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July 28, 2015 / 12 Av, 5775
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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.

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 the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.


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