SOMEWHERE IN NORTH AFRICA (Oct. 31)
The men of the newly-formed Jewish Brigade are eager for a chance to come to grips with the Germans, and are admirably equipped, mentally and physically, for the job, Brigadier Ernest Frank Benjamin, Toronto-born Jew who commands the group, today told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, who is visiting the unit “somewhere in the Western Desert” where the men are being trained for combat.
The correspondent, who was brought here from Cairo, found that among the many thousands of men who make up the Brigade, there is hardly one who does not have a relative who has fallen victim to the Nazis, and not one who is not determined to make the Germans pay heavily for their crimes.
The training of the brigade is proceeding rapidly, as the men are anxious to get into battle before the “show” is over. Brigadier Benjamin said that he had seldom seen “such a bunch of boys – so eager, so quick to catch on. But nothing surprises me,” he continued, “since I found out that my driver is a doctor of law from Prague.” He also mentioned a corporal, who formerly commanded a battalion in the Austrian Army, “but who prefers his present job,” as well as bacteriologists, university lecturers, architects, civil engineers and musicians. “They are all anxious,” the Brigadier said, “to do what, according to them, is the only serious duty of any fit Jew, kill Nazis.”
MEN FROM 53 COUNTRIES SERVING IN BRIGADE; HEBREW IS USED
The use of Hebrew assures homogeneity in a unit which has men from 53 countries in its rank, the commander said. Among them are men hailing from Sweden, South Africa, and Argentina, with the highest proportion coming from Poland, Russia, Germany and
Specialists in commando tactics are attached to the Brigade. This correspondent watched one put some of the men through their paces and has good grounds to believe that when the Germans face some of these chaps with the brains of David and the bodies of Goliath they definitely won’t like it.
A Lieut-Colonel, speaking to the correspondent, said, “There is every ingredient here to form a crack brigade, but, of course, no final judgement can be given until they undergo shellfire. However, I am not worried about these men. They are too proud – it would take an awful lot, if anything, to break their spirits. Besides many of them have been in concentration camps, or have lost their families, and have a really desperado mentality. We can rely on them to keep burning the flame of hatred, which is the best stimulant in war.”
BRIGADE FACES PROBLEMS; MEN INSIST ON KOSHER FOOD EVEN AT BATTLEFRONT
There are two outstanding problems still facing the brigade. One is the fact that it is not yet entirely Jewish because the rules governing transfer of soldiers from various units have not yet been defined, and because Jewish units stationed in various areas cannot be dispensed with or depleted at present. That is the reason behind the present recruiting drive.
The other is that of kosher food, which is easily solved now, but will present a problem at the front. Some of the men will not eat non-kosher food even though the chaplains have assured them it is permissible under the circumstances.
The JTA correspondent spoke to many of the men, some of whom were in occupied Europe as late as 1941. They had horrible stories to tell. It was evident that they and learned the hard way what it means to be a Jew. This correspondent was impressed by the political awareness of the Brigade members, unparalleled by any other military formation, even the Russians, and by the fact that none of them want to return to their birthplace, but desire to build a Jewish homeland in Palestine.