Jewish Brigade

The Jewish Brigade – a Fighting Force of the British Army

The Jewish Brigade was a military formation of the British Army. It was established in the fall of 1944 and was composed of some 5,000 Jewish volunteers living in what was then British-mandated Palestine. The Jews in Palestine had long sought to serve in the allied cause in World War II as a distinct fighting force, but these aspirations were resisted by the British military authorities until nearly the end of the war.

The British Mandate

The brigade operated under the leadership of Ernest Frank Benjamin, a Canadian- born British Jewish officer who had served with distinction in the British Army since 1919. Benjamin oversaw the training of the brigade in Egypt, and its eventual deployment to the Eighth Army in Italy.

In Italy, the group saw action against the Germans in the crossing of the Senio River in northeast Italy in March and April 1945. Following V-E Day, on May 8, 1945, the Jewish Brigade was sent to Tarvisio on the Italian-Austrian-Yugoslav border. There they searched for Holocaust survivors, provided them with aid, and assisted in their escape from Europe and immigration to Palestine.

Also after the war, a group of former Jewish Brigade members – under the guise of British military activity – engaged in the assassination of Nazis and smuggled cweaponry to the Haganah Jewish defense forces in Palestine.

In July 1945 the brigade was sent to the Netherlands and then to Belgium. The Jewish Brigade was eventually disbanded in June 1946. Many of the veterans of the Jewish Brigade went on to serve in senior positions in the Israel Defense Forces following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

In December 1945, Benjamin was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He eventually retired from the army in September 1950, having exceeded the age limit, and was granted the honorary rank of brigadier.