Jewish ‘hidden heroes’ of the RAF honoured for Second World War service
search

Jewish ‘hidden heroes’ of the RAF honoured for Second World War service

Elderly veterans recognised include a retired Dambuster pilot, wireless operator in a Wellington Bomber and ground engineer during the Berlin Airlift

  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray
    Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray

Jewish pilots and engineers who fought for Britain during the Second World War and the Cold War have been honoured at a special Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum event in Hendon.

Five Jewish veterans were there to hear a presentation by Joshua Levine, a historical consultant on Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed film Dunkirk, as part of the Museum’s new series, called ‘Hidden Heroes’- The Unknown Story of Jewish Personnel in the Royal Air Force.’

More than 20,000 Jewish men and women fought for the RAF during the Second World War, representing more than six percent of the British Jewish community at the time, and 900 never returned home.

Veterans in attendance last week included 98-year old retired Squadron Leader Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, a ‘Dambuster’ pilot of 617 Squadron, who participated in almost all of the operations of this celebrated unit after the 1943 ‘Dambuster’ raid .

Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray

Also there was Jack Toper, a wireless operator in a Wellington Bomber and member of the ‘Guinea Pig Club,’ which was formed in July 1941 by RAF burn patients sitting around a table drinking sherry and beer.

This group of pilots, most of whom had fought in the Battle of Britain, agreed to form a club and took their name from one of their member’s observations that medics were “using us as guinea pigs,” with plastic surgery still in its infancy.

Other attendees included Ralph Levy, a ground engineer during Berlin Airlift; Bernard Carton of Bomber Command, who flew over Italy; and Alfred Huberman, a rear gunner who flew in Lancaster bombers in the last months of the war.

Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray

At the event, the five veterans were honoured with a plaque from the RAF and shown display cases of artefacts from the RAF Museum, as well as a photographic exhibition of Jewish war veterans.

In his presentation, Levine commemorated and celebrated the heroism of the RAF’s Jewish personnel during the Second World War, using a wealth of new stories drawn from the RAF Archives in London.

His talk, given in the RAF’s centenary year, explored “what it meant to be Jewish in wartime,” discussing the attitudes of Jewish fighters who wore the RAF’s famous blue-grey uniform.

Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray

Levine also explained how Jewish men and women joined Britain’s RAF from all over the world, fully aware that they risked torture and execution if captured, to fight against tyranny, racism and antisemitism, but that their heroism still largely unknown.

The Museum said these stories show how the RAF “embraced diversity when few others did,” and how Jewish personnel helped turn the tide of the war, defeat Nazism and free those still alive in the concentration camps.

“The Jewish ‘Hidden Heroes’ is a very important story that needs to be told to celebrate those who worked behind the scenes to help make the Second World War victory possible,” said Renee Coppinger, development manager at the RAF Museum Museum. “These compelling stories need to be kept alive for future generations.”

Hidden Heroes at the RAF Museum in London. Photo date: Thursday, November 15, 2018. Photo: Richard Gray

Among the dignitaries at the event last week were the Board of Deputies’ senior vice president Sheila Gewolb and Air Chief Marshall Sir Glenn Torpy, who paid tribute to Jewish fighters’ extraordinary bravery.

“Jewish aircrew bore an additional risk serving alongside their comrades in the Royal Air Force, because capture for them would have meant certain death,” he said. “These stories are the perfect example of how ordinary men were capable of extraordinary actions in extremely desperate times.”

Levine said the sheer number of Jewish men and women who fought in the Second World War was “staggering,” and that while Churchill was busy trying to convince non-Jewish Brits to join the war effort, Jews needed no second invitation.

“They were keen to join the fight without the need for coaxing from the Prime Minister,” said Levine. “Members of the country’s Jewish community already understood the dangers posed by the Nazis.”

Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast!

read more:
comments