web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

April 1944: A Jewish Exodus From The Polish Army

A group of Jewish partisans in the Rudniki forest, near Vilna, between 1942 and 1944. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

A group of Jewish partisans in the Rudniki forest, near Vilna, between 1942 and 1944. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

A faded black-and-white photograph from 1943 shows Private Max Wald enjoying the Passover Seder together with hundreds of his Polish army comrades.

But a tattered diary entry from the following year describes the “dampness and cold” of the prison cell where Wald spent Seder night in 1944, after he and hundreds of other Polish Jewish soldiers deserted en masse because of rampant anti-Semitism in the Polish army.

The photo and the diary provide bookends to a troubling and little-known chapter in Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust.

After the Germans overran Poland, many units of the Polish armed forces, known as the Polish Home Army, were based in Great Britain. Later, a second Polish force, under the command of General Wladyslaw Anders, was created in the Soviet Union, consisting of Polish ex-prisoners of war.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice. Dan Adler of New York City, whose father, Kazimierz (Ron) Adler, served under Anders, said “the Polish soldiers in my father’s unit often made remarks accusing Jews of being cowards or weaklings.” They even had a saying in which a soldier confirmed he was holding something tightly by comparing it to strangling a Jew. The elder Adler recalled at least one instance in which he got into a fistfight with a fellow soldier who had made an anti-Jewish remark.

Adler emphasized, however, that these were the attitudes among ordinary soldiers, not among the army’s top brass, and official policy was non-discriminatory. Thus, when the army transferred to the Middle East, it arranged for Ron Adler’s parents and brother to be transported to Palestine. There, as the family of a Polish soldier, they received ongoing assistance from the Polish Consulate in Tel Aviv.

There were also frequent reports of anti-Semitic incidents among Polish forces in Scotland. (They were stationed there because of fears of a German invasion of Britain via nearby Norway.) In January 1943, an investigation by the Polish Ministry of Information confirmed that anti-Semitic leaflets had been distributed among Polish officers and soldiers stationed there. A local organization, the Glasgow Jewish Council, carried out an inquiry of its own and concluded that anti-Semitism was “rife” in the Polish army.

According to Private Max Wald, the problem of anti-Semitism in the Polish forces increased significantly in 1943 with the induction of ethnic Poles who had served in the German army and then were captured by the Allies.

“They would say things to us like ‘Hitler will solve our Jewish problem for us,’ and ‘Every Pole has two bullets – the first for a Jew and the second for a German,’” Wald told his son, Professor James Wald of Massachusetts-based Hampshire College.

According to some accounts, these former German soldiers openly sang Nazi songs in the Polish army barracks and circulated copies of the notorious Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer.

“As the Passover holiday approached in 1944, the Jewish soldiers were asking themselves if they escaped from the slavery of Egypt only to perish in the wilderness,” said Prof. Wald. “They couldn’t stand the constant anti-Semitic taunts, threats, and harassment any longer, so they staged a mass exodus from the Polish army.”

The first two groups of Jewish deserters, numbering about 200 in total, were granted their request to be transferred to the British army.

But when Private Wald organized a third group to leave, the British Foreign Office and Polish government-in-exile decided to make an example of them, in order to deter further desertions. Wald and 20 comrades were imprisoned, which is where they found themselves on Passover.

Their lonely prison cells were a far cry from the previous year’s Seder, where the celebrants had been joined by representatives of the Polish High Command, and had concluded the meal with hearty renditions of both the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah” and the Polish national anthem.

As the date of the court-martial neared, sympathizers in the British Parliament and the press spoke out. MP Tom Driberg announced that he had “a whole drawerful of personal testimonies to the kind of [anti-Semitism] they are experiencing, written out laboriously in Polish, or, pathetically, in broken English.”

MP William Gallacher asked, “Supposing the [U.S.] Government gave a bunch of Englishmen power over a mixed bunch of Englishmen and Scotsmen, and the Englishmen started ill-treating the Scotsmen, would not the Scotsmen be entitled to go to Washington and say, ‘You have given the power to the wrong people?’ ”

An editorial in the Birmingham Gazette declared, “It is clear that not only Germany will have to be re-educated after the war, but we may be faced with an anti-Semitic Poland almost as urgently in need of re-education as Germany itself.”

After a trial behind closed doors, the 21 Jewish soldiers were convicted of desertion. But under the pressure of public protests, the Polish authorities meted out suspended sentences to some of them and pardoned the others.

By the time Passover came the following year, Max Wald was serving in the British army. So was Ron Adler, who volunteered for training in England with the Polish navy-in-formation, and then was granted a transfer to the British army. As they sat down at their Seder tables in April 1945, World War II was finally drawing to a close – as was the tragic story of Jewish soldiers who put their lives on the line for the Polish army, only to find themselves victimized by their fellow soldiers.

(JNS)

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “April 1944: A Jewish Exodus From The Polish Army”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Jerusalem light rail train, crossing the Chords Bridge near the Central Bus Station.
Jerusalem Light Rail’s New ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Arab Violence
Latest Indepth Stories
Map of Syria-Turkish border area, pinpointing Kurdish border town of Kobani, just taken by ISIS terror forces Oct 7, 2014.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

The Rosenstrasse area of Berlin, where Jewish husbands of non-Jewish German wives were held.

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

NY rally against Met Opera's 'Death of Klinghoffer' opera. Sept. 22, 2014.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Guess who's behind the door?

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.

While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

If Hamas is ISIS, the world asks, why didn’t Israel destroy it given justification and opportunity?

That key is the disarming of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza – as the U.S., EU, and others agreed to in principle at the end of Operation Protective Edge.

We have no doubt there are those who deeply desire to present themselves as being of a gender that is not consistent with their anatomy, and we take no joy in the pain and embarrassment they suffer.

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Armenian Orphan Rug

The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?

Medoff-101714

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

Sulzberger, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust.

Meryl Streep condemned Disney for associating with extremists while doing the very same thing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/april-1944-a-jewish-exodus-from-the-polish-army/2014/04/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: