Why Some Jews Fought Alongside Hitler

Allied against Russia, Finnish Jews wanted to prove themselves
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 6:40 PM CDT
Updated Mar 15, 2014 7:40 AM CDT
Adolf Hitler, 1930.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – The Nazis had an unlikely ally during World War II: the Jews of Finland. As Finns and Germans allied against Russia, Jewish soldiers fought in the Finnish military—and still find themselves defending the fact that they sided with Adolf Hitler, writes Paul Kendall in the Telegraph. "I had to do my duty, like everyone," says Aron Livson, 97. "We weren’t Jews fighting in a Finnish army—we were Finnish people, Finnish soldiers, fighting for our country." And Finnish Jews were respected, as they learned when Finland dismissed Germany's demands for anti-Jewish laws, or German soldiers who fought side-by-side with Finns were forced to salute ranking Jewish officers.

Uplifting stories of Germans and Finnish Jews intermingling still linger—like the wounded German soldiers who fell for Jewish nurses, and Germans who visited a field synagogue near the front line and sat with praying Jewish men. But others resisted, like the Jewish scientist who refused an Iron Cross for evacuating a field hospital under shelling: "Tell your German colleagues that I wipe my arse with it!" he said. Meanwhile, Finnish Jews heard Hitler's anti-Semitic tirades and knew about Kristallnacht—so why did they keep fighting alongside the Nazis? Well, Kendall notes that Jews served in the military to overcome anti-Semitism at home and show respect to Judaic texts by following the law of the land. "If they were guilty of anything, it was of trying too hard to fit in," he writes. Click for the full article, or see a New York Times report on how the Japanese helped Jews flee the Nazis before World War II. (Another fascinating recent piece of WWII news: One of the "most authoritative" diaries of the war is now available online.)

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