The Jewish Refugee Commandos Who Fought Hitler under the Union Jack

Nov. 11 2021

In her recent book X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II, Leah Garrett tells the story of a British reconnaissance unit that snuck into Normandy just a few weeks before D-Day, and was captured by the Germany navy just as it was about to return home. A.E. Smith explains in his review what made this unit unusual:

One of the commandos on this mission, a British officer identified as George Lane, was a Jew. Lane’s real name was Lanyi György, and he was born and raised in Budapest. Before he was transported to a POW cage (his captors never cottoned to the fact that he was a Jew), Lane/Lanyi had the surreal experience of being quizzed by the legendary German field marshal Erwin Rommel. In a moment that feels like it comes from some lost fragment of Yiddish folklore, Lanyi even managed to confront this emissary of darkness on the annihilation of Europe’s Jews.

Rommel’s reply? “That’s politics.”

Lane was part of a small, secretive unit of Jewish commandos, recruited from the ranks of Jewish refugees who had managed to flee the Nazis and find refuge in Britain. All of them had experienced Nazism at first hand. With a few miraculous exceptions, none of them would ever see their parents or loved ones again. Latter-day Maccabees, they fought the Nazis in almost every major Commonwealth operation of the Second World War. They were among the first onto the beach on D-Day, and they fought all the way to the black heart of Hitler’s Reich and beyond.

Hoping for a day when Allied armies might take the offensive, [Winston Churchill] knew Britain needed soldiers who could not only fight but also interrogate prisoners in their own language. In doing so, they could produce intelligence to support real-time tactical and strategic decision-making. And so X Troop—called that because it wasn’t supposed to exist at all—was born. . . . Ultimately, 87 of these refugees would undergo the arduous commando and intelligence training needed to become X Troopers, and 22 of them would be killed in action.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: British Jewry, Jews in the military, Refugees, World War II

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy