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Anti-Nazi resistance and Jews in the foreign armed forces



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RG-72.17.01, Jewish Brigade Group patch

RG-72.17.02, Postcard for Easter from the abroad member of Czechoslovak Forces to Washington D.C, USA, written to Leo Goerth

RG-72.17.03, Envelope from the abroad member of Czechoslovak Forces to New York, USA, written to H.R Monkemeyer

RG-72.17.04, Hungarian resistance sign, featuring hammer and sickle

RG-72.17.05, Allied expeditionary force. D.P. Index Card

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Anti-Nazi resistance and Jews in the foreign armed forces, 1942 -- 1945 | Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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Title: Anti-Nazi resistance and Jews in the foreign armed forces, 1942 -- 1945Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

ID: RG-72.17/RG-72.17

Primary Creator: Czechoslovak Armed Forces within the Allies Armed Forces (1939 -- 1945)

Other Creators: Hungarian Communist Resistance, Jewish Brigade Group (1944 -- 1945)

Extent: 0.0

Arrangement: Materials are arranged by subject/creator, then by identifier, as assigned by the processor.

Subjects: Communism in Hungary, Resistance, Czechoslovak, Resistance, Hungary, Resistance, Jewish, Resistance, Palestine

Languages: Czech, Hebrew, Hungarian, English


This collection contains artifacts relating to Nazi resistance in Eastern Europe.

The Jewish Brigade Group

The Jewish Brigade Group was created by the British War Office and was composed of Jewish volunteers from Palestine.  Formed in 1944, the JBG was included over five thousand soldiers and assisted in the liberation of Italy in 1945.  Towards the end of the war, they assisted in Displaced Person camps.  They were disbanded in 1946.

Czechoslovakian Government in Exile

The Czechoslovak government-in-exile was initially established in France by the president of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Benes, after his country was overrun by Germany.  In 1940, the government-in-exile moved to London, where it attempted to gain legal recognition for the Czechoslovak republic.  They assisted Jewish refugees as well as allowing Jews to enlist in their armed forces to fight the Nazis.  At the end of the war, Benes was allowed to return to Czechoslovakia and regain control of the country.


World War II proved to be an extremely turbulent time for Hungary.  Initially, they were allies to Nazi Germany and provided Hitler with agricultural goods and soldiers while Germany promised to return territory to Hungary.  Soon, though, it became clear that Hungary would not benefit from their partnership with Germany and began to seek an alliance with the Allied forces.  Before they could form any sort of pact with the Allied forces, Germany invaded and occupied Hungary and took control of the government.  In late 1944, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and in January 1945, an armistice was signed.  By April, there were no German soldiers remaining in Hungary.

Collection Historical Note

The Jewish Brigade Group

The creation of the Jewish Brigade Group can be traced back to the beginning of the war, when Chaim Weizmann, the president of the World Zionist Organization, offered the British government the full cooperation of the Jewish people in the war effort, and began negotiations on the creation of a Jewish force within the British army.  In October 1940, the British War Cabinet confirmed that they would create a Jewish force within their army.  Most of their recruits for this Jewish force would come from the neutral United States and refugees, while Palestine would provide the commanding staff.

Initial talks with Weizmann were postponed until after the US presidential election in November 1940 and dragged on until March 1941.  During this time, the war situation for Britain had changed drastically.  The threat of invasion of the British Isles receded and the Middle East and the Balkans became the main battlefield for British forces.  British generals were also unsure as to how Arabs in the Middle East would react to the establishment of a Jewish division.  Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England, was persuaded by his ministers and generals to postpone the decision for a few months and then later to cancel discussions of a Jewish force in October 1941.

Despite the lack of a specific Jewish division, Palestinian Jews still volunteered for service.  Thirty thousand volunteered for the British army between 1939–1946 and were assigned to ground crews for the Royal Air Force.  In September 1940, the British created Jewish infantry companies known as “Buffs” and several Jewish anti-air-craft and coastal artillery batteries.  As part of an agreement with Palestine, the British promised that these men would serve in combat.

At the height of the recruitment campaign, the British established the Palestine Regiment on 6 August 1942 consisting of three Jewish battalions and one of Arabs.  Unfortunately, the status of the Palestine Regiment was low and was disappointing to the Jewish population of Palestine, known as the Yishuv.  Recruitment began to dwindle and soldiers within the Palestine Regiment asked to be transferred to different battalions so they could have the opportunity to participate in combat.

In November 1942, news of the Jewish extermination reached Palestine.  This event had little impact on enlistment since most eligible men had already joined the British army.  The Holocaust had a deeper impact within the battalions.  Jewish soldiers demanded to be dispatched to the front where they could take their revenge on the Nazis and assist the European Jews in their liberation.

In the summer of 1943, a New Zionist proposal was brought to the British War Office for the creation of a new Jewish fighting force.  This group would not be connected with the Middle East and the sensitive relationship between Arabs and Jews.  This time, the British were much more responsive.  To them, it was unjustifiable to deny the Jews the right to fight their oppressors.  Churchill used all of his personal authority and urged his colleagues to approve the New Zionist proposal.

On 20 September 1944, the British War Office announced the formation of the Jewish Brigade Group, which consisted of over five thousand men.  Brigadier Ernst Benjamin was appointed the commanding officer and the Zionist flag was officially approved as its standard.  While this was not the first Jewish brigade, it was the first one recognized as representing the Jewish people.

In early November, the JBG sailed for Italy and took part in the early steps of the final Allied offensive against the Germans in April 1945.  After the termination of the hostilities, the brigade was stationed in Tarvisio, near the border triangle of Italy, Yugoslavia, and Austria.  The brigade took part in several missions across Eastern Europe and helped to establish Displaced Person camps for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

In July 1945, the brigade was moved to Belgium and the Netherlands.  Brigade members became involved in organizing the immigration of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe into Palestine.  Individual soldiers acquired arms for Hagana, the Jewish underground defense organization in Palestine.

Despite last minute attempts by the Jewish Agency to prolong the brigade’s existence, the British were determined to disband it according to their demobilization plan, and disbanded the JBG in July 1946.

Czechoslovakian Government in Exile

Formed after WWI, the First Czechoslovak Republic was established on 28 October 1918 after the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.  On 30 September 1938, the Munich Agreement, a document permitting the Nazi annexation of the Czechoslovak Sudetenland (the border areas of the Czech Republic with parts of Germany, Austria, and Poland), was signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.  The Munich Agreement was a move to appease an overly aggressive Germany and detour them from further invading any countries.  This, consequently, created the Second Czechoslovak Republic.  After the German invasion, Czechoslovakia became part of the territory of the Third Reich.

As the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, President Edvard Benes resigned and went into exile in Chicago, Illinois.  After the outbreak of WWII, he went to Paris, France and established the Czechoslovak National Committee in October 1939.  Unsuccessful negotiations with France, as well as the impending Nazi occupation of France, forced Benes and his government to go to London in 1940.  The Czechoslovakian government became one of several governments in exile in London.

The main objective of the government in exile was to reverse the Munich Agreement and gain international recognition for the legal continuity of the Czechoslovak republic and its pre-Munich boundaries.  Benes established a State Council, which served as a provisional parliament to act as a unifying body for resistance activities in exile.

Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia who managed to make it to Poland, the Soviet Union, Palestine, France, and Great Britain constituted a high percentage of the Czechoslovak army units formed in exile.  These forces often fought alongside the British military.  Ernst Frischer, former head of the Jewish party in Czechoslovakia, was appointed the representative of the Jewish national group on the State Council.  Frischer developed a network for rescue activities and organized the sending of food parcels, medicine, and funds to the concentration camps.

The official stance of the government in exile on resistance in Czechoslovakia was that no hazardous ventures should be undertaken that might put lives in danger.  Still, Operation Anthropoid, a mission conceived in London, was a successful assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich, the acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.  Heydrich was fatally wounded on 27 May 1942.  German retaliation was fierce, resulting in mass murder with the destruction of two villages in Bohemia, Lidice and Lezaky, and the killing of their entire male population.  Operation Anthropoid did cause Britain and France, another government in exile, to formally repudiate the Munich Agreement, thus conferring the legitimacy of Benes government.

The flow of information between Prague and London enabled the Czech government to furnish important information to the Allies, including the discovery of Hitler’s final solution and the Jewish extermination camps.  Benes and his government cooperated closely with the Jewish leadership in the free world and in Palestine.  The government also intervened with the Vatican and the Allied governments on behalf of persecuted Jews.  They also openly condemned anti-Semitism.

At the end of WWII, the Czechoslovakian government was the only one of its kind in Eastern Europe to be allowed to return to its native country.  Government officials returned and took cabinet positions, including President Benes.  As the government became reestablished, Benes implemented some radical changes in minority policy with the objective of making the republic as nationally homogeneous as possible.  These policies are referred to as Benes’s decrees.  One of the more radical policies included the expulsion of a large number of ethnic Germans and Hungarians.  Another policy allowed the Jewish remnants in Czechoslovakia the option of declaring themselves either of Czech or Slovak nationality.


During the mid-1930’s, Germany wanted to expand its interests in east-central Europe and Hungary eagerly sought markets for its agricultural surplus in the wake of the worldwide depression.  With both sides filling a need for the other, Germany became Hungary’s foremost trading partner.  Hungary, under the leadership of Milkos Horthy, also wished to obtain the return of lost territories and peoples caused by the Treaty of Trianon, which had deprived Hungary of more than two-thirds of its territory and about sixty percent of its population after WWI.  Germany was aggressive and an audacious force; if anybody were to reclaim lost Hungarian territories, it would be Germany.

From 1937 onward, Hitler offered German support for territorial revision.  In return, Hungary offered Nazi Germany economic and political concessions.  In 1938, the Munich Agreement was signed and Hungary received part of a former territory from Czechoslovakia.  This convinced some Hungarian politicians that the Axis would play a leading role in Europe for the next several decades.  Other politicians harbored the traditional Hungarian fear of a strong Germany and its brutal Nazi system.

The Nazis proved to be extremely successful in the early stages of the war.  Victories in Poland and Western Europe confirmed the belief of many politicians that to achieve their political goals, they should cooperate with Germany.

As the war progressed, though, it became clear that Hungary was not a valued ally for the Nazis.  Resources were taken and the demand for soldiers increased drastically.  Germany passed decrees with heavy restrictions on Hungary and made them more subservient to Nazi authorities.  Opinions changed and many wished to no longer be allied with Nazi Germany.

In December 1941, the United States declared war on Germany after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Subsequently, the British declared war on Hungry, creating a severance of all major links to the West.  Hungary was now isolated, committed to a long war, and at the mercy of the Nazi party.

Hungary was forced to send more of their troops to battle the Soviet Union’s Red Army.  On 13 January 1943, the Hungarians were defeated at Stalingrad.  The Red Army broke through Hungarian lines and caused the loss of one hundred fifty thousand of the two hundred thousand Hungarian soldiers.  It was a devastating loss for Hungary.

Immediately, work began to extricate Hungary from the Nazi alliance.  Troops were no longer sent to Russia to aid German forces.  As a gesture of goodwill, at the end of 1943, Hungary tried the officers responsible for massacres that had taken place in January 1942 in the Delvidek region.  A tentative agreement was signed with Istanbul, stating that Hungary would change sides and align themselves with the Allies when British and American forces reached Hungary.  Horthy planned to welcome the US and British forces and requested a final withdrawal of Hungarian troops from the Soviet Union.

When Hitler heard of Hungary’s plan to switch sides, he immediately took action.  On 19 March 1944, Germany invaded and occupied Hungary.  Knowing that they could not fight the Nazis, Hungary did not resist the occupation.  Immediately, all anti-Nazi parties and politicians were eliminated.  Mass deportations of Jews to German death camps in occupied Poland also began.  Most of the Jewish deportees were sent to Auschwitz, where ninety percent of them were killed immediately upon arrival.

Horthy, who still had a tentative hold on Hungary, attempted to make one last charge against Germany on 15 October 1944.  Sadly, his son was taken hostage and Horthy immediately resigned only to be replaced with the Arrow Cross Party.

Hungary fell into chaos.  The Arrow Cross began a reign of terror; plundering, pillaging, and murdering.  Their leader, Ferenc Szalasi, intended to draft all male and female Hungarians between the ages of twelve and seventy into the army or labor brigades.  Szalasi followed a scorched-earth policy; all resources were stripped from Hungry and sent straight to Germany.

In late 1944, the Red Army began to invade Hungary.  Many Hungarian soldiers took this opportunity to abandon their brigades and join the Red Army.  In January 1945, Hungary signed an armistice with the Soviet Union and by 4 April 1945, there were no more Germans fighting in Hungary.

Subject/Index Terms

Communism in Hungary
Resistance, Czechoslovak
Resistance, Hungary
Resistance, Jewish
Resistance, Palestine

Administrative Information

Repository: Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Document/Artifact of Item-Level:

[Document/Artifact of Item-Level 1: RG-72.17.01, Jewish Brigade Group patch, 1944 -- 1945],
[Document/Artifact of Item-Level 2: RG-72.17.02, Postcard for Easter from the abroad member of Czechoslovak Forces to Washington D.C, USA, written to Leo Goerth, 4 April 1943],
[Document/Artifact of Item-Level 3: RG-72.17.03, Envelope from the abroad member of Czechoslovak Forces to New York, USA, written to H.R Monkemeyer, 28 October 1942],
[Document/Artifact of Item-Level 4: RG-72.17.04, Hungarian resistance sign, featuring hammer and sickle],
[Document/Artifact of Item-Level 5: RG-72.17.05, Allied expeditionary force. D.P. Index Card],

Document/Artifact of Item-Level 3: RG-72.17.03, Envelope from the abroad member of Czechoslovak Forces to New York, USA, written to H.R Monkemeyer, 28 October 1942Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
An envelope from an abroad member of the Czechoslovakian forces to New York, USA.  During the war, the Czechoslovakian government was in exile in London.  Like artifact RG-72.17.02, the stamp identifies the piece of mail as coming from the Czechoslovakian, but the postage identifies that it came from Britain with the portrayal of King George VI.
Subject/Index Terms:
British Military
Czechoslovakian government in exile
Resistance, Czechoslovak
Resistance forces, Czech
wartime correspondences
Correspondence in English language
Czechoslovak Armed Forces within the Allies Armed Forces (1939 -- 1945)
Czechoslovak armed forces fought with the Allied armed forces, 1939 --1945 (1939 -- 1945)

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