelber II – Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War – Volume II – The Struggle for A Jewish Army, by Dr. Yoav Gelber, Yav Izhak Ben-Zvi Publications, Jerusalem, Israel, 1981

TJC – The Jewish Chronicle

“WWRT I” and “WWRT II” – Volumes I and II of We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939-1945


Jewish Casualties in the Auxiliary Territorial Service
  In the Second World War

– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Bat Shalom, Sara                                           Pvt.                       W/PAL/195678
5/29/42 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 3,C,8
Gelber II – 318; TJC 8/13/43; WWRT I – 060, 238; WWRT I as “Bat-Shalom, Sara”; CWGC as “Ben Shalom, Sara”

Ben Baruch, Rachela                                     Pvt.
Israel, Rishon-le-Zion; 1925
Died on Active Service (Illness)
TJC 11/23/45 (Cannot identify in CWGC database)

Berger, Cornelia                                             Pvt.                       W/PAL/203704
9/3/44 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 5,J,6
Gelber II – 318; WWRT I – 239

Best, Ruth                                                        Pvt.                       W/PAL/195938
Ramleh 1939-45 Memorial, Ramleh, Israel            
Gelber II – 318; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL

Blank, Sara Rachela Shoshana                    Sgt.                       W/PAL/203880
12/20/44 (“Died in Israel as the result of an accident.”)
Ramleh War Cemetery, Ramleh, Israel – W,32
TJC 1/12/45; Gelber II – 318; WWRT I – 064, 239; WWRT I as “Blank, Shoshanah”

Butovitzky Stein, Chava                               Pvt.                       W/PAL/221031
3/24/43 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 4,N,5
WWRT I – 240; WWRT I as “Butovitzky-Stein, Chava”; CWGC as “Stein Butovecky, Haya”

Courtman, Stefahia                                       Pvt.                       W/PAL/203386
Brookwood 1939-1945 Memorial – Panel 23, Column 1
Gelber II – 330; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL

Epstein, Milada                                               Pvt.                       W/PAL/195790
6/14/43 (“Died in Egypt from Illness.”)
Mr. Emil Epstein (husband), Northampton, England
Mr. and Mrs. Tomas Chytil and Frantiska Chytilova (parents)
Suez War Memorial Cemetery, Suez City, Egypt – 3,A,14
Gelber II – 317; WWRT I – 242 (WWRT I as “Epstein, Milda”; CWGC as “Epsteinova, Milada”)

Ettlinger, Dora Leslie                                     Pvt.                       W/PAL/245610
10/14/45 (“Died in Egypt.”)
Heliopolis War Cemetery, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt – 4,F,22
Gelber II – 316; WWRT I – 242

Kantorowicz, Chana                                      Pvt.                       W/PAL/245725
1/23/44 (“Died in Israel from illness.”)
Ramoth Hashovim Cemetery, Israel
Gelber II – 331; WWRT I – 247 (WWRT I as “Kantorowicz, Chana”; CWGC as “Kantorowitz, Hanna”)

Katz, Rosel                                                       Pvt.                       W/PAL/245671
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 2nd Base Workshop
7/15/43 (“Died in Egypt from Illness.”)
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 4,K,4
Gelber II – 325; WWRT I – 248 (WWRT I as “Katz, Rozelle”; CWGC as “Katz, Rosel”)

Kelman, Lola                                                   Cpl.                       W/PAL/195297
Tel el Kebir War Memorial Cemetery – 1,B,10
Gelber II – 331; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL

Krausz, Bertha                                                Pvt.                       W/88628
Birmingham (Witton) Jewish Cemetery, Warwickshire, England – Section C, Row, 1, Grave 316
WWRT II – 17     

Krotovetsky, Chaia Stein
Tel-Aviv, Israel
TJC 4/16/43 (Cannot identify in CWGC database)

Levavi, Uhma                                                  Pvt.                       W/PAL/245414
Mr. and Mrs. Meir and Sonia Levavi (parents), Kibbutz Merhavia, Israel
Heliopolis War Cemetery, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt – 6,L,11
Gelber II – 325; TJC 12/22/44; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL (TJC gives name as “Ochama Levavi“)

Loewenthal, Anna                                          Pvt.                       W/57556
Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Selma (Shoenfeld) Loewenthal (parents)
Miss K. Loewenthal (sister), c/o Mrs. Eber, 18 Hamilton Ave., Leeds, 7, England
Bristol Jewish Cemetery, Gloucestershire, England
TJC 9/3/43; WWRT I – 124

Mark, Tamar                                                   Pvt.                       W/PAL/220958
3/25/43 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Kvutzat Avukah, Israel
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 4,N,3
TJC 4/16/43; Gelber II – 326; WWRT I – 251

Neuberg, Miriam                                            Pvt.                       W/PAL/195720                 504th Company
6/22/42 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 3,B,11
TJC 8/13/43; Gelber II – 327; WWRT I – 136, 253

Ostrogursky, Ilse                                            Pvt.                       W/PAL/245813
7/3/44 (“Died in Egypt [Alexandria] as the result of an accident.”)
Germany, Leschnitzer; 1915
Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt – 6,E,14
Aufbau 12/8/44; WWRT I – 254 (WWRT I as “Ostrogursky, Ilse”; CWGC and Aufbau as “Ostrogorski, Anneliese”)

Vilenchook, Pnina                                          Pvt.                       W/PAL/245229
Tel Aviv (Nahlat Yitzhak) Cemetery, Tel Aviv, Israel – Plot 15, Row 9, Grave 5
Gelber II – 322; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL

Weiss Politzer, Shoshana                              Pvt.                       W/PAL/203932
8/19/45 (“Died in Egypt as the result of an accident.”)
Heliopolis War Cemetery, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt – 4,G,20
Gelber II – 322; WWRT I – 261 (WWRT I as “Weiss-Politzer, Shoshana”; CWGC as “Weiss Politzer, Berse”)

Wirth, Bracha                                                  Pvt.                       W/PAL/221085
5/28/45 (“Died in Israel as the result of an accident.”)
Ramleh 1939-45 Memorial, Ramleh, Israel
Gelber II – 322; WWRT I – 262 (WWRT I as “Wirt, Bracha”)

Yahaloumy Chizik, Bat-Ami                         Pvt.                       W/PAL/203376
Metulah, Israel
Tel-el-Kebir War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt – 4,N,4
TJC 4/16/43 (TJC lists name as “Yahalomi, Batami”); Gelber II – 324; WWRT I – NL; WWRT II – NL


References – Author Listed

Gelber, Yoav, Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War – Volume II – The Struggle for A Jewish Army, Yav Izhak Ben-Zvi Publications, Jerusalem, Israel, 1981

Kessler, Oren, “In Israel and Palestinian Territories, British Still Tend Memory of 16,000 War Dead”, Tablet, November 11, 2013, at (Accompanying photograph shows matzeva of Sara Rachela Shoshana Blank, at Ramle War Cemetery)

Medoff, Rafael, “Lag B’Omer 1942, ‘Jewish Amazons,’ And The Pyramids”, The Jewish Press, May 15, 2014, at

Morris, Henry, Edited by Gerald Smith, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945, 1989, Brassey’s, United Kingdom, London (See “The Palestinian Jewish Volunteers”, pp. 235 – 263)

Morris, Henry, Edited by Hilary Halter, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945 – An Addendum, 1994, AJEX, United Kingdom, London

References – No Author

A. Sevek (website of Dr. Bex Lewis), at

Auxiliary Territorial Service (Wikipedia), at

ATS and WAAF in World War Two (Jewish Women’s Archive), at

A.T.S. Remembered (ATS Remembered), at

A.T.S. Hat Badge (Historama Online History Shop), at,-british-army-1941-45-detail.html

Dodge D15 GS Truck (Canada at War), at

Canadian Military Pattern Trucks, at

Ford F8 and Ford F60 Trucks, at

“Jewish Parachutists Join British Forces; Jewish Artillery Unit Formed in Palestine”, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 26, 1942, at

“Parade – Middle-East Weekly” (Westleton Chapel Books), at

“The Face Behind the Poster [Leah Seidmann] (World Zionist Organization – Central Zionist Archives)”, at!prettyPhoto (Website also presents ATS recruiting posters, and, images of ATS personnel)

Convoy Girls of the ATS, Parade, February 12, 1944


In the Maelstrom of the Great War: Jewish Civilians in WW I, as Reported in The Jewish Chronicle – “In the Track of the Storm – Pathetic Scenes Among the Jewish Refugees”, September 18, 1914

Certainly; inevitably; naturally, many of the articles published by The Jewish Chronicle during “The Great War” – as well as during the Second World War – focused upon the experiences, travails, challenges, and living conditions of civilians.  Alas, this would seem to have been inevitable, given that the Twentieth Century was the century of “total war”. 

The following article is one such example, and covers the plight of Jewish refugees who had been evacuated from Antwerp, Belgium, at the beginning of the war.  The author focuses upon refugees at Great Alie Street, in Whitechapel, and Soho Street, in Westminster.  At least one refugee was a resident of Lodz, who, while visiting family in Antwerp, was caught up in the storm of war.  Doubtless, the same or similar would have pertained to many other refugees in the context of this article. 

(Like most – if not all – reports carried by the Chronicle, the reporter’s name is not given; he is simply referred to as “our representative”.)



The Jewish Chronicle
September 18, 1914

[Special to the “Jewish Chronicle”]

“Never have I witnessed so much weeping as in the past week.  It has been a veritable vale of tears.”

The words were addressed to a representative of the JEWISH CHRONICLE by the Secretary of the Jews’ Temporary Shelter, and they could easily be believed.  But unless hearts be stone there was cause for years among the visitors and the workers, as well as among the wretched refugees who have fled pell-mell to the shelter for asylum.

It is a motley throng that crowds the building.  They stand in the doorway; they block the staircase; the fill the dining-room; they bear in their appearance and often forlorn state the unmistakable appearance of human flotsam and jetsam, swept hither and thither in the track of the storm.

It is a mixed gathering – most of them young.  Only a few greybeards to be seen here and there, and no schnorrers.  Some of them had offered their last few coins for the food they received, but proffered them, of course, in vain.  Men there are with hundreds of thousands of francs in the bank, and unable to draw more than ten shillings a week.  A number are well dressed; most “receive” with reluctance.

Here a student poring over a book; there a little group watching a game of chess; elsewhere a crowd pressing forward for dinner tickets; or a knot of Russian volunteers, in Belgian uniform – not the advance guard, by the way, of a certain elusive army.  And everywhere the child – the child in arms, the child at the breast, the playing child, the weeping child.  The playing child is delightful.  For it the Kaiser and all his men are a myth.  How merrily it laughs.  But the crying child and the sick child –

Half a dozen mothers are waiting for Dr. Morris – who is generously busy among the refugees – with their little ones in their arms.  A few of the infants are wand and pale and evidently ill.  One of the mothers turns the child over, and glances anxiously at it; and the tears well into her eyes.

A father walks up and down the room to soothe his baby, and a tiny tot of two years at most – his other infant – marches alongside of him, holding the corner of his coat, with a look of stolid determination on its grimy face to hold on till grim death, what would look ludicrous, if the circumstances were not so tragic.  The children!  They sit on the steps.  They walk around your legs.  They cry in their perambulator.  Yes, how did that mother bring that perambulator with her in her precipitate flight from Belgium?  But there is, wedged in the variegated crowd – a wheeled miracle of the exodus.

A young woman sits in the corner with her two children – one at her breast.  Beside her, her mother, with three other grandchildren, and not far off the father and mother of the three other little ones.  All are ill-clad and apparently penniless.  The first-mentioned daughter had come from Lodz on a visit to her mother at Antwerp, and was caught in the fury of the gale.  Her husband? –  Heaven knows where.  Perhaps in the army; but she has had no word from him for eight weeks.

“Why were you driven out?” one asks.

“Driven out?” is the answer, “No; we escaped.”  And then comes the explanation.  The Zeppelins had terrified them.  They had been ordered down to the cellars at the first sound of the air-craft’s approach – damp, dark cellars; and the family had fled in fear.  It is the same story everywhere.

“We had three weeks of Zeppelin terror,” says an intelligent young girl; “we could stand it no longer.”

Round the corner in Monnickendam Rooms, Great Alie Street, another throng is gathered.  Here clothes are given out, and down below dinner is served.  It is a spacious, pleasant room, and the meals are distributed at separate tables, and the cry is – “Women and children first” – not so inappropriate after all, for the people have suffered shipwreck.  One little girls grasps a toy with grim and inflexible tenacity.  Pretty scene!  Most welcome touch.

What wizard is conjuring up the wherewithal to feed this host?  The 4s. per person provided by the Russian Government goes a very short way.  During the last two weeks or so about 1,400 Jewish refugees have flocked to the Shelter, to say nothing of one hundred Christian guests.  The women and children – some one hundred and fifty in number – are lodged at the Shelter.

Three hundred men are housed and fed in the workhouse at Poland Street, given by the authorities at the Local Government Board.  Others are housed with good, kind, if poor, hosts in the East End, who surrender sometimes their own bed to the strangers from over the sea; and for yet others bedrooms are hired.  Between six and seven hundred receive meals at the Shelter, and between three and four hundred more in the Monnickendam Rooms.  And food is plentiful.  Mr. Landes and his friends find, the money from someone and somewhere.

But the tide is still coming inwards.  The Leyland Line picked up 52 Jews at Antwerp a few days ago and brought them here, and no one can place limits to the influx or would; for the Aliens Act, most crazy of structures, collapses at the first serious crisis.

The institution at Poland Street is being got ready for 800 persons and that will relieve the pressure in the East End.  A library of 500 books has been sent there, and a synagogue has been fitted up; and the refugees will be made as comfortable as may be.  But “How Long?” is the cry.  Who can find employment for at least some of these people so that they may resume the independent self-respecting lives that they lived till the swarms of the modern Attila swooped down on Belgium and turned civilisation into a sham and a peaceful land into a shambles?  Meanwhile, Mr. Landes and his colleagues move among this host, bringing succor, and the refugee’s lots is brightened.  But that cry of the children rings insistently in the ear!