Re: Jewish deportees having fought in the French Foreign Legion #france

Jean-Pierre Stroweis


Alexander Watson asked:

Whilst looking into the cases of Jews of German origin deported from
the French town of Drancy to the death camp of Auschwitz, I have found
that the 2 men of fighting age that I have so far investigated had
also enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. Both had seen active
service, according to their Foreign Legion papers, in Germany, Algeria
and Marocco; both had been living in France since at least 1934.
These two people (Werner MELCHIKER FFL matricule no. 1939/89262
deported 9 September 1942 & Wilhelm ROTHSCHILD FFL matricule no.
1939/91622 deported 2 March 1944) had first of all been interned by
the French government at the outbreak of WW2. Before the end of the
1939 they enlisted to join the Foreign Legion. They were demobilised
when the French capitulated and they both sought to live in what they
believed to be the safety of the so-called Zone-Libre of France.
Neither this, nor their service in the French Army saved them.

I was wondering if anybody on Jewishgen knows of other cases of this
kind, if so I would love to hear >from them.

I would also love to know if somebody has taken the time to fully
investigate cases similar to this so that I might be able to find out
just how many Jews of foreign birth enrolled in the French Foreign
Legion at this time, and what happened to them.

Having gained a certain experience of working with various French
archives, I am also happy to give my time to help people who might
think that members of their families suffered a similar fate.

from various readings, I have counted 5,500 Foreign Jews who volunteered
to French Foreign Legion in the first months after the outburst of World
War II.

My estimate is they amounted up to 25,000 persons (as you can learn below).

They were not accepted in other French army units, and had to join the
Foreign Legion despite deeply rooted antisemitism in this Army branch.

Several regiment units were specially created in Barcares (Pyrenees-Orientales),
La Valbonne (Ain) as well as in North Africa, between September 1939 and
March 1940.
The volunteers learned basic military skills, were poorly trained and with
poor equipment.
They were composed mainly of Spanish Republicans and of Foreign Jews, mainly
Polish Jews but also Jews >from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Romania,
North Africa, Turkey.Jews signed they volunteer for the period of the war.
The men of these units bravely fought and I estimate that 50% of them were
killed in action in May-June 1940.
Most of these army units were dismantled after the armistice (June 22, 1940).
Survivors and injured men were sent back to their families, and many of the=
m were later caught as civilians by the French police ... and sent to
extermination camps during 1942-1944.

In 2005, the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris had devoted an exhibition to these
Jewish volunteers.
You can find some more details at the following sites in English

and in French at

The French Ministry of Defense web site has a database of 53,000 volunteers
in these army units at
(in French).

This repository contains many spelling errors, foreign names were poorly
spelled and the site warns that 25% of the individuals are listed several times.
You can easily check that many volunteers bear Jewish names, therefore
my estimate above.

By comparing the names in this database with the deportation lists, you should
be able to identify many of the volunteers who were later sent to deportation.

Jean-Pierre Stroweis

Searching:SZTROWAJS (Staszow/Chmielnik, Poland), PTASZNIK (Dzialoszyce, Poland),
MEDAISKI (Vilnius, Lithuania), KAPNIK (Zhytomyr, Ukraine)

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