Sunday, December 07, 2008

 

When Jews Fought Alongside the Wehrmacht

Jewish Zionist collaboration with the Nazis is better known and Israeli emulation of Nazi tactics is obvious but Jews also fought alongside troops of the Third Reich in 1941. Below, via Jews on First's "Rebutting Obsession," are two excerpts from "Jews in Finland During the Second World War."
The position of Finnish Jews was unique in another respect as well: several hundred of them fought in the war as Germany’s comrades in arms. ...

In the summer of 1941, Finland joined the war Germany had started against the Soviet Union. In this Continuation War, as it is often called with respect to Finland’s part, the loyalty of Finnish Jews was put to test, and was shadowed by fear and uncertainty. Nevertheless, the Jews fought like everyone else. The Jewish magazine Makkabi declared in December 1942 that they were fighting “for the freedom and independence of Finland” 1 (Torvinen, Kadimah 132–33). During the war, co-belligerence with Germany felt distant and theoretical, and not everyone came into contact with the German troops in Finland (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 122). Many of the Jewish soldiers did not really think about it until after the war (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 143–44).

Relationships with the Germans were described as correct, even friendly (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 125, 127). Most Jews spoke German (Jalowisch in Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 128), which may have contributed to friendships being formed. No serious incidents were reported (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 129), but some Jews felt ill at ease and were afraid (Kaplun in Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 127).

The Jewishness of these soldiers was not hidden from the Germans, and there even was a field synagogue. Furloughs were given for Sabbaths, and some came from considerable distances to attend. The Germans were aware of the synagogue but did not interfere (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 127, 129–132). Some of the Jewish soldiers even liked to proclaim their religion to provoke the Germans, whose reactions were mainly surprised but not particularly negative. When asked about their Jewish soldiers, Finnish superiors usually defended them, saying they were no different from other Finns (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 128–129). Jewish medical officers treated German patients and saved their lives, even risking their own (Rautkallio, Aseveljeys 133, 141). Several Jews were awarded German decorations, but they refused to accept them (Poljakoff in Torvinen, Kadimah 135; Smolar 155–57).

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