On Monday, November 1 at 4:00 pm Eastern (US) time, Hunter College Professor of Jewish and Hebrew Studies Leah Garrett will be our guest for a Casual Conversation sponsored by the Jewish Culture Group. As always everyone is invited, and we suspect that many of you will want to hear about the incredible and inspiring stories she wrote about in her new book, X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II. The stories of these 87 young men (Professor Garrett concentrates on three but writes about many more) begin in their homes in Germany and Austria where they escaped almost certain death at the murderous hands of the Nazis. Each eventually immigrated to Britain and tried to build new lives until the war began and they were interned as potential enemy agents. Some were sent to Australia on the infamous voyage of the Dunera under the command of a sadistic British anti-Semite (who was court martialed for his crimes). Eventually, they returned to Britain where they and many of the others who made up X Troop were allowed to join the Pioneer Corps to assist in home front projects.
The British Government decided that it needed a commando force made up of fluent German speakers to lead secret military operations in Europe, and to support the other commando brigades. Thus was created X Troop. Each of the men chosen underwent the most rigorous training then imaginable, and their service began with adopting new names as protection against execution upon capture. The book is a great read. And if you think you know all about the purpose of the raid on Dieppe, read this book. Or if you believe the story about Lord Lovat being piped as the first soldier across Pegasus Bridge, think again. Or that the man who singlehandedly captured an entire German garrison at Osnabruck, captured on newsreel film and broadcast throughout the world, was an example of a British officer taking the initiative. He was neither British nor an officer. The book also describes the three-day 400-mile journey across Holland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, and through Russian lines, as Lieutenant Manfred Gans, as a man possessed, races to liberate his parents from the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt.
After the war, a number of these men assisted in the de-Nazification program, interrogating prisoners and identifying Nazi criminals. Britain initially refused to grant blanket citizenship to the men of X Troop (20 of whom died in the war and another 22 were wounded), until the Army was forced to do so.
You don’t have to read her book to participate: she will tell what she knows with spirit and based on the knowledge that comes from the vast research she amassed to write the book. You may want to ask her about Miriam Rothschild, who married one the X Troopers and why she deserves her own book. Or about Dieppe, or Gans’s rescue mission, or just about what she found out that she would like to share with us. Here is her website: https://www.leahgarrett.org/ .
In any event, please join us on Monday, November 1 at 4:00 pm Eastern (US), and let Arthur know by the close of business the Friday before, October 29 by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Bruce Alpert and Arthur Fergenson