Wanted: war stories from heroes of WWII
British troops in action in 1944. Now Jewish fighters are being recognised (Photo: AP)
A new group is launching a UK-wide campaign to collect stories and memorabilia from Jewish men and women who served in the British army during the Second World War.
The Association of Jewish War Heroes has been set up to amass material to fill a new section of the Latrun military museum in Israel that will be dedicated to war heroes from Britain.
“Israel has not really recognised what Jewish soldiers did in the British army,” said Gail Seal, the former president of JNF UK who founded the group.
“There’s already a lot in Israel that recognises the Holocaust and people who died”, but not sufficient recognition for those who fought against the Nazis, according to Ms Seal. “That’s what this is about,” she said.
Around 14 per cent of the wartime UK Jewish community were members of the British armed forces. “We have the names of 62,000 Jewish men and women who served in the Second World War, but not their stories,” said Ms Seal.
The new group, which is working closely with the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex), will collect memorabilia, such as letters, medals and uniforms, from British servicemen and their families in time for the opening of the section at the Latrun in 2015.
Documents and stories will also be archived and digitalised.
Ms Seal has a family story of her own to tell. Her father, Archie Lew, was a British officer who fought the Nazis and the Japanese and was stationed in India and Burma.
His older brother, army chaplain Rabbi Maurice Lew, was also stationed overseas, although Captain Lew had no idea where. That was until, walking down a street in Bombay one day in 1940, he bumped into his brother who had just been posted in India.
Ms Seal is planning to donate her father’s Burma Star campaign medal to the Latrun.
The British group is part of a worldwide initiative to collect, archive and digitalise stories of Jewish servicemen and women who served in the allied forces.
Counterpart groups have been established in Russia, the United States and around Europe.
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