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.
Read more at Jewish Review of Books
More about: British Jewry, Jews in the military, Refugees, World War II