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Palestinian POWs in German Captivity

Yoav Gelber

  1. A discussion of the subject necessitates research of German, British and Hebrew sources. The German documents were captured by the American forces at the end of the war and transferred to the Alexandria Archives. Today this material can be found in the German Military Archive at Freiburg, Bundesarchiv, Militärarchiv (hereafter – BA-MA). The British material is found in different sections of the War Office (W.O.) in the British Public Record Office (PRO) notably in section W.O. 224. Diaries, internal newssheets, etc., written by the prisoners themselves, were hidden in the ground of the Lamsdorf camp prior to its evacuation and were lost. Prisoners’ letters underwent careful censorship and therefore can only serve as a limited source. Several files of the political department of the Jewish Agency (S-25) in the Central Zionist Archives (hereafter – CZA) contain the correspondence of the Jewish Agency on the subject. The correspondence file of the Mandatory Government on the subject of the captives is found in the Israel State Archives (hereafter – ISA). Most of the material on the Jewish side can be found in reports of the captives, in memoirs and in the 1950-1960 files of the Reparations Committee (hereafter – RC), which dealt with restitution paid by the German Government. Additional depositories referred to are: Labor Party Archives (LPA) and Hagana Archives (HA).
  2. On Palestinian soldiers in the Greek and Crete campaign see Y. Gelber, Sefer Toldot ha-Hitnadvut, Volunteering and its Role in Zionist Policy 1939-1942, Vol.A Jerusalem, 1979, pp. 366-405.
  3. See for example the diary of Captain Karney, entry of April 28, 1941, PRO, W.O., 217\34; report of Y. Schiff on the evacuation from Greece written in Egypt, June 21-23, 1941, Archives of the Kibbutz ha-Me’uhad (hereafter – KMA) files of the security committee 12\A.
  4. Y. Yaacobi, Mi-Eretz Israel ha-Germani, M.A., thesis, Tel Aviv University, 1976, pp. 105-107 (hereafter – Yaacobi).
  5. Interrogation of Colonel Renton, Commanding Officer of the Pioneer Corps in Greece who escaped from Calamata and reached Egypt, W.O., 201\7246; also Major E.H. Rhodes-Woods, War History of the Royal Pioneer Corps, Aldershot, 1960, p. 104.
  6. Yaacobi, pp. 96-98.
  7. C. Buckley, Greece and Crete 1941, Official History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Series, London, 1952, p. 136; G. Long, Australia in the War, Greece, Crete and Syria, Vol. II Canberra, 1953, pp. 185-190.
  8. F. Yordan, Brihati min ha-Shevi, Ein Harod, 1945, pp. 60-63.
  9. Official condolence letter to the family of Sergeant Goldman, ISA, D\32\44. Goldman was captured and killed on April 29, 1941.
  10. Interrogation of S. Secher and E. Asir, June 18, 1941 CZA S-25\9263.
  11. Report of Shiff, op. cit.
  12. S. Slodash, Be-Kavley ha-Shevi, Tel Aviv, 1946, p. 53.
  13. Y. Ben-Aharon, Mihtavim le-Bni, Ein Harod, 1946, p. 20.
  14. Gelber, op. cit., pp. 401-404.
  15. A. Yerushalmi, Shlosha she-Barhu, Tel Aviv, 1957, p. 29.
  16. Y. Ben-Aharon, “Be Shevi ha-Nazim” in Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, edited by Z. Shefer, Jerusalem, 1949, p. 650.
  17. Interrogation of the escapee Ben-Gershon, 20.8.41, LPA, file 1101, p. 1.
  18. Report of Ben-Gershon; Ben Nadav, “Be-Nedudei ha-Shevi ve-haBriha”’ Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, p. 584. About another group of British, Australian and Palestinians who were captured on the same day see Yordan, pp. 60-68.
  19. According to a questionnaire presented by Yaacobi (see p. 104) to Lieutenant Jädtke of the German force in Calamata on April 28-29, 1941.
  20. Slodash, p. 56.
  21. Intelligence Officer of the Fifth Panzer Division to the 40th Corps Intelligence Department, 29.4.1941, BA-MA, AOK 12, 75091\3.
  22. Yordan, p. 68; Testimony (anonymous) of an escape, HA, 33\3, pp. 3-4.
  23. Slodash, p. 58.
  24. Ibid., p. 59; Yordan, pp. 69-70; testimony in HA, 33\3, p. 4.
  25. Yordan, p. 70.
  26. Ibid., p. 69; Slodash, p. 55.
  27. Yerushalmi, p. 34.
  28. Order of the 40th Corps Headquarters on the subject of collecting and guarding booty and the concentration of captives 1.5.1941, BA-MA, XLAK, 11652.
  29. Ibid., report on the number of captives in Corinth, 2.5.1941.
  30. Slodash, p. 61; Yordan, p. 73; Interrogation of Ben-Gershon, p. 2; Yerushalmi, p. 34.
  31. Slodash, p. 62; Yordan, pp. 73-74; Yerushalmi, pp. 35-36.
  32. Yerushalmi, pp. 37-38; Slodash, pp. 63-64.
  33. Ben-Aharon in Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, p. 651.
  34. Yordan, pp. 74-75; Yerushalmi, p. 39; Slodash, p. 64.
  35. Yordan, p. 77; Yerushalmi, p. 38; Interrogation of Ben-Gershon, p. 3.
  36. See above note 21.
  37. Report of an inspection tour of the Corinth camp by the commander of “Feldkommandantur” 569”, 17.5.1941, BA-MA, AOK, 12, 75091\3.
  38. Yordan, pp. 76-80; Interrogation of Ben-Gershon, p. 4.
  39. Yordan, pp. 88-89; Slodash, pp. 64-66. Not all captives were interrogated; Yerushalmi in his memoirs mentions no interrogation.
  40. Ben-Aharon, Mihtavim le-Bni, pp. 26-27.
  41. Testimony, HA, 33\3, pp. 7-8.
  42. Slodash, pp. 64-65. According to Y. Karlenboim (Almogi) he appreared on the third day and spoke to the British brigadier who answered “Himmler” with impudence. Immediately after this a wave of harassment began, no physical but psychological. Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, p. 628.
  43. Report of Oberstleutenant Hanstein on his trip to Corinth, 18.5.1941, BA-MA, AOK, 12, 75091\3.
  44. Report of the Intelligence Dept. of the 12th Army to the Supreme Commandant of the German Land Forces (OKH), 7.5.1941 AOK, 12, 75091\2; see also the interrogation of the prisoner Haim Leshtz in the report on the capture and interrogation of scores of captives on the Isle of Kithaera. These captives were also sent afterwards to Corinth, Ibid., 75091\3.
  45. Report of Ben-Gershon, 20.8.1941, LPA, file 1101, p. 3.
  46. Report of the 12th Army Intelligence Dept. to the Interlligence Dept. of the OKH on “The interrogation of captives from Palestine”, 19.5.1941, BA-MA, AOK 12, 75091\2.
  47. Ibid., 5.6.1941, “A summary of the results of the interrogations.”
  48. The legal adviser (Oberkriegsgerichstrat) of the 12th Army to the legal department of OKH (Gruppe Rechtswesen) 19.5.1945, ibid.
  49. A circular of the British Headquarters in Palestine to its recruiting officers, 5.7.1941, CZA, S-25\4720.
  50. “Briten, Juden, Neger…,” Der Führer, Karlsruhe, 21.5.1941.
  51. Article of a German military reporter on the captives in the Corinth camp, 13.7.1941, Das Reich, in a collection of newspapers clippings, BA-MA, RH 53-18.
  52. Slodash, p. 67; Yordan, pp. 81-82.
  53. Testimony of A. Katz in Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, p. 602 ff.
  54. Ibid., pp. 607-611.
  55. Telegram of the Abwehr liason officer in Greece to the head office in Berlin, 23.6.1941, BAMA, AOK 12, 75091\2.
  56. Report of a 12th Army Intelligence officer on Crete 7.7.1941, BA-MA, BOX 253\569.
  57. Testimony of Katz, p. 612.
  58. Letter of complaint by the senior British officer in the camp to the commander of the camp, 24.7.1941, BA-MA, RW 4\320.
  59. Information following the visit of one of the command officers from Crrete 12.10.1941, ibid., BOX 253\569.
  60. Testimony of Katz, pp. 623-627.
  61. Yordan, p. 90 relates how he was evacuated on June 9th in the last group which left Corinth; Yerushalmi, p. 44 relates that the Palestinians left the camp on June 11 and were not the last group to be evacuated.
  62. Yordan, pp. 90-94; Yerushalmi, pp. 44-47.
  63. Slodash, pp. 69-72.
  64. H. Glovinsky, “Arba Shanim”, in Sefer ha-Hitnadvut, p. 659.
  65. Order number 11 of the Prisoners of War Main Office (Chef des Krigsgefangenenwesen), OKW, 11/3/1942, BA-MA, RW6\V 270.
  66. Slodash, pp. 76-82.
  67. For life in the POW camp see S. Hacohen, Min ha-Shevi ha-Germani, 1973; album of sketches on German captivity, Constrating Shadows, Haifa, 1972; Ben-Aharon in a meeting of the Actions Committee of the Histadrut, 13.6.1945, pp. 16-20.
  68. Survey of Karlenboim, p. 40.
  69. Swiss Embassy report of visit to Stalag VIII B; August 1941, W.O. 224\27, pp. 4-5.
  70. Bulletin No. 1 of the Department of Prisoners of War in OKH, BA-MA, RW 6\270.
  71. Slodash, pp. 86-90; Report of Glovinsky in a meeting of the Actions Committee of the Histadrut, 13.6.1945, p. 25.
  72. See note 68.
  73. Letter of E. Zelberg to his parents, 2.9.1941, CZA, S-25\4720.
  74. Red Cross report on visits to labor detachments E-253 and E-287 of Stalag VIII B, 13.12.1941, W.O., Ibid.
  75. Survey of Karlenboim, pp. 35-38; Slodash, pp. 100-121.
  76. Judgement of a German military court which imprisoned an Arab POW who attached – according to the charge against him – a German sentry, 24.6.1942, copy in ISA, D\95\41 I.
  77. Slodash, pp. 122-130; on a different meeting during the same period, see A. Glantz, Ha-Ma’avak be-Kavley ha-Shevi, Rehovot, 1966, pp. 116-120.
  78. Report of Globinsky, ibid, p. 28; Slodash, pp. 135-137.
  79. Slodash, pp. 140-144.
  80. See OKH order on this subject, 26.10.1942, BA-MA, RW6\270; also reports of the Swiss Embassy on a visit to Stalag VIII B, 28.11.1942 and 5.3.1943, W.O., ibid.
  81. Swiss Embassy report, 5.3.1943, W.O.; Glanz, pp. 208-214 and also letter of P. Rosenblüth (Rosen) to Jewish Agency, 3.2.1943, CZA, S-25\4720. On the camp at Cholm see letter of the Red Cross in Cairo to the Jewish Agenct, 9.3.1943, ibid.
  82. Postcard from POW M. Mizrahi to his wife, 8.11.1942 CZA, ibid.: "Dear Sarah, Go to Mister Doar Hayom [newspaper] and send him our best regards… Regards to the entire family, to Dr. Buchman and his family. Our best wishes to Mister Makim Otanu [we are being hit]. Best wishes to Mister Yachas Ra [bad treatment]. Best wishes to Mister Arumim [naked] and Mister Bakor [in the cold]. Kisses to all the children…"
  83. Dr. J. Kelner to the Executive of the Jewish Agency, 24.1.1943 and Mrs. A. Mayorcheck, 8.4.1943, ibid.
  84. Mr. Simon of the Jewish Agency to Dr. Kelner, 3.2.1943, CZA. See letter of Simon to Mrs. Mayorcheck, 16.4.1943, ibid; the number of POWs who had relatives in Palestine was no more than 400 (out of 1,700). In May 1943 the Jewish Agenct decided to send out a circular to POW relatives in Palestine giving instructions for sending letters and packages to them, 4.5.1943, ibid.
  85. Report of the Red Cross on a visit to Stalag 319, 12.2.1943, W.O. 224\27.
  86. The Red Cross in Cairo to the Jewish Agency, 9.3.1943, CZA, S-25\4720.
  87. Slodash, pp. 150-153.
  88. See for example, letter of the prisoner A. Salpeter, 31.5.1943, CZA, S-25\4720.
  89. Report of the Swiss Embassy on a visit to labor detachment E-456 in Kalkau, 6.3.1943; see also report on a visit to labor detachment E-479 in Tanowitz, 10.3.1943, W.O. 224\27.
  90. On the work in the mines and the relationships with the supervisors see Slodash, pp. 162- 169.
  91. Ibid., pp. 176-177.
  92. Swiss Embassy report on a visit to labor detachment E-561 in Jawozno, 9.3.1943 and letters of the British Embassy in Berne to the Foreign Office in London, 19.4.1943 and 24.4.1943, W.O., ibid. The Germans attempted to convince the visitors that the POWs were undisciplined and two of them were even tried for trying to bribe guards. See letter from the Chief Secretary of the Mandatory Government to B. Joseph, 26.10.1943, CZA, S-25\4753.
  93. The Swiss Foreign Ministry to the British Foreign Office, 22.4.1943, quoted in a letter of the Colonial Office to the Jewish Agency in London, 2.6.1943, CZA, S-25\4720.
  94. Slodash, p. 177.
  95. Ibid., pp. 182-184.
  96. Survey of Karlenboim, 13.6.1945, pp. 39-40; Slodash, pp. 215-216.
  97. Letter from B. Uziel to the Jewish Agency, 1.3.1942, CZA, S-25\4753; letter from S. Kahalani to the Editor of Davar, 5.4.1943, ibid.
  98. Swiss Foreign Ministry to the British Consulate in Berne, 20.4.1943, copy in CZA, S-25- 4720.
  99. Letter of POW A. Bergman to Shertok, 25.4.1943, and pacifying answer of M. Simon, 10.9.1943; also the correspondence between POW H. Komfort and Simon, CZA, S-25-4753.
  100. See for example information about a prisoner’s family problem, 22.5.1944, CZA, S-25\4722.
  101. Report of a visit of representatives of the Swiss Embassy to Stalag VIII B, 29.6.1943, W.O. 224\27. Stalag B, 29.6.1943, W.O., 224\27.
  102. Ibid., report of a visit of the Red Cross to Stalag VIII B and to its labor detachments, 26.9.1943.
  103. Organizational order No. 51 of the Main Office for POWs, OKW, 18.11.1943, BA-MA, RW6\273.
  104. Report of a visit of a representative of the Swiss Embassy to Stalag 344, 7-8.2.1944, W.O. 224\27.
  105. Slodash, pp. 234-236.
  106. Letters of POW A. Shalit, 21.5.1944, CZA, S-25\4753 and letter of Cohen to Shertok, 28.6.1944, CZA, S-25-4720.
  107. Simon to Linton, 28.7.1944, CZA, S-25\4720.
  108. Glanz, p. 275 ff.
  109. Report of a visit of representatives of the Swiss Embassy to Stalag 344, 21. and 22.9.1944, W.O., ibid.
  110. OKW to Regional Military Commands of the Reich, 5.9.1944 and 5.11.1944, BA-MA, RW6\273; OKW to the Minister of Housing, 4.12.1944 and the Military Department of Economics in OKW to the Main Office for POWs, 5.12.1944, ibid., Arb 128\3, 4.
  111. Testimony of Corporal Ben-Gershon, 20.8.1941, LPA file 1101.
  112. Testimony of D. Eisenberg, RC, No. 1460.
  113. Testimony of Y. Ben-Yaakob, RC. No. 1273.
  114. The route Yordan took returning to Palestine is described in his book Brihati min ha-Shevi.
  115. Report of the Military Attaché in the German Consulate in Greece, 6.9.1941, BA-MA, AOK 12, 75091\1; Barlas (then head of recruitment department of the Jewish Agency) to the political department, 14.12.1941, CZA, S-25\4720.
  116. See for example testimony of H. Hagoel, RC, No. 1422; testimony of M. Chanuka, No. 1435 and of Y. Marsh, No. 1398.
  117. Testimony of the POW escapee Menachem Itzhak, 15.8.1943, CZA, J-12\122, and Z. Haber, RC, No. 1395; see also testimony of another POW escapee, 28.9.1943, CZA, S- 25\4720.
  118. Testimony of A. Kolar, RC, No. 1454.
  119. Testimony of Y. Bleifeder, RC, No. 1405, the only man who claimed he was expelled from a Greek village after being identified as a Jew, but was aided by a Jewish family in Salonica.
  120. See for example testimony of B. Hamami, RC, No. 1463 and of Y. Cohen, No. 1404; also testimony of A. Yeshua, RC. No. 1434 and of S. Segal, No. 1440.
  121. Interrogation of a prisoner who returned from Yugoslavia by the Haifa Interrogation Bureau, CZA, S-25\10005; testimony of A. Opatowsky, RC. No. 1402.
  122. “A Palestinian soldier returned from German captivity in Austria”, Haboker, 5.10.1941.
  123. Slodash, pp. 226-227.
  124. M. Yuval to M. Simon, 22.10.1942, CZA, S-25\4720; Shertok’s minutes, 22.11.1942, CZA, S-25\6033; L. Kahani of the Jewish Agency in Geneva to L. Lauterbach, Jerusalem, 7.6.1944, CZA, S-25\4722.
  125. For details on the escape and escapades of Yerushalmi see his book Shlosha she-Barhu.
  126. Such as Yerushalmi and Hobar, mentioned above, and A. Opatowsky who after being transferred from Yugoslavia to Italy volunteered for a British paratrooper unit, RC, No. 1402, and Y. Elisha, No. 1315.
  127. Simon to the representative of the Red Cross in Cairo, 23.12.1941, CZA, S-25\4720.
  128. Testimony of Y. Reiss, 13.6.1943, CZA J\12\122.
  129. Officer in charge of records and payments to Palestinians to the Chief Secretariat 19 and 25.10.1943, and 24.11.1942, ISA, D\95\41 I; “Arba’ah Hodashim ba-Shevi”, Igeret le-Hayalim ve-Hayalot, 6.2.1943, pp. 2-5.
  130. Testimony of L. Bendava, RC, No. 1412.
  131. Testimonies of M. Maabari and B. Morgenstern, RC, Nos. 622 and 752.
  132. Exchange of telegrams between Simon and Linton, 31.10-1.11.1943, CZA, S-25\4753; report of the Officer in Charge of Records to the Chief Secretary, 1.11.1943, 8.11.1943, ISA, ibid, II.
  133. Memorandum of the War Office to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, 30.4.1944 and memorandum of the Subcommittee for Repatriation of Prisoners of War, 13.5.1944, W.O. 193\346.
  134. Brigadier Woolley to Shertok, 19.6.1944, CZA, S-25\4721.
  135. G. Hirsch (Avner) to M. Simon, 20.9.1944, CZA, S-25\4851.
  136. The War Office to General Headquarters Middle East and to Palestine Headquarters, 19.10.1944, W.O., 169\15659.
  137. Lichtheim to the Jewish Agency, 15.1.1945, CZA, S-25\4721.
  138. Slodash, p. 242.
  139. Report of the Swiss Embassy on a visit to Stalag 344, 22.1.1945, W.O. 224\27.
  140. Slodash, pp. 244-254.
  141. A list of their names in CZA, S-25\4851.
  142. See Davar, 3.4.1945.
  143. H. Davidowsky, “Marsh ha-Eimim”, in Ha-Hayal ha-Ivri, 7.5.1946, p. 2.
  144. Slodash, pp. 225-259; see also letter of a soldier who was a member of Kfar Blum, in the leaflet Be-Kibutzeynu, 6.4.1945.
  145. Ben-Aharon, Michtavim le-Bni, pp. 67-68.
  146. Survey of Karlenboim, 13.6.1945, and his letter to Shertok, 24.4.1945, CZA, S-25\4721.
  147. Slodash, pp. 259-262.
  148. Thus for example Margesson, Minister of War, reported to Parliament on September 10, 1941 about 1,450 Palestinian prisoners (including Arabs) – a number much lower than the actual one.
  149. A list of whose who died in captivity in Ha-Hayal ha-Ivri, 7.5.1946, p. 2.
  150. Current statistics of POWs killed and missing, 6.9.1943, ISA, D\95\41\II.