The Israeli Veterans

Volunteers of the Yishuv (Jewish settlement in Palestine) to the British army in World War II 1939-1945 

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World War II broke out in September 1939 with the German army’s invasion of Poland. The Yishuv then numbered nearly half a million people. Moshe Sharrett (Shertok) led the negotiations with the British authorities for authorization to enlist Jews and Arabs in the British army. While hardly any Arabs joined, almost 40,000 Palestinian Jews volunteered for all the branches of the British army, and served in Palestine, the Middle East, the Western Desert, and Africa. In due course they reached Europe, and were the first to encounter the remnant of Holocaust survivors. They extended to them great help, and assisted them in reaching Palestine. A few Yishuv volunteers served in the Far East when the war continued there. Some 800 Yishuv volunteers died in the war.

Especially notable in this war against Nazi Germany, all Jewish combatants were on the same side of the barricades for the first time. One and a half million Jews served in the Allied armies in World War II.

The Yishuv volunteers sought to uphold the Jewish and Zionist character of their units – some of them in British units, others in independent units. The crowning glory was the formation of the Jewish Brigade in 1944.

The experience acquired in the British army contributed significantly to the creation of the IDF.