Veterans attack comments on Jewish war record

The association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women reacted angrily this week to comments by an Irish newspaper columnist on the war record of British Jews.

Kevin Myers, claiming in the Irish Independent that Hitler had had no intention of invading Britain, remarked: "Jews - before the creation of Israel - were a very non-martial people. During the war, more British Cohens died as civilians than as soldiers."

He wrote that 142 people called Cohen had been killed by enemy action: 54 civilians, 47 soldiers and 41 airmen or seamen. "Nearly five times more Smiths died as soldiers than as civilians," he said. "Which roughly means that, proportionately, over six times more Smiths than Cohens were killed serving as soldiers.

"If British Jews really believed in 1940 that the Nazis planned a Holocaust, then the Jewish army-recruitment figures would have been far higher. So it might be argued that stubborn stupidity, rather than principle, was why the British kept fighting in 1940."

But Henry Morris, curator of Ajex's Jewish Military Museum, attacked Mr Myers's "spurious facts and figures" in a letter to the paper. Around 65,000 Jews had served in the armed forces in the War, out of a population of 360,000 - a proportionately higher number serving than for the UK as a whole, he said.

"More than 3,000 died and more than 1,500 were awarded decorations, among them three Victoria Crosses." Mr Myers explained: "I attacked nobody... I used those statistics as proof that not even British Jews believed that the
Holocaust was a possibility."

He added that he had said "many complimentary things about Jews and about Israel in the past".

Last updated: 1:39pm, July 8 2010