That battle was instrumental in saving the world from Nazi rule. Operation Overlord – as it was officially called- was too late for much of Europe’s Jewry but not too late for the rest of the world.
Jews played an important part as soldiers and translators. Over 4000 of the soldiers who stormed the beaches or provided support were Jews. Many died. They made up 4.2 percent of American forces, a larger percentage of Jews than in the overall population.
This week’s column provides links to thoughts, evaluations and reminiscences of the importance of this difficult battle for Jews.
- D-Day was the beginning of American Jews’ ‘coming of age’
- A Normandy Landing, With A Sense Of Jewish History
I have included as well my own reactions to a visit to the Site of the disembarkment as I reported last year in my article Reflections.
As we sit in relative peace under our fig trees, we should turn our thoughts if only for a moment to the heroism of thousands of soldiers who while they did not fight to save Jews, did, in effect, save Jews.
Even Eisenhower wasn’t sure how it would turn out.
Helping the war effort was a young Jewish man raised in Newark, a Princeton University and Columbia Law School graduate, a man who spoken several languages but who was best known as the pitcher for several baseball teams including the White Sox, the Red Sox, the Indians and the Senators.
Moe Berg (1902-1972) was a genius who used his prodigious intelligence as a spymaster for the Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA. At one point in the early days of World War II, Berg flew to Panama to secretly investigate Nazi ties to South America. In Europe, he openly conversed with atomic scientist Werner Heisenberg to find out how far the scientist had progressed in the development of an atomic bomb. Berg’s instructions were to kill Heisenberg if Berg felt that the development of the bomb was imminent. Berg determined that the bomb was not highly developed yet and Heisenberg was safe. The United States’ Manhattan Project could go forward successfully.
Aviva Kempner , a well-respected documentary film maker who has produced several films with Jewish subjects (Rosenwald, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg), has just released The Spy Behind Home Plate. It is playing in Montclair at the Clairidge at least through June 10. While the critics have mixed opinions, early viewers have praised the film. If the visuals and the storytelling are up to Kempner’s usual standards, it will be well worth viewing.
PBS is again showing GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II, a history of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II. It’s a fast- paced, poignant, and prideful look at Jewish participation in all theaters of the war. Catch it on Channel 13 on June 6 at 9 pm or on June 8 at 4 pm.