In Our Own Hands: The Hidden Story of the Jewish Brigade in World War II

Documentary about the only all-Jewish fighting unit during WWII.

00:00:00Copy video clip URL Black and white WWII footage, Jewish veterans narrate.

00:01:16Copy video clip URL April 1995, WWII veterans from Israel arrive in Italy to commemorate one of the last battles of the war fought at the Senio River.

00:02:42Copy video clip URL His Majesty’s Jewish Brigade forms in what is now Palestine in the 1930s. Veteran of the brigade, Avram Silberstein describes his arrival in Israel. Black and white footage of the young soldiers.

00:03:57Copy video clip URL Hitler’s rise to power in Europe. Black and white footage of Nazis parading in the streets. The Jewish Agency in Palestine works to bring Jews in who are fleeing from Europe, laying claim to more and more land in Palestine in order to build settlements for the new arrivals. The Arabs in the area revolt in 1936, and three years later the British government creates new policy, which denies Palestine the chance for statehood and severely limits the immigration of Jews from Europe.

00:06:20Copy video clip URL Veterans of the Jewish Brigade, Hanoch Bartov and Shlomo Shamir describe early resistance against the new British policies.

00:07:24Copy video clip URL WWII begins. In 1942 an all Jewish unit of the British Army is created, but only after several years of pressuring the British Government to allow its formation. Footage of young soldiers in training.

00:11:53Copy video clip URL Members of the Jewish Brigade are forced to remain in Palestine as they hear more and more about the atrocities occurring in Europe. Footage of young soldiers in training.

00:13:30Copy video clip URL In 1944 Winston Churchill officially allows the formation of His Majesty’s Jewish Brigade. Audio of Churchill’s speech.

00:16:05Copy video clip URL The 5,000 troops are sent to Egypt to be assembled as one unit for the first time. Footage of soldiers in the desert, still photos of the unit listening to a send-off concert by the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.

00:19:03Copy video clip URL The Brigade arrives in Italy where they begin combat training. Descriptions of life in the camp. Stills and footage of the recruits training in the mountains of Italy.

00:22:27Copy video clip URL The Brigade is sent to the front , footage of their convoy traveling by cheering crowds in Rome, and fighting against the German Army in Northern Italy.

00:24:18Copy video clip URL Battle footage at a place called La Georgetta. A member of the Brigade describes getting close enough to a German bunker to listen to a record they had playing over and over.

00:26:05Copy video clip URL Footage of the Brigade charging the German bunker at La Georgetta. Veterans describe their experience of the battle. The Brigade captures a group of German prisoners. Footage of the prisoners standing in line.

00:29:07Copy video clip URL The Brigade is moved in order to hold the left bank of the Senio River against the German Army. Footage of the Brigade fighting, and also holding a seder for Passover amidst the fighting.

00:30:47Copy video clip URL Veterans describe the battle area as the fighting gets more intense. Footage of the Brigade receiving a visitor from the Jewish agency.

00:32:21Copy video clip URL Footage of a soldier being carried from the fighting on a stretcher after stepping on a mine. Footage of soldiers being buried.

00:33:56Copy video clip URL The Brigade successfully holds its position above the Sanio River. Footage of Europe after Hitler commits suicide and Germany officially surrenders.

00:36:01Copy video clip URL The Brigade is sent to a small town on the border of Austria and Italy where they met refugees and holocaust survivors. The soldiers search for news of their relatives from the survivors they meet. Many soldiers take leave of the army to search for their families.

00:38:58Copy video clip URL “What we found were just bits and pieces, there were no communities, no families, their were individuals…out of this six year horror.” Footage of holocaust survivors, graves, and bodies piled on the ground.

00:40:26Copy video clip URL Upon learning what had been going on in the concentration camps some members of the Jewish Brigade begin forming secret vengeance squads to seek out German perpetrators in hiding. Veterans of the Brigade describe the process of obtaining information about Germans in hiding, and how certain Nazi leaders were located and killed.

00:42:09Copy video clip URL A member of one of the vengeance squads describes his experience of posing as a Nazi officer in order to gain information about the whereabouts those in hiding and his confrontation with a real Nazi officer.

00:43:18Copy video clip URL Veterans of the Brigade describe their experience traveling with an army train into Klagenfurt, Austria where the soldiers come face to face with surviving Jews. Still photos of  war-torn Klagenfurt.

00:46:05Copy video clip URL Suvivor Moshe Bejske speaks, “The first day of liberation after five and a half years…and the man who liberated you brings you the message that you have no place to go.” Bejske joins a group of Jews fleeing to the West, where they eventually meet the soldiers of the Jewish Brigade.

00:49:12Copy video clip URL The Brigade helps to set up refugee camps for survivors.

00:51:07Copy video clip URL Footage of Allied Displaced Persons Camps. Refugees sent back to their homes return to find nothing there. An official Brigade search party is set up to locate Jews in the camps. Finding them is difficult as officials in the camps organize refugees by their country of origin. “For the men of the Brigade the only real answer for the plight of Jews in Europe was Palestine.”

00:55:39Copy video clip URL The Brigade begins the difficult process of moving Jews out of Europe and into Palestine where the British anti-immigration policy is still in effect.

01:01:29Copy video clip URL British Officers of the Jewish Brigade risk their careers in order to aid the transport of Jews into Palestine.

01:04:12Copy video clip URL The Brigade successfully moves a thousand refugees from Austria. Many later attempts were stopped as the British became more and more aware of the Brigade’s activities. In July of 1945, the Brigade is taken away from their position in Italy and moved to the Netherlands.

01:07:07Copy video clip URL The Brigade must travel through occupied Germany to reach the Netherlands. At their new posts soldiers of the Brigade are placed in charge of German POWs.

01:09:13Copy video clip URL The Brigade continues their operation of moving survivors from their new post in the North. The Allies finally agree to create separate camps for Jewish refugees. Members of the Brigade are sent into the camps in order to organize the Jews, and to encourage them to make Palestine their home.

01:13:53Copy video clip URL Palestine remains closed to the refugees. In April of 1946 the Brigade is ordered to disband and leave Europe.

01:17:05Copy video clip URL In a final attempt to move refugees into Palestine, a hundred of them take the identities of soldiers of the Jewish Brigade, while the hundred soldiers are left behind in Europe to continue working with survivors.

01:18:19Copy video clip URL “What we did in terms of presenting a new hope to the survivors…it changed in a way, the direction of Jewish history.” In 1948, Israel fights its War of Independence. The British blockade is lifted, and Jews from Europe freely come into Israel.

01:21:46Copy video clip URL Credits



  1. i was one of the offline editors of this one, yet, somehow, uncredited. bah.

  2. Gale Simon-Bierenbaum says:

    Even though my Uncle Nate/Nathaniel Ratner served in the Hagganah after serving in the US Navy during WWII, I was unfamiliar with the history of the Jewish Brigade & their immense contributions during & after WWII. Hope every single person I know has the opportunity to witness this documentary!

  3. Douglas Robertson says:

    Inspiring stories from these vets. 1:19.33 shows someone fighting who definitely appears to be Gideon Ben Israel’s double. Anyone know if my observation is correct?

  4. Bruce Form says:

    Wonderful story. I am a living historian and portray a Jewish Brigade officer. This documentary is very accurate and extremely helpful

  5. David Lerer says:

    True and wonderful story of the Jewish Brigade. Does anybody know the names of those 100 or so “doubles” who stayed behind in Europe (Netherlands?) while allowing refugees use their name and emigrate to Palestine? [email protected]

  6. ganit says:

    Fascinating story of history that changed so many lives!

  7. HOWARD JOFFE says:

    That this movie was made is in itself deserving of the highest accolade. History and Truth is a treasured value. Peoples of all religions and from all countries will hopefully view this factual record as a message. This record of Mans inhumanity to Man, of discrimination, of blatant anti semitisim is something all men and women of goodwill ought fight against. The credo ” if you have nothing to stand for, you will fall for anything ” is pertinent. This record is a wake-up call for each and every person. Congratulations for preserving this historical record.

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