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Many Jewish Soldiers in Britain Hide Religion, Fearing Mistreatment if Captured

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Jewish leaders are strenuously trying to combat a growing tendency among Jews called up for service to conceal their religion because of apprehension that the Germans are likely to treat Jewish war prisoners as they do the German Jews.

The identification discs worn by every soldier are initialed to show the bearer’s religion. Although there has been some discussion about the possibility of eliminating the initial in order to protect Jewish soldiers, Jewish leaders have opposed the measure, declaring that the members of every faith were entitled to burial in accordance with their faith or the solace of their own spiritual leaders and that Jews must not expect the sacrifice of these rights by others.

Reluctant to expose themselves to the mercies of the Nazis, hundreds of Jews who have already enlisted or have been called up did not state their religion in order to avoid identification by their discs. A similar tendency has been notice able in the predominantly Jewish districts of London when conscript classes have been called up, numerous Jewish youths registering under other religions.

Dayan Gollop, senior Jewish chaplain of the British forces, and Chaplain Rabbi Rabinowitz have published an appeal to Jewish youth not to cancel their religion. The appeal declares: “We cannot bring ourselves to believe and this opinion is shared by military circles that the powerful military tradition of Germany will make them disregard the respect due His Majesty’s uniform irrespective of the race or creed of the person by who it is worn.”

Concealment of religion, the chaplains assert, is a distinct disservice to the community. Jews should take pride in their faith and proclaim the fact that they enlisted on the side of justice and righteousness. Supporting this viewpoint The Jewish Chronicle points out that concealment of religion leads to serious underestimates of the number of Jews serving in the British forces.

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