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The Jewish Brigade Group was the only military unit to serve in World War II in the British army—and in fact in all the Allied forces—as an independent, national Jewish military formation. It was made up mainly of Jews from Palestine. The brigade had its own emblem, a gold Magen David on a background of blue-white-blue stripes .It saw service in Egypt, on the north Italian front, and in northwest Europe, in the years 1944–46.
The establishment of the brigade was the final result of prolonged efforts by the yishuv and the Zionist movement to achieve recognized participation and representation of the Jewish people in the war against the Nazis, to lift the mantle of anonymity from the war effort made by the yishuv with its tens of thousands of volunteers, and to reinforce the yishuv's political standing and promote the aims of Zionism. The British authorities, opposed as they were to these aims, were reluctant to have Jews serving in fully fighting units and confined them to auxiliary corps, while the infantry were largely employed on guard duties in Palestine. These obstacles were overcome only after a sustained and unrelenting campaign, headed by Chaim Weizmann in London and by Moshe Shertok (Sharett), head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, in Jerusalem.
Some refugees and "illegal" immigrants also joined the brigade, and some Jews serving in British units were transferred to it. The total strength of the brigade was approximately 5,000. After a period of training in Egypt, the brigade was moved to Italy, where it joined the Eighth Army and continued its training until the end of February 1945. It then took up positions on the Alfonsini sector of the front, where it soon engaged in the fighting, initiating two attacks (March 19–20, 1945), and took prisoners. Moving to another sector of the front, on the Senio River, the brigade found itself facing a German parachute division. In the course of further operations, the three battalions crossed the Senio on April 9, establishing a bridgehead which they broadened the following day. The brigade's casualties consisted of 30 killed and 70 wounded; 21 of its men were awarded military distinctions and 78 were mentioned in despatches.
In May 1945 the brigade was moved to northeast Italy, and it was there that it met for the first time with survivors of the Holocaust. Rescue committees were established in the brigade units to care for the Jewish refugees while maintaining secret contact with the Jewish authorities. The brigade thus became a major factor in the care of the Jewish survivors of the ghettos and concentration camps. Without neglecting their military duties, the Jewish soldiers extended systematic aid to the refugees, provided them with clothes and educational facilities for their children, guided them across the frontiers, and smuggled them into Palestine. These activities continued when the brigade was moved to Holland and Belgium in July 1945.