Soldiers of the Jewish Brigade standing guard over German prisoners in Italy
Appearing in the photograph are soldiers of the Jewish Fighting Brigade of the British Army standing guard over German soldiers captured in battle in the vicinity of the Senio River on the Italian front in April 1945.
The Jewish Brigade was established in September 1944 in response to pressure on the British authorities from the Jewish community in Eretz Israel to create a distinct unit for Jews in the army. Approximately 25,000 Jews from Eretz Israel had already been serving within the ranks of the British Army. The soldiers of the Brigade sought to fight and serve on the front. In November 1944 the three infantry regiments of the Brigade were transferred from Alexandria to Italy. For the first three weeks on the Italian front they were stationed outside of the town of Alfonsine, north of the city of Ravenna. They were then sent to a more mountainous region at the slopes of the Apennine Mountains, on the bank of the Senio River. They were charged with preventing the Germans from gaining a foothold on the southern bank of the river. On April 7, 1945 they received an order to cross the river and establish a bridgehead on the other side. As a result of the Brigade’s advance the Germans along the front began to retreat, and the Brigade’s units joined in the pursuit of the retreating German forces.
Approximately 5,000 Jews from Eretz Israel served in the Brigade. 57 fell in combat.
After the war the soldiers of the Brigade arrived in different locations throughout liberated Europe where Holocaust survivors had gathered. They were often the first representatives of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel to establish contact with the survivors. They provided the Holocaust survivors with food and medical assistance, and helped many of them cross international borders in order to eventually join the illegal immigration movement for Eretz Israel.
The Brigade was disbanded in the summer of 1946 and most of its members were sent back to Eretz Israel.
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 4922/71