The Reconstruction of Memory: Soldiers of Aufbau – Jews of The Yishuv at War

While the previous post – about Aufbau’s coverage of Jewish WW II military service – focused on general aspects of the creation of an autonomous Jewish fighting force – “this” post moves to the particular: Aufbau’s reporting on the contribution of the Jews of the Yishuv to the Allied war effort.

The primary topic covered by Aufbau in this context was the contribution of Yishuv Jewry to Britain’s armed forces, in the effort to halt the advance of the Afrika Korps, with the majority of articles of this nature having been published prior to England’s victory in the second battle of El Alamein, during late October – early November of 1942. 

Later articles are varied in their subject matter, with some pertaining to the participation of Jewish soldiers in religious services. 

Date Title
9/39 IZL – The Jewish National Army
10/39 Palestine’s Jewish Army – 50,000 Men Could be Put Under Arms
2/40 Most Destructive Units – Sidney S. Schiff uber die “Legion of Judea”  (“Most Destructive Units – Sidney S. Shiff on the “Legion of Judea””)
4/40 Training in Palästina (“Training in Palestine”) (Photo)
5/40 Fur Palästina und England! (“For Palestine and England!”) (Photo)
1240 Jüdische Scharfschutzen werden in Palästina ausgebildet (“Jewish Snipers are Trained in Palestine”) (Photo)
1/41 Neue Rekrutierungen in Palästina  (“New Recruits in Palestine”)
2/41 Cavalry in Palestine
5/41 Jüdisches Volk in Waffen – 135,000 Frauen und Manner zur Verteldigung Palästinas bereit  (“Jewish people in arms – 135,000 women and men ready for the defense of Palestine”)
5/41 Neue Truppen nach Palästina  (“New Troops to Palestine”)
7/41 Zum kampf fur Unabhangigkeit und Freiheit – Jüdische Soldaten der palästinenischen Armee auf einem Uebungsmarsch (“The fight for independence and freedom – Jewish soldiers of the Palestinian army on a training march”) (Photo)
8/41 Palästinas Jüden in Waffen (“Palestine’s Jews at Arms”) (Photo)
10/41 2 Palästina-Kongingent in Formierung  (“2 Palestine Contingents in Formation”)
12/41 Helden in Libyien – Palästinensische Truppen in entscheidenden Gefechten  (“Heroes in Libya – Palestinian troops in decisive battles”)
12/41 Judische Soldaten marschieren – Wahrend der in Palastina Mitte Oktober abgehaltenen Rekrutierungswoche haben judische Soldaten im Atadion von Tel-Aviv eine Parade abgehalten (“Jewish soldiers march – During the recruitment week held in Palestine in mid-October, Jewish soldiers held a parade in Tel Aviv Atadion”) (Photo)
6/42 Aufbruch zur Front: Taglich rucken neue jüdische Einheiten ins Feld (“Departure to the front: New Jewish units move into the field daily”) (Photo)
6/42 Unter der weiss-blauen Fahne auf der Wacht an der palästinenischen Kuste (“Under the white-blue flag on guard on the Palestinian coast”) (Photo)
8/42 Die WAACS in Erez Israel heissen PATS ((“The WAACS [Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps] in the Land of Israel are called PATS [Palestine Auxiliary Territorial Service]”) (Photo)
8/42 Palastinas erstes Regiment  (“Palestine’s First Regiment”)
8/42 In Schatten des Migdal David – Jüdische Soldaten des palästinenischen Buffs-Regiment trainieren zum Kampf gegen Rommel.  Von 584,000 Juden in Palästina dienen 47,000 Männer und Frauen in der Landesverteidigung  (“In Shadow of the Tower of David – Jewish soldiers of the Palestinian Buffs Regiment train to fight Rommel.  Of 584,000 Jews in Palestine, 47,000 men and women serve in the national defense”) (Photo)
9/42 Jüdisch-palästinensische Soldaten in New York (“Jewish Palestinian Soldiers in New York”) [Bonah, Lighter, Buttermilk, Black] (Photo)
11/42 Jüdische Freiwillige vom Buff-Regiment im Angriff (“Jewish volunteers from the Buff Regiment on the attack”) (Photo)
11/42 Palästinensische Schützen: Blaue Bohnen für Rommel (“Palestinian shooters: Blue beans for Rommel”) (Photo)
11/42 Das Palästina-Regiment wird ausgerustet  (“The Palestine Regiment is being organized”)
1/43 Die jüdische Frau marschiert – Mitglieder der PATS bei einer Demonstration durch die Strassen Tel Avivs (“The Jewish woman march – Members of the PATS in a demonstration through the streets of Tel Aviv”) (Photo)
9/43 Palästinensische Matrosen, die als Freiwillige in der englischen Navy dienen, tanzen in ihrer Freizeit eine Horrah (“Palestinian sailors serving as volunteers in the English Navy dance a hora in their free time”) (Photo)
9/43 Jewish Girls as Ambulance Drivers
12/43 Die jüdische Frau kampft mit – In einer Minenfabrik in Palästina helfen bei der Herstellung und Fullung von Landminen (“The Jewish woman is fighting – In a mine factory in Palestine help in the manufacture and filling of land mines”) (Photo)
1/44 Palästina Bataillone nach Europa  (“Palestinian Battalions to Europe”)
1/44 Jüdische WAAF in Palästina – Ein Mitglied der WAAF mit der hebraischen Achselklappe “Erez Israel” (“Jewish WAAF in Palestine – A member of the WAAF with the Hebrew epaulet “Erez Israel”) [Photo: British Combine] (Photo)
6/44 May We Present – Mrs. Jenny Blumenfeld – Who Tells of Palestine’s Women at War
9/44 Palästina-Truppen in England  (“Palestine Troops in England”)
3/45 Drei Freunde in Palästina (“Three friends in Palestine”) [Heart, Popper, Salm] (Photo)

Beyond these articles, there is much published literature on the subject of the contribution of the Yishuv – in terms of military manpower, production of war material, scientific research, and economic and support – to the Allied war effort.    

A notable wartime publication in this regard is Pierre van Paassen’s 1943 The Forgotten Ally (published by the Dial Press in 1943).  One particular chapter of this book – “The Best-Kept Secret of the War” – covers this topic in an illuminating and (even in 2017…) and surprisingly relevant fashion. 

The chapters of van Paassen’s book are:

Author’s Preface (5-6)
Chapter I – There Are No More Prophets! (9-48)
Chapter II – Prelude to Palestine’s Liberation (49-104)
Chapter III – Britain’s Role in Palestine (105-174)
Chapter IV – The Best-Kept Secret of the War (175-236)
Chapter V – Imperialism’s Reward (237-303)
Chapter VI – The Solution (304-343)


The image below shows the front cover of the 1943 (first) edition of The Forgotten Ally…


…and, here is the back cover, with van Paassen’s portrait.


Another book, Israel Cohen’s short but substantive 1942 Britain’s Nameless Ally (published by W.H. Allen & Co., Ltd., Publishers, of London) presents information about the contribution of Yishuv Jewry to the Allied war effort in a more detailed and stylistically different fashion than van Paassen.  Statistics about the numbers of Yishuv volunteers serving in the Allied military (particularly Britain’s military) are interspersed and accompanied by quotations of and comments by notable figures in Allied military, political, and news circles.  By definition – by – timing (this book was released in 1942, after all) coverage of Jewish military service (in Chapter III, “At The Battle-Fronts”) is limited to military activity in the Western Desert, at Tobruk, in Eritrea, at Keren, in Greece, in Syria, and also in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, while attention is also accorded to Jewish military service in the Czech armed forces.   

As a nice touch, the book includes 10 photographs showing military and industrial activity in the wartime Yishuv, and, a frontpiece image of Haifa.     

The book’s chapters are:

Chapter I – The Jewish People’s Offer (1-9)
Chapter II – The Rallying of Jewish Volunteers (10-17)
Chapter III – At the Battle-Fronts (18-28)
Chapter IV – The Economic Contributions (29-34)
Chapter V – Scientific and Technical Contributions (35-37)
Chapter VI – The Government and the Jewish Offer (38-46)
Appeal by the Jewish Agency Executive (47)


A beautiful view of Haifa, the leading image in Britain’s Nameless Ally.


Jewish Settlement Police, and Jewish military personnel (in training).


Of the ten photographs in Britain’s Nameless Ally, six pertain to manufacturing activity in a wartime context.  The two illustrations below are representative of these images.


In contemporary terms, Yoav Gelber’s Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War (published by Yad Itzhak Ben-Zvi Publications, Jerusalem) is an essential – probably “the” essential – work on this topic.  The work is comprised of four volumes, one of which (Jewish Volunteers in British Units) has been of tremendous help in my posts concerning female ATS volunteers, and, soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company lost in the sinking of the HMS Erinpura.  Unfortunately (!) the volumes have not yet been translated into English…   

The volumes are:

Volume I – Volunteering and its Role in Zionist Policy 1939-1942, 1979
Volume II – The Struggle for a Jewish Army, 1981
Volume III – The Standard Bearers, 1983
Volume IV – Jewish Volunteers in British Units, 1984


Another relevant publication (just discovered on, but not yet read!) is Anat Granit-Hacohen’s Hebrew Women Join the Forces: Jewish Women From Palestine in the British Forces During the Second World War.  Translated by Ora Cummings, the book was published by Vallentine Mitchell in 2017. 

The above sources are in German, English, and Hebrew.  But, there is another publication which covered Jewish WW II military service, albeit in Yiddish: That is Eynikayt, the official newspaper of the Soviet Union’s Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. 

In its twentieth issue, published on December 17, 1942, the paper included two photographs relating to military service of Yishuv Jewry.  One picture shows Jewish soldiers in the British army during training near Libya.  The other shows a group of women soldiers under inspection by their sergeant.  This latter image is remarkable in presenting the full names of these female soldiers, along with their places of birth or national origin.  Unfortunately – ! – neither the photographer nor the official source are listed for either image. 


Eynikayt, December 17, 1942:  Page 1.


Eynikayt, December 17, 1942:  Page 4.


“Jewish youths in the British army, not far from Libya, perfect their military skills in order to be deployed soon against the Fascists.”


“Jewish girls in a British regiment in Palestine (right to left): Ida Hecht (from Czechoslovakia), Khave Friedman (from Germany), Margarita Kahan (from Poland), Regina Altkorn (from Belgium), Yulia Abramson (from Carpathian Ruthenia) and Shoshana Shulman (from Palestine)”


Future posts will cover other aspects of Aufbau’s reporting on Jewish WW II military service.

The Reconstruction of Memory: Soldiers of Aufbau – The Struggle for A Jewish Army

In my prior post, “Aufbau: The Reconstruction of Memory”, I described the German anti-Nazi WW II Exile Newspaper Aufbau (“Construction”) in terms of its coverage of Jewish military service during the Second World War.  The newspaper reported upon the military service of Jewish soldiers in detail – often great detail – yet that coverage was set within the wider context of the political, psychological, social, and moral impetus for the creation of a Jewish fighting organization – a Jewish fighting organization with at least some degree of political and military autonomy.
Discussions of and news articles about this subject were manifested in many different ways.

Some items took the form of reports about the participation of Jewish soldiers in the armed forces of the varied Allied powers; a series of four articles in January and February of 1944, under the heading “1.5 Million Jews are Fighting”, covering facets of the totality of Jewish military service in the Allied armed forces; reports on Jews in the Maquis; descriptions of the reactions and opinions (both pro and con) of political leaders and the news media regarding the creation of a Jewish fighting force, and finally, commencing in September, 1944 and most prominently appearing after the war’s end – in August and September of 1945 – a series of articles about the Jewish Brigade Group.

This post presents the titles of 139 such items in Aufbau, as well as their month of their publication.  I’ve translated some, which I hope to bring you in a future post. 

Or, more accurately, posts!

Month and Year Title
9/39 IZL – The Jewish National Army
10/39 Palestine’s Jewish Army – 50,000 Men Could be Put Under Arms
10/39 Jüdische Freiwillige  (“Jewish Volunteers”)
1/40 35% Jüden in der Polnischen Legion  (“35% Jews in the Polish Legion”)
1/40 Deutschjüdische Freiwillige in der Fremdenlegion  (“German Jewish Volunteers in the Foreign Legion”)
1/40 Jüdische M.G.-Kompagnien gegen Hitler  (“Jewish machine gun company against Hitler)
2/40 Most Destructive Units – Sidney S. Schiff uber die “Legion of Judea”  (“Most Destructive Units – Sidney S. Shiff on the “Legion of Judea””)
2/40 Belgien nimmt keine ausländischen Freiwilligen  (“Belgium does not take foreign volunteers”)
5/40 Jüden an der Westfront – Pessachtage in der Maginotlinie  (“Jews on the western front – Pesach days in the Maginot Line”)
6/40 Für die Alliierten und eine jüdische Armee  (“For the Allies and a Jewish Army”)
6/40 Eine jüdische ARMEE?  (“A Jewish ARMY?”)
9/40 Die Plane für eine jüdische Armee  (“The Plan for a Jewish Army”)
10/40 A Jewish Army Throughout the World
11/40 Our Soldiers, If We Would Only Take Them
11/40 Zur Frage der jüdischen Armee  (“On the Question of the Jewish Army”)
11/40 London Sees Jewish Army Soon
1/41 Glänzende Kämpfer – Ein Lob der Refugee-Pioniere in England  (“Shining Fighters – A Praise to the Refugee Pioneers in England”)
1/41 Neue Rekrutierungen in Palästina  (“New Recruits in Palestine”)
1/41 1400 Refugee-Aerzte im britischen Kriegsdienst  (“1400 Refugee Physicians in the British War Service)
1/41 Die jüdische Armee – Englische Bereitschaft zu ihrer Aufstellung  (“The Jewish Army – English Readiness for their Formation”)
2/41 Jewish Army
2/41 Cavalry in Palestine
3/41 Jüdische Truppen in Aktion – Sie Schlagen die Italiener – Blau-Weiss neben dem Union Jack (Der erste authentische Bericht)  (“Jewish troops in action – They beat the Italians – Blue-and-white next to the Union Jack (The first authentic report)”)
3/41 Wir kämpfen in Griechenland  (“We are Fighting in Greece”)
3/41 Jüdische Armee – Jüdische Republik  (“Jewish Army – Jewish Republic”)
3/41 Jüden im Griechenkrieg  (“Jews in the Greek War”)
4/41 England rekrutiert im Ausland  (“England Recruited Abroad”)
4/41 Die Frage der jüdischen Armee  (“The Question of the Jewish Army”)
5/41 Jüdisches Volk in Waffen – 135,000 Frauen und Manner zur Verteldigung Palästinas bereit  (“Jewish people in arms – 135,000 women and men ready for the defense of Palestine”)
5/41 Neue Truppen nach Palästina  (“New Troops to Palestine”)
5/41 Doch noch eine jüdsiche Armee?  (“But another Jewish army?”)
7/41 For a Jewish Army
8/41 The World Respects a Maccabaen
10/41 2 Palästina-Kongingent in Formierung  (“2 Palestinian Contingents in Formation”)
10/41 Jewish Youth Enlist – Die Frage einer jüdischen Armee  (“Jewish Youth Enlist – The question of a Jewish army”)
10/41 Der unbekannte jüdische Soldat  (“The Unknown Jewish Soldier”)
11/41 Why a Jewish Army?
11/41 Die jüdische Armee – der Beginn einer jüdischen Politik? (Hannah Arendt)  (“The Jewish army – the beginning of a Jewish policy?”)
11/41 Jüdsiches Kadetten – Fliegerkorps in Ottawa aufgestellt  (“Jewish Cadets – Flying Corps Established in Ottawa”)
11/41 Refugees und Soldaten – Zornige Reden auf der Inter-American Jewish Conference  (“Refugees and Soldiers – Angry speeches at the Inter-American Jewish Conference”)
12/41 Helden in Libyien – Palästinensische Truppen in entscheidenden Gefechten  (“Heroes in Libya – Palestinian troops in decisive battles”)
12/41 Refugees in the British Army – A Visit to a Pioneer Camp
12/41 England and the Jewish Army
12/41 Jüdische Armee wieder aktuell  (“The Jewish army is again up to date”)
1/42 5,000 Refugees im Pionierkorps  (“5,000 Refugees in the Pioneer Corps”)
1/42 Eine jüdische Armee?  (“A Jewish Army?”)
1/42 Unknown Soldiers
1/42 Kontroverse uber die jüdische Armee – Die Reaktion auf den Leitertikel der “New York Times”  (“Controversy over the Jewish Army – The Reaction to the Leadership of the “New York Times””)
2/42 Der Kampf um die Jüdische Armee  (“The Struggle for the Jewish Army”)
3/42 Wer Ist Das “Committee for a Jewish Army”?  (“Who is the “Committee for a Jewish Army”?)
3/42 Zur Verteidigung des “Committee for a Jewish Army”  (“To Defend the “Committee for a Jewish Army”)
3/42 With the J.A.F. in Far Rockaway, L.I. – Girl About Town (Ruth Karpf)
3/42 Regierungs-Pläne zur Schaffung von Freiheits-Legionen – Drei Nationen – eine Meinung  (“Government plans to create freedom legions – Three nations – an opinion”)
5/42 Die New Yorker Zionisten-Konferenz lasst die Frage der jüdischen Armee ungelost  (“The New York Zionist Conference leaves the question of the Jewish army unresolved”)
5/42 70,000 Ex-Aliens Help Britain – Immigrant Soldiers Fighting Abroad
5/42 The Jewish Army Nevertheless
6/42 Last Call for a Jewish Army – An Appeal to “Aufbau” by Pierre Van Paassen
7/42 England immer noch gegen eine jüdische Armee; England lehnt weiterhin eine jüdische Armee ab  (“England still opposed a Jewish army; England continues to reject a Jewish army”)
7/42 The Fighting Jew – By H.I. Phillips
7/42 Die Tragödie des “Unbekannten Soldaten” (Nahum Goldmann)  (“The Tragedy of the “Unknown Soldier””)
8/42 Inadequate Solution – Statement to “Aufbau” by Stephen S. Wise
8/42 Besuch aus Tobruk – Polnisch-jüdische Soldaten auf Urlaub in New York  (“Visit from Tobruk – Polish Jewish soldiers on vacation in New York”)
8/42 Palastinas erstes Regiment  (“Palestine’s First Regiment”)
9/42 Ein Kampfer fur die Jüdische Armee  (“A camphor for the Jewish army”)
10/42 Immigrantinnen in Uniform – National Security Women’s Corps grundet ein “Allied Unit”  (“Immigrants in Uniform – National Security Women’s Corps is an “Allied Unit””)
11/42 Das Palästina-Regiment wird ausgerustet  (“The Palestine Regiment is being organized”)
11/42 In Vorderster Front  (“In the Front”)
12/42 Grant Me 200,000 Jewish Boys
12/42 England weiter gegen Jüdische Armee  (“England continued against the Jewish army”)
12/42 Luncheon of the Committee for a Jewish Army
1/43 Pionierkompagnie aus Deutschen und Oesterreichern in Afrika  (“Pioneer company from Germans and Austrians in Africa”)
1/43 President Roosevelt ueber das oesterreichische Bataillon  (“President Roosevelt on the Austrian battalion”)
1/43 Jan Christian Smuts für die Jüdische Armee  (“Jan Christian Smuts for the Jewish Army”)
2/43 Battle Song for a Jewish Bombardier – Lawrence Upton
3/43 We Will Never Die
4/43 Kopf Hoch, Kamerad! – Das Epos der deutschen und österreichischen Antifaschisten in der britischen Armee – Ein jüdischer Boxmeister in Uniform  (“Head high, comrade! – The epic of the German and Austrian anti-fascists in the British army – A Jewish boxing master in uniform”)
6/43 The War and the Jew (book review)
6/43 Jüdische Kommandos trainieren  (“Training Jewish Commanders”)
8/43 Jüdisches Regiment auf Malta  (“Jewish Regiment in Malta”)
8/43 Unbekannte Helden – Jüdsiche Kampfer unter der Trikolore – Englische Uniformen, deutsche Waffen, und ein Gedanke: ran an den Feind! (“Unknown heroes – Jewish fighters under the tricolor – English uniforms, German weapons, and a thought: ran to the enemy!”)
8/43 In deutschen Uniformen (“In German Uniforms”)
8/43 Guns in the Middle East
9/43 Jewish Girls as Ambulance Drivers
10/43 Rosch-Haschonoh-Feiern in der Armee – In allen Ländern un an allen Fronten werden Gottesdienste abgehalten  (“Rosh Hashanah Celebrations in the Army – Worship services are held in all countries on all fronts”)
11/43 Nachricht über den Tod eines Pioniers in Nordafrika  (“Message about the death of a pioneer in North Africa”)
12/43 Guerillas unter jüdischer Flagge – Fünftausen Kämpfer  (“Guerrillas among the Jewish flag – fifty-five fighters”)
1/7/44 Palästina Bataillone nach Europa  (“Palestinian Battalions to Europe”)
1/44 1.5 Millionen Jüden kampfen mit – 500,000 aus U.S.A. – 34% aller wehrpflichtigen Immigranten in Waffen  (“1.5 Million Jews are Fighting – 500,000 from U.S.A. – 34% of all Conscientious Immigrants at Arms”)
1/44 1.5 Millionen Jüden kampfen mit – II. Die jüdischen Generale in der russischen Armee  (“1.5 Million Jews are Fighing – The Jewish Generals in the Russian Army”)
1/44 1.5 Millionen Jüden kampfen mit – III. 8000 Fleiger in der Royal Air Force  (“1.5 Million Jews are Fighting – 8,000 Fliers in the Royal Air Force”)
2/44 1.5 Millionen Jüden kampfen mit – IV. Jüden in der Kanadischen Armee  (“1.5 Million Jews are Fighting – IV. Jews in the Canadian army”)
2/44 Jüdische Helfer-Kommandos für Europa  (“Jewish helpers for Europe”)
2/44 Tod nur mi der Waffe in der Hand – Eine Proklamation jüdsicher Guerillas  (“Death only with the weapon in hand – A proclamation of Jewish guerrillas”)
3/44 Jüdische Armee neu gefordert – Nahum Goldmann berichtet zur Lage des jüdischen Volkes  (“Jewish army demanded again – Nahum Goldmann reports on the situation of the Jewish people”)
5/44 The Greatest Seder I Ever Witnessed – Cpt. Wilfred C. Hulse
6/44 Polnisch-jüdische Soldaten kampfen in Italien  (“Polish Jewish soldiers are fighting in Italy”)
6/44 May We Present – Mrs. Jenny Blumenfeld – Who Tells of Palestine’s Women at War  (“May We Present – Mrs. Jenny Blumenfeld – Who Tells of Palestine’s Women at War”)
6/44 Die “unbekannte Division” singt – In Tobruk gegründet – Erstes Auftreten in Neapel  (“The “unknown division” sings – Founded in Tobruk – First appearance in Naples”)
9/44 Palästina-Truppen in England  (“Palestinian Troops in England”)
9/44 Jüdische Brigade fur Europa  (“Jewish Brigade for Europe”)
9/44 Rosch Haschonoh an allen Fronten  (“Rosh Hashanah on all Fronts”)
9/44 Bataillone unter dem Davidsstern – Premier Smuts ernennt die Offiziere  (“Battalions under the Star of David – Premier Smuts appoints the Officers”)
10/44 Von der Armee zur Brigade – Eine kleine Erfüllung, aber immerhin eine Erfüllung  (“From the army to the brigade – A small fulfillment, but still a fulfillment”)
10/44 Soldaten-Jom Kippur in Deutschland  (“Soldiers’ – Yom Kippur in Germany”)
10/44 Jüdische Brigade als Besatzung  (“Jewish Brigade as a Crew”)
10/44 Der Kommandant der Jüdischen Brigade  (“The Commander of the Jewish Brigade”)
11/44 British Jewry Welcomes Jewish Brigade Group
11/44 Jewish Agency wirbt für die Jewish brigade – Auch Maquis-Leute bewerben sich  (“Jewish Agency promotes the Jewish brigade – Maquis people also apply”)
11/44 Arabische Brigade versus Jüdische Brigade  (“Arab Brigade versus Jewish Brigade”)
11/44 Jüdischer Brigadier befehligte griechische Guerillas  (“The Jewish Brigadier commanded Greek guerrillas”)
11/44 Südafrikanische Offiziere für die Jüdische Brigade  (“South African officers for the Jewish Brigade”)
12/44 Gestern Refugees – heute Soldaten – Ruhmestaten von Immigranten in der americanischen Armee (Backenheimer, Bruner, Frank, Goetz, Katz, Liebenstein, Monash, Schleimer, Stern)  (“Yesterday, Refugees – Today Soldiers – Glory of Immigrants in the American Army)”
1/45 Die jüdische brigade ist kampfbereit  (“The Jewish Brigade is ready for battle”)
3/45 General Benjamin fordert verstärkte Rekrutierung – Noch 23 andere Palästina-Formationen – Ausbildung der Jüdischen Brigade in Aegypten  (“General Benjamin calls for more recruitment – Still 23 other Palestinian formations – Training of the Jewish Brigade in Egypt”)
3/45 Die neue jüdische Brigade eingesetzt – Der erste Bericht über die Feuertaufe der Brigade – General Clarks Willkomensgruss – Kundgebung der Jewish Agency und des National Council  (“The new Jewish brigade set up – The first report on the firing brigade of the brigade – General Clarks Willkomensgruss – Rally of the Jewish Agency and the National Council”)
4/45 Von Rheydt bis Iwo Jima – Pessach an der Front  (“From Rheydt to Iwo Jima – Passover at the front”)
4/45 10,000 Jungens brauchen uns (Ein Aufruf, der Alle angeht:) – ‘Aufbau’ und ‘Our Boys Club’ starten eine Sonder-Aktion fur die “Judische Brigade”  (“10,000 boys need us (a call to everyone) – ‘Construction’ and ‘Our Boys Club’ are launching a special action for the “Jewish Brigade””)
4/45 Soldaten feiern Pessach auf dem Indischen Ozean  (“Soldiers celebrate Passover on the Indian Ocean”)
4/45 Fahnenweihe der “Jewish Brigade”  (“Flagship of the Jewish Brigade”)
4/45 Jüdische brigade kampft gegen Nazis  (“Jewish Brigade is Fighting the Nazis”)
5/45 Mit der “Jüdischen Brigade” an der Front  (“With the “Jewish Brigade” at the front”)
5/145 Die jüdische Flagge weht über Dachau  (“The Jewish flag is blowing over Dachau”)
6/45 Mit der “Jüdischen Brigade” nach Oesterreich  (“With the “Jewish Brigade” to Austria”)
8/45 Jüdische Brigade Nach Belgien  (“Jewish Brigade to Belgium”)
8/45 Jüdische Brigade als Palästina-Garnison – Vorher vermutlich Teil der Besatzungstruppe in Deutschland  (“Jewish Brigade as a Palestine garrison – Formerly part of the occupation group in Germany”)
8/45 Die “Dachauer” kommen zurück – Erlebnisse eines jüdischen Soldaten in Bayern und Oesterreich (Pfc. Hans Lichtwitz)  (“The “Dachauer” come back – Experiences of a Jewish soldier in Bavaria and Austria”)
8/45 Teile der Jüdischen Briagde nach Holland  (“Parts of the Jewish Briagde to Holland”)
9/45 Notschrei britischer Refugee-Soldaten  (“Emergency cry of British Refugee soldiers”)
9/45 Ruckkehr der Kriegsveteranen nach Palästina  (“Return of war veterans to Palestine”)
9/45 Der Jüde als Soldat – Bemerkungen zu Ralph Nunbergs Buch “The Fighting Jew”  (“The Jew as a Soldier – Remarks on Ralph Nunberg’s book “The Fighting Jew””)
9/45 Jüdische Brigade begleitet Palästina-Reisende  (“Jewish brigade accompanies Palestine travelers”)
9/45 Our Boys from the Jewish Brigade Write to Aufbau – Following are excerpts from dozens of letters which Aufbu received from Palestinian soldiers serving with the Jewish brigade
9/45 Ein Tag mit der Jüdischen Brigade – Als Besatzung in der belgischen Stadt Tournai  (“A day with the Jewish Brigade – As a crew in the Belgian town of Tournai”)
10/45 Blau-Weis-Marsch durch Deutschland (Pfc. Hans Lichtwitz)  (“Blue-Weis-Marsch through Germany”)
11/45 Von der jüdischen Brigade  (“From the Jewish Brigade”)
11/45 The Oath of the Jewish Brigade
11/45 Weltverband jüdischer Kriegsveteranen  (“World Association of Jewish War Veterans”)
2/46 Preisausschreiben für jüdische Soldaten  (“Price List for Jewish Soldiers”)


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




Soldiers of the Erinpura – VI: The Fallen – Merchant Navy and Indian Merchant Navy Sailors

The Erinpura’s Crew

Commanded by Captain R.V. Cotter, sixty members of the Erinpura’s crew were lost in the sinking:  Fifty-five members of the Indian Merchant Navy, and, five members of the Merchant Navy.

The fifty-five Indian Merchant Navy personnel comprised such ratings as Baker, Boy, Butler, Cook, Donkeyman (an engine room rating who attended to the Donkey boiler), Fireman, General Servant, Oiler, Pantryman, Scullion (lowest job level in Merchant Navy), Seaman, Serang (skipper of a small boat), Topass (sanitary hygeine), and Trimmer (stoker).

Genealogical information is present for twenty-one of the fifty-five men, while ages are given for fifty-four.

Of the twenty-one, sixteen were married, all residing in Goa, a state along the southwestern coast of India.  Ten of the twenty-one were from South Goa, one of the two districts of Goa, the other being (as shown in the map below) North Goa.

Southern India


goa-indiaThe Districts of Goa

administrative_map_of_goaThe twenty-one are listed as having been from:

Agramoda (Agarwada?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Assolna, Goa // Assolna / Assoulua, South Goa – 3 men

Baga, South Goa – 1 man

Carosetta / Carsetty, South Goa – 2 men

Cavelsin (Cavelossim?), Carmone, Goa (South Goa) – 1 man

Chinchin, South Goa – 1 man

Dharmpur, South Goa – 1 man

Jeewado, South Goa – 1 man

Karsetti, South Goa – 1 man

Kolsewada (Kolsewadi?), Goa – 1 man

Mapuca, Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Navelim, South Goa – 1 man

Nobai, Saipe (Saipem?), Goa (North Goa) – 1 man

Quepen, Laldamwadi, Goa / Quepen, Servia, Goa (Quepem, South Goa) – 2 men

Sukalda, South Goa – 1 man

Wado, South Goa – 1 man

At age sixty-three, the oldest crewman of the fifty-five was Francis F. D’Souza (General Servant), while the youngest was Main Mazhar (Boy), who was nineteen.  The average age of the twenty-one was thirty-nine, probably reflective of career service in the Indian Merchant Navy.

All these men are commemorated at the Bombay / Chittagong 1939-1945 War Memorial.  The Bombay 1939-1945 Memorial Roll of Honour is, “held at the Indian Sailor’s Home, Bombay,” and lists the names of 6,467 WW II casualties.  This total comprises, “over 400 sailors of the former Indian Navy and over 6,000 sailors of the former Indian Merchant Navy who were lost at sea during the war years.”

The Merchant Navy casualties comprised the ship’s First and Third Radio Officers (Ernest W. Erbach – age forty-nine, and Brian Rostron Marsden – age twenty-one), two Junior Engineering Officers (Charles McGill and Ernest Richard Smith), and Carpenter Tham Yout.  These five men are commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial (Panel 48) in London.  Akin to the members of the Indian Merchant Navy, genealogical information is almost completely absent for them.  However, the father of First Radio Officer Ernest William Erbach is listed as Philip Cort.

Ten Other Casualties – Circumstances Unknown

Searching the CWGC database for deaths on May 1, 1943, in the Mediterranean and European Theaters yields records for nine other men.  Two were Pioneer Corps soldiers from Swaziland, and eight were members of the British Army.  Though it is unknown if there were passengers on the Erinpura or British Trust, or lost in some other circumstance, I have appended their names to the list of Erinpura crew casualties.

The Swaziland soldiers were Privates Shamile Lulane and Msomane Tabede, both of whom are memorialized at the Swaziland 1938-1945 War Memorial, in Bethany, Swaziland.

The British soldiers, all of whose names are commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey, England, are:

Pioneer Corps

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Albert E. Clayton, from Shropshire

Serjeant William Nicol

Lieutenant Percey G. Tredwell, from Hampshire

Serjeant Colin Wilde, from Jersey (Channel Islands)

Royal Army Medical Corps

Private Alfred E. Perrett, from Lymington, Hampshire

Corps of Military Police

Corporal William R. Gillett, from Buckinghamshire

Serjeant John Mills, from Liverpool

Indian Merchant Navy, and Merchant Navy, Casualties on the Erinpura

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – V: The Fallen – Basotho Soldiers

The majority of troops aboard the Erinpura were members of the Basotho people, an ethnic group of the Bantu people who primarily live in South Africa, and to a lesser extent in the countries of Lesotho and Botswana, and, the South African state of Swaziland. 

The men were members of the African Pioneer Corps H.C.T. (High Commission Territories) and were assigned to the 1919th and 1927th Basuto Companies.  One soldier (Private Malefetsane Manuel Mohale, AS/6946) – going by his CWGC record – was a member of the 1924th Basuto Company.




swazilandThe CWGC database shows casualty records for 303 members of the 1919th Company, and, 320 members of the 1927th Company.

While genealogical information exists for forty per-cent of the Jewish casualties and one-third of the Erinpura’s crewmen (see below), such information is present for only a sole individual among the Basotho casualties:  Private T. Japheta, AS/9273, born in 1901.  He is buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery, in Benghazi.  The CWGC database lists his father as Bupoe Machaba, but no other information is given in terms of his age or the location of his home.

In terms of military service, the overwhelming number of Basotho soldiers were Privates and Corporals.  The remainder comprised twenty-one sergeants and one warrant-officer.  One man – Jan Poulo (AS/12128) of the 1919th, listed in the CWGC database as a Captain, which information may be incorrect.

With the exception of Private Japheta, all the Basotho soldiers are commemorated at the Lesotho Memorial, which is located in Makoayane Square, in the center of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.

Soldiers of the 1919th Basuto Company

A Soldier of the 1924th Basuto Company

Soldiers of the 1927th Basuto Company

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – IV: The Fallen – Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company – II (Biographical Information)

As a part of this study, I’ve made an effort to compile biographical information – at least, what little exists; what little I can find – about the soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company.  Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of such information available on the Internet – with the exception of the CWGC records – is in Hebrew.  I’ve created a document giving nominal information about the men for whom information could be found; found, that is, in web-based sources.

This document includes photographic portraits of these soldiers, and, URLs for relevant websites.

The document is presented below:

Casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company – Photographs and Biographies

Soldiers of the Erinpura – IV: The Fallen – Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company – I

Soldiers of the 462nd General Transport Company

4253-workingThe above image, posted at the website of the Kedem Auction House Ltd., shows the cover of a Passover Haggadah printed by the 462nd General Transport Unit in Italy, in 1944.  The stylized Magen David, with a winged camel in the center, was the unit’s emblem.

462nd-insignia-from-jwmww2_edited-1Another emblem of the 462nd, more clearly showing the design of a winged camel inside a Magen David, from information about Jewish units in the British Army in WW II, at the website of the Jewish Soldier in WW II. 

While the total number of 462nd casualties is reported as 148 (Henry Morris) or 140 (numerous web references) news articles from the South African Jewish Times and The Jewish Chronicle give the number of fallen as 138, which is identical with my findings.

For a few (only a few) names, such as that of Chaim Cikanowski (PAL /410) and Wilhelm Scharf (PAL/30940), the soldier’s name is not present in either volume of WWRT, but it does appear in Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

For some servicemen, like Israel Platzman (PAL/522) and Michael Schlesinger (PAL/32377) the “match” between the name as given in WWRT and CWGC is exact.

For many soldiers (seen in the attached files) there is notable variation in the spelling of the names among We Will Remember Them, Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, and, records in the CWGC.

In such cases, I list every name variant for every soldier, and I have “unified” these variants under a single name that appears to be the best “fit” for these variants.  The following are such examples:

The name “Yaakov Schmerling” (PAL/1272) is derived from “Yaakov (Shneur) Schmerling” and “Yacob Shmerling”.

For “Pinchas Kuflik” (PAL/30343), WWRT 1 gives his name as “Pinchas Kopelik” and “Paul Koplik”, while CWGC gives his name as “Pinkas Kuflik”.

There are two possible names for “Isak Chaim Nussbaum” (PAL/1266).  WWRT 1 gives his name as “Yigal Nussbaum” and CWGC gives his name as “Isak Chaim Nussbaum”.

But…  A man’s name is not merely a string of letters; mere “information”.

It is his identity.

It is him, in senses both symbolic and real.

Who were these men?

Most CWGC records for casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company list only the man’s name, rank, serial number, date of casualty, and place of commemoration.  However, using a combination of CGWC data, and, a variety of genealogical information available at various websites (such as year and place of birth, place of citizenship or residence of next-of-kin, and names of next-of-kin) it has been possible to “reconstruct” – to a limited extent – biographical information for eighty-six men; information which may indirectly be representative of the background of the other 52 soldiers for whom such information is currently unavailable.

How old were they?

The average age of the eighty-six was twenty-eight.  The oldest of the eighty-six was Ahron Ben Shalom Qarawani, whose mother lived in Peta Tikva, and who, born in 1886, was fifty-seven years old.  The youngest were Ouri Baks, from Netanya; Moshe Alter Kaplan from Peta Tikva; and, Pesach Yaacobson, from Ramat Gan.  Born in 1925, they were all eighteen years old.

Where were their families from?

Of those of the 86 for whom a place of residence of next-of-kin (rather than the men themselves) is listed, the following locations are given, with the soldier’s surname listed adjacent.

Afikim – 1 man (Gurevtich)

Bet Hanan – 1 man (Tadjer)

Degania (Kibbutz) – 1 (Tanfilov)

Brooklyn, N.Y., USA – 1 man (Scharf)

Hotin, Bessarabia, Rumania – 1 man (Guterman)

Givat Samuel – 1 man (Spinzel)

Giwatayim / Givatayinu (Givatayim?) – 2 men (Fogel, Milkain)

Haifa – 3 men (Altgenug, Veiner, Zyto)

Jerusalem – 1 man (Rosenzweig)

Kfar Gibton – 1 man (Ben Yisrael)

Kfar Mallal – 1 man (Nadav)

“Kinereth” (Kinneret) – 1 man (Pesach Maimon)

Kiriat Bialik – 1 man (Jashuvi)

“Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – 1 man (Gruber)

Nahalal – 1 man (Betzer)

“Nanthaya” / Netanya – 2 men (Baks, Terbas)

“Peta Tiqva” / “Petak Tikvat” (Peta Tikva) – 3 men (Kaplan, Raphael Maimon, Qarawani)

Post Karkur – 1 man (Simon)

Ramat-Gan – 2 men (Heydermann, Pesach Yaacobson)

Ramat-Gan Bet – 1 man (Stern)

Rehovoth – 1 man (Gotlib)

Rishon-le-Zion – 1 man (Aharon Segal)

Tel-Adashim – 1 man (Steinberg)

Tel-Aviv – 6 men (Bachrach, Busany, Yechye Cohen, Greenberg, Schiefer, Schmerling, Israel Segal)

Two of the eighty-six were born in Latvia.  They were Johoshua Adari, who was born in Zilupe under the name of Truskanovski, and, Itzhak Ben Yeshayahn (Yeshayahu?) Lotz, a member of Hashomer Hatzair, who was born in Rezekne in 1912 under the name of Itzkhak Kisayevitch Lots.

Where were they born?

Along with Adari and Lotz, the countries of birth for some of the eighty-six are:

Austria – 9 men

Bulgaria – 1 man

Israel (Yishuv) – 7 men

Germany – 5 men

Hungary – 1 man

Latvia – 1 man

Libya – 2 men

Lithuania – 1 man

Poland – 14 men

Romania – 4 men

Russia – 1 man

Some were born in Germany or Austria

As listed above, five of the casualties are known to have been born in Germany, and nine in Austria.  Among those men for whom genealogical information is absent, twelve have names with a Germanic “sound”, suggesting birth in either of those countries.  They are:

Hans Carl Altgenug, whose uncle Zwi Alvin was from Haifa

Erich Bachrach, whose parents were Rudolf and Rudoleine, and whose step-father Henry was from Tel-Aviv

Leopold Baumgarten

Fritz Deutsch

Gustav Gavriel Gruber (listed above)

Paul Heiman, whose parents were Berthold and Martha

Gerhard Heydemann, whose mother Ruth lived in Ramat-Gan

Ludwig Levite

Hans Gerd Rosin

Michael Schlesinger

Gunter Schwartzer

Werner Sally Trauman

Hans Yaacobson

Married Men

The married men, and their wives, were:

Yaakov Ben Israel, from Kfar Gibton – Hemda

Gustav Gavriel Gruber, from “Meia Sharim” (Mea Shearim) – Batia

Moshe Greenberg, from Tel Aviv – Bella

Baruch Gurevitch, from Afikim – “Jaffa” [Sheina Peleg]

Pesach Maimon, from “Kinereth Israel” (Kinnererth Israel) – Naomi

Raphael Maimon, from “Petka Tikvah” (Peta Tikva) – Rachel

Aharon Segal, from Rishon le Zion – Jocheved

Shlomo Stern, from Ramat-Gan-Bet – Gnesa

Gershon Haim Tadjer, from Bet Hanan – Victoria

Moshe Terbas, from Netanya – Shoshana [Treves]

Where are their names memorialized?

The names of every man – but one – are commemorated on Panels 15, 16, and 17 at the Brookwood Memorial, in Surrey, England.  That “one” man is Hans Carl Altgenug, whose name is commemorated at the Athens Memorial, in Athens, Greece.

The Hebrew Wikipedia article about the Erinpura states that two casualties of the 462nd are buried in Libya; one in Tripoli and the other in Benghazi.  However, based on information available thus far, I believe that every Jewish soldier lost in the sinking of the Erinpura was genuinely “lost at sea”, as was true for all but one of the other casualties on the ship.

Other casualties of the 462nd General Transport Company

The 462nd incurred the loss of four other soldiers during the war.  Driver Abraham Reznik died on July 6, 1942 and is buried at El Alamein.  L/Cpl. Alfred Freddy Schwartz, whose parents lived at Shepherd’s Bush, in London, died in Italy on October 24, 1944, and is buried at the Caserta War Cemetery.  Private Shlomo Halun and Driver Moshe Zack also died in Italy (on December 11, 1944 and February 15, 1945, respectively), and are buried at the Rome War Cemetery, and, Florence War Cemetery.

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning A through E

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning F through J

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning K through O

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning P through T

462nd General Transport Company – Surnames beginning U through Z

462nd General Transport Company – Other Casualties in the Second World War

– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – III: The Sky Above / The Sea Below

The Germans (The Luftwaffe)

The identity of the Luftwaffe unit that sank the Erinpura is revealed in Norman Clothier’s excellent account as Kampfgeschwader (“Bomber Wing”) 26.  The sinking of the ship is described thusly:

“In the late afternoon of 1 May 1943 the convoy was in six columns on a westerly course not far from the North African coast.  The first warning of air attack came at 18:43 [6:43 P.M.] when a single aircraft approached the convoy out of the sun.  Flying at about 50 feet (15 m) above the sea it flew between the starboard line of escorts and the convoy, so that only two ships were able to engage it.  Apparently no hits were made.  Reports differ as to whether it released a torpedo or jettisoned something, but no ship was hit.  This aircraft retired to the north-east pursued by shore-based fighters who claimed to have destroyed it.  It would have been able to report the convoy’s position by radio before it was shot down.

“Shortly after 19:10 [7:10] another plane attempted to repeat the same tactics, but it was driven off by fire from the escorts.  Retreating to the north-west it, too, was pursued and destroyed by fighters.

“Finally the main attack commenced at 19:50.  [7:50]  A German source (“Dr. Phil Ernst Thomsen who took over the command of III / KG 26 in 1944.”) says that it was made by two Gruppen (equivalent squadrons), III / KG 26 under Major Nocken and II / KG 26 led by Major Werner Klumper, who also commanded the attack as acting wing commander.  British estimates of the number of attackers vary from 18 to 36.  The lower figure seems to be more probable.  The attack was synchronised by two groups so as to confuse the defence.  British reports differ.  Apparently the first attack was made by bombers.  Ships in the convoy twisted and turned to avoid the falling bombs and no hits were made.  All vessels were firing their anti-aircraft weapons.  At the same time a Heinkel 111 was seen to drop a torpedo about a mile from the convoy, later a flash was seen and an explosion heard.  The tanker British Trust was hit, her port side was opened for a third of her length and her cargo of oil caught fire.  She listed heavily and sank in about three minutes.  No boats could be lowered and difficulty was experienced in getting rafts clear, but her crew, mainly Indian lascars, behaved very well and many survived to be picked up.

“The action intensified at about 20:10 [8:10] with many bombers overhead, the guns of the convoy and escorts firing furiously and the scene partly lighted by the burning oil from the British Trust.  At this time fighters were probably overhead attacking the bombers, as shore command claimed that it had three Spitfires, eleven Hurricanes and a Beaufighter airborne very quickly.”

There is a plethora of material covering the history of KG 26, attributable to its lengthy (1939 through 1945) service, and, participation in combat on every European front.

The Kampfgeschwader was equipped with He-111, Ju-88, and eventually Ju-188 aircraft, all these aircraft being twin-engine medium bombers which were decorated with the Geschwader’s emblem of a stylized lion beneath the motto “Vestigium Leonis” (“Winged Lion”).  During its service, KG 26 incurred the loss of 341 aircraft (271 He-111s, 12 Ju-188s, 1 Ju-52, 56 Ju-88s, and 1 Bf-108).  II / KG 26 and III / KG 26, the specific units which sank the Erinpura and British Trust, are abbreviations for II Gruppe and III Gruppe (2nd and 3rd Groups) of the Kampfgeschwader.

2_19_b2-szeremataColor profile of a desert camouflaged He-111H, bearing the insignia of KG 26, from the Wings Pallette website, by Zygmunt Szeremeta.  The alpha-numeric code “1H” identified the Geschwader’s aircraft. 

heinkel-he-111h-kg26-north-africa-01The nose of a Heinkel He-111H of KG 26 in North Africa, from the Asisbiz website. The aircraft is finished in the Luftwaffe camouflage color “RLM [Reichs Luftfahrt Ministerium – “Ministry of Aviation”] 79 Sandgelb”.

heinkel-he-111h-kg26-north-africa-02Another He-111H of KG 26, also in North Africa, from the website.  Notable in this view is the aircraft’s nose-mounted 7.9 mm machine gun.  

During the time of the sinking of the two ships, II / KG 26 was based at Villacidro, Sardinia, and equipped with He-111H-4/6 torpedo bombers, while III / KG 26 was based at Grosseto, Italy, and equipped with Ju-88A-4 dive bombers.  KG 26 was then commanded by Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Werner Klümper.  The commander of II Gruppe was Major George Teske, while III Gruppe was commanded by Hauptmann (Captain) Klaus Nocken, who, according to Norman Clothier’s references, was killed in Prague in 1945.

Though the above report mentions that shore-based RAF fighters destroyed two of KG 26’s bombers during the strike on the convoy, and possibly the aircraft that initially spotted the convoy, the list of KG 26 losses implies that this was not so. 

Unfortunately, the Kampfgeschwader lost no aircraft that day.

The entry on the Erinpura at Hebrew Wikipedia states that the convoy was identified by a German Storch (“Stork”) type aircraft, most likely an allusion to the Fieseler Fi-156 light observation and army cooperation plane.  However, performance figures for the very lightly armed Fi-156 state that the aircraft’s range was 240 miles, vastly short of the distance between the Erinpura’s convoy and German air bases in Sardinia and Italy.  Thus, the convoy was more almost certainly spotted by a He-111 or Ju-88.  This is also consistent with the accounts given by Norman Clothier and Henry Morris.

Curiously, the accounts given by Henry Morris and Norman Clothier differ by exactly one hour in terms of the timing of the bombing of the Erinpura.  Henry Morris gives the start of the main attack as 20.50 (8:50 P.M.), with the ship being struck by a bomb at 21.05 (9:05 P.M.).  Norman Clothier gives the start of the main attack as 19.50 (7:50 P.M.).  In any event, KG 26’s strike was obviously timed to coincide with sunset, which – on May 1, 1943, near Benghazi – occurred at 21:19 (7:19 P.M.).

Aboard the Erinpura

The Palyam and Aliyah Bet Website provides a document in Hebrew entitled (English Translation) “Yishuv Volunteers For the British Army During the Second World War 1939-1945, which specifically focuses on the sinking of the Erinpura, and includes eyewitness accounts of this event and its aftermath, by three survivors:  Chaim Ast, Ben Ami Melamed, and Eli Zeiler.  The translated document (a somewhat approximate translation) is presented below:

Chaim Ast was sailing for three days on the Erinpura without knowing where he was going.  The sun rose and fell over the Mediterranean waters.  The waves surged and subsided frequently, but Ast and members of the 462nd were only able to guess where they were going.  Since leaving the port of Alexandria, the company commander, Major Yoffe, would say nothing.  Members of the company had lost the sense of time and place.  Only the celebrations on the first of May involving a prescribed routine hinted at something on the calendar.

“That day at dusk, with Prof. Eisenberg and one of our officers, we gathered on the upper deck,” recalls Ast, with wandering eyes.  “Until then we sailed without knowing where we were going, and, there was an air of uncertainty.  Eisenberg called us; told all of us first of the 1st of May and its meaning, and then the purpose of our cruise – to embark in Malta for the invasion of southern Europe.  Below the deck, the socialists were celebrating, and while he was talking, a plane passed overhead.  After that I went down.  We had long tables with benches and sat and talked.  Suddenly came the bombing.”

…south to Al Alamein:

When the 462nd Company was established, way back in 1942, Eli Zeiler was a young teenager who wondered around the open spaces surrounding Degania Alef.  While he was walking in the fields, the British were training a group of Israeli soldiers that were designated to act alongside her majesty’s army, in battles that were beginning throughout the world at that time, as one of the four Hebrew transport platoons.  For Zeiler it was a golden opportunity for closure.

“I was born in Austria, and in 1938 my high school classroom teacher ordered all Jews to leave.  So I left,” he recalls. “I moved here straight to the kibbutz and soon after that I decided to join.  The Histadrut wanted to send me a commanders’ course of ‘defense’ and refused to enlist me in the British army, so I bypassed them and applied directly through the Army recruiting office.  I received a pound and a half, and I took a bus to Sarafand, the “Zerifin” of today”.

 Among the people he met in the company, were Ben Ami Melamed and Chaim Ast; old friends ever since elementary school, and decided to join the same company.  More than 60 years have passed, but when the three of them met this week in Ast’s apartment, the memories of those early days as fighters returned quickly.  “The atmosphere was such that anyone who joined the British was an evader”, was Ast’s opening line.  “I left everything, I recruited five more fighters with me and we went together to enlist in the British Army.  I went straight to the front, to El Alamein”.

The transport company received full infantry training and learned to drive on primitive roads.  Thereafter, recruits from the battle of El Alamein joined the expanding front where Italian-German forces commanded by Rommel were quickly advancing.  “The Germans arrived, and it was a real threat.  We felt it would be a shame for the Germans do to us what they did to all the Jews,” recalls Melamed.  “The feeling was not easy when we got to the front.  We knew that if the Germans would break the El Alamein line, they would conquer Egypt and then will come our way to Israel.

I don’t remember who said this but we decided that in case of a retreat, we would abandon the British army and go to Israel by trucks.  While preparing for battle, the transport platoons were busy paving roads.  During the battle days, Aset, Melamed, Zeisler and their friends would go into the lines of the infantry squads.

While preparing for battle, there were detachments of transports especially in road construction.  On the days of battles Ast, Melamed, Zeiler and friends would go into lines classed as infantry.  On other days they would transfer equipment to one point and come back with prisoners to another point.  This situation often gave rise to complex situations. “When the distances became longer, one day wasn’t enough to transfer the prisoners so we had to spend the night with them”, Zeisler says.  “The problem was that one driver and one infantry soldier can’t really guard 30 prisoners of war, so we invented a game – Find the shoes.  We had them take off their pants and shoes, and walk them 200 meters into the desert, and that way we could ensure ourselves that no one would escape without their belongings.  For some fun, we would make a big pile of all the shoes – for them to search.”

In October 1942, the winds began to warm at El Alamein.  The British Eighth Army, under the command of Montgomery, began to chase Rommel’s forces and lead what is considered by many as the turning point of World War II.  “When we were chasing the Germans, we were moving forward so quickly that we couldn’t stop,” recalls Ast.  “The trip had become dangerous.  Ben-Ami, who was the co-driver of mine, was observing out of the truck, dismantling plugs from abandoned German trucks and replacing them while we were driving.  That’s how we moved forward.  At last when the enemy lines were finally breached, we entered the most terrible battle area.  The bodies of soldiers were strewn everywhere.  I remember this image like it was yesterday, but most of all – I can not forget the smell.”

Idiots, jump into the sea!

After the battle in North Africa ended the transport platoon together with other British army forces went towards Alexandria.  Scenting the smell of victory, Melamed, Zeisler and Aset embarked with the rest of their friends on the British ship the “SS Erinpura”.  On the 29th of April of that year, at the end of Passover, the first convoy left with as a naval force of 27 ships carrying soldiers, supplies and equipment for the British army.

The goal of the journey was to reach Malta and join the forces that were meant to participate in the allies invasion of Sicily.  However the Germans had other plans.  “On the 1st of May at dusk, while the convoy was making it’s way by sea, about 50 kilometers north of Benghazi, Libya, a German reconnaissance plane came from the west was flew over our heads”, describes Zeisler.  It came right out of the sun so we couldn’t see it approaching, and passed between the ships at the same height of the decks.  So it was impossible to open fire on him, so as not to hit the other ships.  After it flew away, it was very clear that an attack would begin”.

And of course around 20:00, 12 German warplanes came over the convoy of ships, focus on the lead ship in the convoy – the Erinpura.  “They hit our ship in 2 places – one straight in the hold and the other from the side,” Ast mentioned.  

“This is a moment that I do not remember.  I ran towards to the stairs but did not find them.  I somehow got to the upper deck, and as I came up, I met a friend there.  He saw the water getting closer and started to cry.  I did not have too much experience in water, but I heard that when something is sinking it causes a whirlpool.  I said, ‘You are not a woman on the beach in Tel Aviv, jump!  He did not want to, so I pushed him and jumped after him.  I saw that the bottom floor collapsed, and the stairs collapsed.  The ship began to descend like an elevator,” says Zeiler.  “She started to tilt angle of 45 degrees.  When I managed to stay away some ten meters by swimming, I saw the propeller rise, and there was a huge explosion, apparently in the engine room.”

Melamed himself was secluded in a room at the back of the ship and rushed up to the top deck.  “I saw two guys standing and throwing rafts,” he says.  “I came to help them and I saw the side of four guys sitting and praying.  I saw that the ship was going to sink and I realized there was no choice and had to jump into the sea.  Suddenly the rear of the ship rose into the air and the water was already upon us.  I called to them, ‘Idiots, jump into the sea!’  And they continued to pray.  I jumped and started to swim with all my strength to stay away from the ship.  Her horn blared very long, and then I turned around and I saw her descend with them into the water.  It was a picture of horror: the bow turned forward and on the aft hung dozens, if not hundreds of soldiers.  Terrible screams.  I threw my belt I minded and I swam with all my might.  I turned back again – no vessel, no people, everything was gone, and the Germans firing at us with bursts of gunfire.”

The Erinpura sank in less than four minutes.  Melamed, Zeiler and Ast found themselves in the icy darkness of the Mediterranean.  Time passed, and more.  Gunfire was replaced by a soft throbbing sound.  Greek naval forces in the occasional darkness trying to find the survivors.  “I saw two rafts and began to gather more and more people, of all nations, on them” says Melamed quietly.  “South Africans, British and Indians.  Most of the people who lived, were on the raft floating in the water.  We decided all together, without knowing the languages, that only the wounded will remain on the rafts.  A Greek destroyer approached, and when I grabbed the ladder I saw that I could not continue because four hours in the water had weakened me.  Suddenly a pair of strong hands caught me and pulled me up.  I do not remember what was happening through the night, but in the morning we saw a difficult scene.  The captain of the ship stood and said a prayer, and beside him were several bodies bound with weights.  A shot in the air and the bodies were thrown into the sea.”

 A Greek sailor rubbed me:

 Most of the soldiers and the crew that remained on Erinpura died that night.  Of the 300 members of the Company there only 160 survivors who were transferred to safety.  “I woke up in the ship’s hold as a Greek sailor rubbed me with a towel and another poured rum for me” says Zeiler.

“After that we went to Tripoli and we got some clothes.  We were there for a week or ten days, and then they took us back to Alexandria and later to Israel.  We got two weeks off, that the British Army has customarily given for a unit sending two-thirds of its troops home on leave.   Ast states: “Freedom of survivors.”

 The exit from hell back to the outside world, they suggest, was not easy.  “There was a terrible shock.  We did not know who was living and who was not, and I was especially worried about those I met, those whose families I knew,” says Melamed, on the first days of return.  “When we arrived in Tripoli I wrote letters home.  We should not have to clearly write things on what happened, but my letter hinted that something happened to me and I was alive.  The censors cut almost everything.  You could just understand that I was alive after the date of May 1”.

 “My mother did not know whether I was alive or dead,” says Ast.  “Several days after the incident there was published in the newspaper Davar a list of 138 soldiers from Eretz Israel who drowned in the sea.  Our families had found everything through the paper.  When I came to Israel, I got on a bus headed home.  I sat not far away from the driver and in front of me sat a man in uniform and he told the driver he was on the ship and he was saved.  I heard the story, watching and listening, and knew that here there was one that pretended.  When we reached the destination, I approached him and said: ‘I had a very pleasant time hearing your story, but I wanted to ask you if recognize a friend of mine who was on the ship.’  He asked me, ‘Who was your friend?’ I told him: ‘Chaim Ast.’   ‘Ah, Chaim Ast, poor guy, he drowned.’  A minute later I took out my notebook and said to him, at least I have the honor to know of whom you spoke…”

 “You have to understand that by then there was no event of this magnitude,” adds Zeiler.  “We had far more casualties than the Jewish Brigade.  When I came back they told me: ‘What are you doing here? After all that had drowned.’”

 After home leave the three were called back to the front.  The company had been rebuilt, and in September 1943 was attached to the Allied forces that invaded Italy via Salerno, south of Naples.  There they were busy unloading docks and transport equipment, fuel and ammunition to the front, the first confrontation with the horrors of the Holocaust.  “So we met with the survivors,” says Ast.  “When we went to the British Army, the goal was to save the land of Israel; we had no idea that of all this story.  They came to us as refugees and we could not believe them at all.  Little by little, like drops of water upon the rock, came more and more.”

 The three moved on – built homes, developed careers, and have designed their own memorial event.  After Salerno took place the first memorial event booklet about the difficult situation of the sinking, exactly a year after that occurred.  Since they are conscientious in participating every year at the memorial to the 140 names, at a unique monument erected in their memory at Mount Herzl.

…”We should not write clearly on things that happened, but my letter hinted that something happened to me and I’m alive.  The censors cut almost everything” … Ben Ami Melamed.

* * * * * * * * * *

The document below is an account of the sinking of the Erinpura by (I think…?) Major Yoffe, commander of the 462nd General Transport Company.  The document is from Volume 2 of Dr. Yoav Gelber’s Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

report-w_edited-1The following 2-page letter, from Volume 2 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, also (I believe) describes the sinking of the Erinpura.  (Translation would be appreciated!) 

This is the first page…

letter-2-w_edited-1 …and this is the second page.

letter-1-w_edited-1* * * * * * * * * *

The following letter, written on May 4, 1943 by Corporal Amiram Ben Zvi (or, “Ben Zion”?), PAL/551, a survivor of the sinking, is reproduced in Volume 2 of Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War, Roi Mandel’s article about the 462nd General Transport Company, and also on page 23 of Yishuv volunteers to the Biritsh Army during the Second World War 1939-45.

letter-3-w_edited-1The Yishuv Volunteers booklet also includes this Hebrew-character transcript of the letter:

letter-from-amiram-ben-zvi-pal-551An approximate English-language translation of this text (generated via Google.translate) follows:

“Greetings to you my dear!

I am alive, not writing for a time.  I would especially like to tell you that I am safe and sound, after hardships, and that I am in the same place as a month ago with a large number of friends. 

How are you all?  For several weeks I have not received any information from you and hope I receive everything all at once.

I said goodbye to all families and friends, and do not believe the false rumors.  Maybe I’ll see you soon.

Next time I’ll be here longer.


Forever Yours


The Location

Wikipedia’s list of shipwrecks gives the position of the Erinpura’s sinking as 32-40N, 19-53 E, while the British Trust was lost, “30 nautical miles (56 km) north northwest of Benghazi, Libya”.  The website notes that this location is derived from Norman Clothier’s article, but oddly, no such reference can actually be found in that article.  Regardless, maps – at successively larger scales, created via Google Maps – showing the location of the Erinpura’s sinking are presented below:


map-1_edited-1 map-3_edited-1

map-2_edited-1Based on the above-illustrated location, a bathymetric map of the Mediterranean Sea created by Ikonact shows that the ship – forever the final resting place for several hundred men – lies at a depth of approximately 500 meters, approximately 30 miles north-northwest of Benghazi, Libya.

mediterranean_sea_bathymetry_map-svg– Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of the Erinpura – II: What Was Known, Then – What Is Known, Now

What Was Known, and When

 Contemporary Accounts

The Jewish Chronicle (London) reported the sinking of the Erinpura in its issue of May 18, 1945, specifically stating that, “A story of events which brought tragedy and bereavement to many parts of the Yishuv when it happened has now been permitted to be published (writes our Jerusalem correspondent).”

The Jewish Chronicle, May 18, 1945

Curiously, in spite of this alleged censorship, the ship’s sinking was first described in an article on the 4th (“back”) page of the Hebrew-language newspaper Davar, in its issue of August 11, 1943.  (This was found via the database of the National Library of Israel.)  Entitled, “How 138 of Our Boys Perished in the Mediterranean – As They Were Under Fire…” the two-paragraph article gives nominal information about the incident, mentioning that the survivors spent three hours in the water until being rescued by a mine-sweeper, without further details.  The article appears below.


The loss of the soldiers was described in greater detail in a release issued by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on September 10, 1943, under the heading “Palestine Jewish Transport Unit Lost in Mediterranean Naval Battle”.  This JTA release was itself based on a report given to the press in Jerusalem on September 9, by Dr. Bernard Joseph, legal adviser of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, with mention that the story was “briefly announced at an earlier date”.  (Could that “earlier date” refer to the brief item published in Davar?)  Curiously, a variation of the JTA release actually appeared a week before: in the September 3, 1943 issue of the South African Jewish Times. 

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 10, 1943

South African Jewish Times, September 3, 1943

Through the entirety of the Second World War only one article about the sinking seems to have been carried in the American Jewish Press.  This appeared in the September 24 issue of The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and, being based on the JTA release, was very similar – if not identical – to the story as carried in the South African Jewish Times.  

Otherwise – whether in 1943, or, through the late 1940s and almost certainly beyond – the story seems never to have been reported in the American Jewish news media, at least within the American Jewish Outlook (Pittsburgh), the Chicago Jewish Chronicle, The American Hebrew, The Detroit Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh), The Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia), The Jewish Floridian (Miami), The Jewish News (Detroit), and The Jewish Times (Baltimore). 

Given the “availability” of the story, the reasons for its absence in the American Jewish press are a matter of conjecture.

Curiously; similarly, by searching the website of the National Library of Israel, I have so far been unable to find this story in wartime issues of The Palestine Post.

The event is mentioned in two letters within Moshe Mosenson’s 1945 book Soldiers From the Desert, which present the initials (but not the names) of six of the 462nd’s casualties.  In his letter of May 30, 1943, Mosenson seems to imply that the loss of his comrades was soon reported in the military newspaper “Hahayal Haivri” (“The Jewish Soldier”).  However, this publication does not yet seem to have been digitized.

Postwar Accounts

There are at least six books (three in English (including the aforementioned book  by Mosenson), and three in Hebrew) mentioning or describing the sinking of the Erinpura as it relates to the 462nd General Transport Company.  Naturally, all vary in depth and detail.

In postwar books, the story is presented in Volume 2 of Yoav Gelber’s Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.  Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering carries an alphabetical list of Jewish soldiers from the Yishuv who died during the Second World War, which of course includes the names of the casualties of the 462nd.  As mentioned above, Henry Morris’ two books both describe the loss of the Erinpura, and, paralleling Volume 4 of Jewish-Palestinian Volunteering, carry the names of all casualties from the Yishuv.  The loss of the soldiers of the 462nd is also described, within the larger context of the design and construction of the Erinpura Memorial at Mount Herzl Cemetery, in the 2012 University of Haifa Publication In Death They Commanded -The Architecture of Military Cemeteries in Israel, the Early Years, by Azaryahu Maoz.

Searching the National Library of Israel database using the term “462” yielded a notice mentioning the 462nd General Transport Company.  This item, appearing in the March 11, 1973, issue of Davar, follows.

davar-1973-03-11-historical-jewish-press-of-the-nli-and-tauAs of this writing, there are numerous websites in English and Hebrew describing or mentioning the history and sinking of the Erinpura, and, the loss the 462nd General Transport Company soldiers, as well as the many Bausto soldiers aboard the ship.  The most outstanding account is given by Norman Clothier, in The Erinpura: Basotho Tragedy, at the Military History Journal of the South African Military History Society.  Being centrally focused on the Basotho soldiers, there is a single reference alluding to the members of the 462nd; namely, “Of the other 300 troops I have only been able to surmise that most of them may have been from a Palestinian labour unit.”  Roi Mandel’s article, “The Erinpura: Fought and Died Against the Germans.  Returning to the Disaster,” published at YNet on April 19, 2012, is a moving account of the events of May 1, 1943, and, the soldiers of the 462nd.

Identifying the Men

Using the CWGC database – based on names listed in Henry Morris’ two books, and, the two books by Dr. Gelber – I have been able to identify records of the names of soldiers and sailors lost in the sinking of the Erinpura, in some cases with genealogical information.  These lists will appear in future posts, and will conform to the following format:

Soldier’s or Sailor’s name (surname, first name)     Grade / Rank / Function   Serial Number     Year of Birth

Name(s) of next of kin, and, Names and Place(s) of Residence of Next of Kin

Place Where Soldier or Sailor’s Name is Commemorated, or, Place of Burial

For members of the 462nd General Transport Company, the following references are also given.

WWRT – We Will Remember Them (with volume and page numbers)

CWGC – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

THH (YG) – Page number in Volume 4 of Yoav Gelber’s Jewish Palestinian Volunteering in the British Army During the Second World War.

Plus, any additional publications, or web references.

For the Basuto soldiers (with the exception of one individual) CWGC records are limited to the soldier’s surname, given name, rank, and serial number.  This is almost certainly attributable to the nature of the records or information then available to the CWGC, which was probably based on information recorded in the soldier’s Attestation Papers. 

Information about the CWGC’s records can be found at the organization’s About Our Records web page.

– Michael G. Moskow


Soldiers of the Erinpura – I: Introduction

May 13, 1943

     I won’t talk about us now.  We have all been anxious about our friends who were lost at sea.  Among them are names that are so dear to me that I am afraid to utter them.  I can’t write you about everything.  You may have heard of what happened to D.B. from Maoz, A. from Ashdot, M.Z. from Naan, P. from Degania Beit and others.  They should have joined us but…  However, we don’t know the exact number of the losses and who was saved.  Perhaps you can write me about this.

Moshe Mosenson

Letters From the Desert (p. 190)

(Translated by Hilda Auerbach)

Sharon Books, Inc., 1945

In late 1983, I spent an afternoon at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, Israel.

As I walked among the graves, I was struck by a feeling that remains indelible, even today:  An overwhelming sense of recency.  Recency, from the manner in which at so many graves, flowers, memorial candles, military insignia, and photographs – of soldiers in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – had been carefully placed.  The graves were obviously places of visits and commemoration, in very contemporary, very real, “time”.  A few headstones were flanked with casings of expended artillery shells from which, evidently elaborately, portions of the casing had been removed, leaving behind ornate silhouettes of military emblems.  Standing upright, no longer weapons of war, the casings by now served as planters for gently drooping pillars of greenery that shaded and framed these matzevot.

And then, the people.  Or, more accurately, the women.  I still remember being approached by a woman – in her 50s?  her 60s? – and being asked a question, in Hebrew.  I could not understand her, which I think she rapidly realized from my silence.  We stood there, facing one another.  Then, she smiled at me for a moment in a sincere, ironic, and gentle way.  As she walked away, I approached the gravesite she had just visited.

There, the plants decorating the mazteva had just been watered.

I walked further.  I came to the memorial for the crew of the submarine Dakar, recognizable from its stylized stone tower – representing a conning tower – projecting upwards through an elongated, faceted, smooth base.  Walking into the memorial, I was struck by the simplicity of the design.  Each crewman was commemorated by a stone plaque mounted within the interior walls, the primary illumination coming from sunlight shining downwards along the exterior of the “tower”.

I came to another monument, but the nature of the event it commemorated was unknown to me.  A blue-tiled, shallow, rectangular pool (dry during my visit) formed its center, and was surrounded by black, rectangular tiles – each tile bearing a single name, and, a two-digit number indicating the age of the man it commemorated.  A stone tower at a corner of the pool which seemed to connote the bridge of a naval vessel.  Upon its upper part was a phrase in Hebrew (with vowels associated with the letters – how unusual for an Israeli monument!), with its incised letters in made more obvious by having been painted in yellow. 

I realized that this structure commemorated some kind of naval event in which many lives had been lost.  But, where?  But, when?

I knew of no event which involved the loss of so many Jewish servicemen, in a nautical setting, in contemporary times.  Obviously, this event, regardless of when it had occurred, left a deep impact upon the collective memory of the Yishuv, remaining strongly enough in the consciousness of the re-established Jewish nation state to merit the creation of such a monument.

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In the late 1990s, I discovered the website of Britain’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which is easily – in terms of design, use, capability, and scope – one of the premier websites extant in the arenas of military / genealogical / historical research.  (The only real equivalents in terms of ease of use and capability are the Russian Federation’s OBD Memorial database, and, the websites of the National Archives of Australia and Australian War Memorial.)

In 2000 I acquired a copy of the book We Will Remember Them: A Record of Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown, 1939-1945, by Henry Morris, a member of AJEX, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.  I then began using the CWGC database to retrieve records for every name listed in the book’s 289 pages.

Then, I noticed something.

As I searched for records for Jewish soldiers from the Yishuv (“The Palestine Jewish Volunteers”) who died in WW II, a consistent trio of data elements (date, military unit, and place of commemoration: “May 1, 1943”, “462nd General Transport Company”, and “Brookwood Memorial” (at Surrey, England) were returned with an odd and telling frequency.  As I progressed through the list of names, records comprising these three parts grew in number, reaching ten, then fifty, then one hundred; and finally more.  It became obvious that the common thread linking these names was a major incident; a disaster of some sort, at sea, somewhere in the European or Mediterranean Theaters of War.  But, what was that incident?

Not long afterwards, the answer again came from the fine work of Henry Morris.  A supplementary volume of We Will Remember Them was published in 1994, and within, Mr. Morris presented the story behind the loss of these men in the Spring of 1943.  Rather than summarize or recapitulate his fine account, I shall present it here, with appreciation for and acknowledgement of his research.



There it was again: “Killed in action at sea, 1st May 1943”.  I was checking the print-out for the Roll of Honour in my book, We Will Remember Them, and, again and again, this entry followed the names of men killed while serving with the Royal Army Service Corps of the Palestine Regiment.  I counted them.  There were 148, all killed on the same day – the greatest loss suffered by the Palestine Jews who fought and served with the British Army.  “How did this happen?” I asked myself, and I learned the answer with the help of the Israel Ministry of Defence, the RASC Regimental Museum in England, records held by Israel military historians, the Israel War Veterans League and survivors of the tragedy who subsequently settled in the USA

462 Coy RASC had been part of the forces surrounded by the German Africa Korps in the siege of Tobruk and had then taken part in the battle of El Alamein.  In his book, Soldiers from Judea, Rabbi Rabinowitz, Senior Jewish Chaplain MEF, writes: “In the victorious advance of General Montgomery five RASC units took part.  462 GT Coy commanded by Major H. Yoffe, a South African Jew, 178 Coy commanded by Maj. Wellesley Aron, a British Jew, 11 Water Tank eventually commanded by Maj. B. Adelman, a Canadian Jew, 5 WT commanded by Maj Y. Frumkin and 179 GT, commanded by Maj I. Boganov”.  After performing heroically throughout the North African campaign, in April 1943, three weeks before the fall of Tunis, 178 and 462 Companies were informed that they had been chosen for “highly operational work of the first importance”.  One hundred and seventy-eight went to Tripoli and 462 went to Alexandria.  It was intended that they should go on to Malta where “the George Cross Island was to be changed from a battered place of siege to a base of attack”.  But it was not to be – the flower of Palestine Jewish youth was to perish in less than five minutes.

During February and March of 1943, together with other Jewish forces, they were in Bengazi.  In April they were sent to Egypt.  There, in Tahay Camp, they organised for a new mission while enjoying the Passover holiday.  After two weeks they transferred to Ameria Camp in Alexandria and awaited their departure.  On 29th April, they sailed on the 5,000 ton World War One Indian Merchant ship, the Erinpura.  She was the flagship of a convoy of twenty seven excluding escort.  On board were 334 officers and men of 462 Coy and 700 Basuto soldiers from Africa.  On Friday evening, 30th April, the Commanding Officer, Maj. Yoffe, informed his men that they were on their way to Malta.

From information received from survivors and the official report submitted by Maj. Yoffe, I was able to piece together the story of what happened on that fateful night.

On the evening of the 1st May the convoy was approached by an enemy aircraft.  Here I have varying reports of what followed.  One claims that it was Italian and was driven off by anti-aircraft gunfire, another says it was a Heinkel that dropped a torpedo that failed to hit and was shot down.  There is a third version saying it was an unidentified German plane that flew too low for the guns to attack.  Such is the confusion of an air raid at sea.  The official report writes that, following this opening move, “In accordance with Ship’s Standing Orders, Action Stations” had been ordered.  All men without duties had been ordered below deck.

At about 20.10 hrs. [8:10 P.M.] on 1st May 1943 there was an attack by enemy aircraft and, although bombs were dropped, the ship was not affected.  About 20.50 [8:50 P.M.] there was a second aircraft attack.  It was a very heavy raid and many bombs were dropping all around.  At 21.05 [9:05] Maj. Yoffe was at his command position on the saloon deck, where he was immediately available and could employ maximum control, when a terrific explosion occurred forward of the bridge and he was knocked over by an enormous wave.  When he recovered, the ship was going down at the bows.  Orders came from the bridge to abandon ship.  Attempts were made by officers to get the men up from below – many may have been dead already, but all ladders and gangways had been smashed by the explosion.  A large number of men were still below when the bows were completely under water, within two minutes of the explosion.  The ship was listing badly, making it impossible to lower boats.  Of the two that succeeded, one capsized.  Every raft and anything that floated had been thrown overboard and the men were ordered to jump.  Taking all the circumstances into consideration Maj. Yoffe gave the opinion that everything possible had been done to evacuate the ship.

The light was failing when the ship went down and the convoy was out of sight of land.  By the time the men had been in the water for ten minutes it was completely dark.  The ship sank in about four minutes.  It was not certain whether it had been struck by a torpedo or an aerial mine.  One survivor told me he was in the water for several hours before being picked up, as the convoy was not allowed to search and rescue.  He relates that the Basuto soldiers in the water added their voices in song to the Hebrew songs being sung by the Jewish soldiers.

Another survivor wrote that he spent all night clinging to a piece of wood and was picked up by a Greek destroyer.  The Captain and the soldiers manning the guns were the last to jump.  The attack continued and there are reports of the men in the water being machine gunned.  Sgt. Bijovsky, a survivor, reports: “The rescue was very difficult, many of us did not know how to swim, it was dark, they did not manage to get down the lifeboats, the cries of the drowning were terrible. Our commander, Maj. Yoffe, was all the time with us, he did not leave his soldiers, he could be proud of our behaviour”.  The British and Greek sailors from the rescue ships did all they could to save the men in the water.

The survivors were taken by the British minesweeper Santa to the port of Bengazi and by the Greek warship Adrias to Tripoli, others went to Malta.

One hundred and forty-eight soldiers of 462 Coy died in the disaster, many others were wounded and hospitalised.  After a period of recovery they were transferred to Egypt and, eventually, to live in Eretz Israel.

In July and August of 1943 the RASC unit commanded by Lt./Col. Charkham OBE was reinforced by the survivors of 462.  This unit was undergoing training for the D-Day landing on Pestume Beach, Salerno.  The reconstituted 462 Coy, led by Maj. Yoffe, also took part in the landings and subsequently assisted at the beach head, Anzio, until the final breakout where they suffered casualties in men and equipment.  As part of the 8th Army in Italy they had returned as liberators to the continent which many had left as hunted and despised refugees, veterans of the desert, sons of Jewry in whom we take great pride.

At the Military Cemetery on Mt Herzl in Jerusalem there is a monument in the form of a ship inscribed with the names of those brave men who died on 1st May 1943.


 We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown, 1939-1935, An Addendum

Written and Compiled by Henry Morris

Edited by Hilary Halter

Published by AJEX, 1994

Thus, the story which forms the basis of and inspiration for this – and subsequent – posts. 

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Images of the S.S. Erinpura, and, the memorial and monument to the men of the 462nd General Transport Company at Mount Herzl Cemetery, appear below.

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ss-erinpura-1-naval-warfareThis image, found at the excellent Naval Warfare website, shows the S.S. Erinpura as she appeared while in service with the British India Steam Navigation Company.  Naval Warfare presents a substantive history of the ship, and, a solidly moving summary of the story of her 1943 sinking.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn image of the Erinpura Memorial taken by Avishai Teicher, via Wikimedia Commons.  As described by Azaryahu Maoz and Menashe Shani in their book In Death They Commanded – The Architecture of Military Cemeteries in Israel, the Early Years, the monument, designed by architect Asher Hiram, was unveiled on April 29, 1954.

1280px-memorial_for_the_men_of_the_erinpura_img_1319A symbolic ship’s bridge, with Verse 23 from Psalm 68 (“I will retrieve them from Bashan, I will retrieve them from the depths of the sea.”) set apart from the main edifice as separate row of stones.  A Wikimedia Commons image taken by Avi Deror.

memorial_for_the_men_of_the_erinpura_img_1329The Erinpura Memorial viewed from behind the “ship’s bridge”.  Another Wikimedia Commons image by Avi Deror.

1280px-memorial_for_the_men_of_the_erinpura_img_1318Another view of the Erinpura Memorial.  In this image, the memorial has apparently been drained of water, and more clearly shows the individual tiles bearing soldiers’ names and ages.  This image is also by Avi Deror.   

%d7%90%d7%a0%d7%93%d7%a8%d7%98%d7%aa_%d7%94%d7%90%d7%95%d7%a0%d7%99%d7%99%d7%94_%d7%90%d7%a8%d7%99%d7%a0%d7%a4%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%94_-_%d7%94%d7%a8_%d7%94%d7%a8%d7%a6%d7%9cThis Wikimedia Commons image shows an anchor; an appropriate nautical symbol at the Erinpura Memorial. 

%d7%9e%d7%a4%d7%aa_%d7%91%d7%99%d7%aa_%d7%94%d7%a7%d7%91%d7%a8%d7%95%d7%aa_%d7%94%d7%a6%d7%91%d7%90%d7%99_-_%d7%94%d7%a8_%d7%94%d7%a8%d7%a6%d7%9c_2Another image from Wikimedia Commons image, showing a map of the Mount Herzl Cemetery.  The Erinpura Memorial is denoted by the very small reddish-brown rectangle in the center of the cemetery, listed on the map as locality “4”.

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More will follow.

– Michael G. Moskow