V-J Day veterans urged to come forward and tell their stories
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V-J Day veterans urged to come forward and tell their stories

As the community looks to mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War with the defeat of Japan, AJEX asks people to say 'l’chaim' in honour of those who served

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Civilians and service personnel in London celebrating V-J Day on August 15, 1945 (Wikipedia/ © IWM / © Crown Copyright: IWM)
Civilians and service personnel in London celebrating V-J Day on August 15, 1945 (Wikipedia/ © IWM / © Crown Copyright: IWM)

A leading community historian has appealed for Second World War veterans who served in the far-east to come forward and tell their stories, as Jews prepare to mark 75 years since V-J Day.

A lecture will be held on Thursday evening by the Jewish Military Association (AJEX) featuring historian and educator Paula Kitching, as the community is urged to “raise a L’Chaim” on Shabbat, when the anniversary of victory in Japan takes place.

Speaking to Jewish News,  she said more than 70,000 Jews served in the British Forces during the Second World War overall, but it’s “almost impossible” to establish how many Jewish personnel serviced in the far-east.

“We know of thousands of Jews who became refugees in those areas because of the size of the communities”, and that due to “anecdotal information” it’s understood thousands of servicemen and women were Jews.

Paula Kitching

Of surviving servicemen and women who fought in the far-east, she said “we certainly had AJEX members who fought out there and who were in the internment camps”, and the organisation has “put out a request whether or not anybody wants to come forward”, who fought.

“We’ve got the children of people who served coming forward. But currently, I haven’t had somebody who’s still alive, who’s, who is willing. That’s not to say there aren’t any.”

She said Jews in the far-east that came under Japanese rule found “themselves very much at risk – not because of their Judaism – but because of their European-ness”

“Europeans were rounded up in to holding camps. We’re not talking the death camps of Europe – but we’re talking pretty nasty places.”

Mike Bluestone, the national chairman of the Association, who will be introducing Kitching on Thursday called on the community to remember the “fallen by raising a glass and offering a L’Chaim at your Shabbat table on Friday 14 August. We must never forget”.

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