Jewish Brigade shot Nazi prisoners in revenge

JEWISH soldiers who served in the British Army hunted down and executed up to 1,500 high-ranking Nazis in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

The soldiers were members of the Jewish Brigade, part of the British Eighth Army, which fought with distinction in northern Italy in the latter stages of the war.

As the conflict in Europe ended, the Jewish soldiers started their own mini-war. They formed "revenge squads", and with the help of their British Army credentials travelled around Germany and Austria searching for men responsible for the Holocaust.

The brigade's officers and NCOs were British Jews - Edmund de Rothschild, scion of the banking dynasty, was a young captain - but the ranks were filled with Jewish volunteers from Palestine, and refugees who had fled Nazi-occupied Europe.

The hitherto untold details of the story have emerged in a new book, The Jewish Brigade: An Army with Two Masters, by author and historian Morris Beckman. He told the Independent on Sunday: "These were the first post-war executions of selected top Nazis. There were several dozen revenge squads operating; the highest estimate of executions was 1,500. The exact figure will never be known."

Secret orders from Zionist leaders in Tel Aviv instructed members of the brigade to ensure that at least some of the senior members of the SS would be punished for their crimes against humanity.

Working under the codename "Operation Judgement", brigade members formed secret killing squads. In the book, one of the executioners, Israel Carmi, explains how they dealt with their selected targets. "When we arrived at the home of our suspect we would put on [British] Military Police helmets with the white band and police armlets. Then we would enter the home and take the suspect with us, saying that we wanted him for interrogation. Usually they came without a struggle. Once in the car we told the prisoner who we were and why we took him. Some admitted guilt. Others kept silent. We did the job."

Those who volunteered for the killings had lost their families and communities in the Holocaust and were burning with hatred. "We were young Jewish soldiers," one recalled. "We knew that our people would never forgive us if we did not exploit the opportunity to kill Nazis."

British-born soldiers did not take part in the revenge killings, but provided practical support, such as forged papers. Londoner Mark Hyatt, who was an NCO in the Jewish Brigade, told the IoS that he provided the hit squads with "logistical support".

He said: "We did what had to be done and there was no compunction about it."

He had transferred from the ranks of Eighth Army, with which he had fought in north Africa. He summed up the Jewish Brigade as a "very unorthodox outfit".

As well as the execution of the suspected SS and Gestapo war criminals, the brigade assisted tens of thousands of concentration camp survivors to reach Palestine, despite the fact that the British government was implacably opposed to Jewish immigration at the time and that the country was the subject of a naval blockade.

The brigade also gave the Palestine-bound refugees military training and stole, from the British Army stores, thousands of weapons to help arm the Haganah, the embryonic Israeli army.

While the Foreign Office, under the arch anti-Zionist Ernest Bevin, was hostile to the Jewish Brigade and wanted it to be stopped, the British military command refused to act and turned a blind eye to the brigade's clandestine activities. "The commanders of the Eighth Army knew what was going on but they were sympathetic, [as] they had fought alongside the brigade," Mr Beckman said.

Ken Sanitt, an artillery sergeant who had transferred into the Jewish Brigade after four years of fighting in north Africa, Mesopotamia and at Monte Cassino, said: "The British and the Indian soldiers I had been fighting with were elite troops, but they were war-weary, while the Jewish Brigade were spoiling for action. Their fighting spirit was fantastic."

Indeed, the brigade became the template for the Israeli army and 35 former members later became Israeli generals.

Suggested Topics
Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Lily Allen performs on stage at Splendour In the Grass 2014 on 27 July, 2014, in Byron Bay, Australia
people
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Sport
Manny Pacquiao lands a blow on Chris Algieri
Pacquiao retains WBO welterweight title – and says he wants Mayweather next
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin