News | April 27, 2022

European American Program Book Review: X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II, written by Leah Garrett

By Reviewed by Alan Shatz European American Special Emphasis Program

This is the fourth, and final, article in our series highlighting European American/Holocaust Remembrance Month. We continue to encourage all associates to join in activities that refresh our memories of the Holocaust and underscore the resiliency of those who endured the horrors, so that we never forget.  This week we highlight a review of “X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II,” written by Leah Garrett.  We encourage you to read this work and share your thoughts with our Special Emphasis Committee Chair at alan.shatz@dla.mil

This book is a true testament to our theme this year, “Resiliency, The Strength of a People...Never Forget.” It is an account of Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Hungary who demonstrated tremendous resilience and strength during the Holocaust, written by an author who wanted to make sure the secret heroes of WWII are forever remembered.

When people think of the Holocaust, they might only think of the millions of people who were murdered because they went, like lambs at a slaughterhouse, to the Nazi death camps. This is obviously the tragedy, and why it is called the Holocaust. It is important to remember that there are well known instances where Jews, and other persecuted peoples, fought back, for instance, in the Warsaw ghetto and as members of underground resistance groups. What most people may not think of, are the Jewish military war heroes.

“X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II” tells the story of some of those Jewish military war heroes. To get an idea of what this book is like, you may want to watch the fictional movie Inglourious Basterds, written by Quentin Tarantino. Fortunately, X Troop has almost nothing in common with Tarantino’s movie because the real-life heroes in this book followed the rules of warfare and captured numerous more German prisoners than the number of Nazis they killed.

The author, Leah Garrett, began her research for X Troop after she heard rumors about a secret Jewish commando unit. She verified that no one had written a book about them, then began her research. The result, in my opinion is a history book that reads a lot like a novel.

Garrett chronicles the lives of several Jews, a few in detail, who lived honorable, patriotic and comfortable lives before the Nazis took power and who were able to get to Great Britain before World War II started. They started to assimilate into British culture, but once Britain declared war on Germany, they were classified as friendly enemy aliens and were incarcerated in internment camps. Garrett chronicles how poorly they were treated, and in many cases, German war prisoners were treated better.

The turning point in the lives of some of these friendly enemy aliens came in July of 1942 when Lord Mountbatten created new, special units of commandos, made up of displaced nationals from various European countries. X Troop was composed of German-speaking refugees and would be Britain’s secret shock troop in the war against Germany. The commander of X Troop was a Welshman named Bryan Hilton-Jones. The recruits Hilton-Jones required had to meet very high standards and 95% of the men he found that met his criteria were Jewish friendly enemy aliens.

In “X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II,” you will read about the extraordinary training these men endured to become one of the best commando units to fight in World War II. Garrett chronicles how X Troop became Britain’s most effect commando unit. In fact, they were so effective that, instead of fighting as a unit, they were embedded in the other British commando units. These men are one of the reasons the allies won the war. The book is only 285 pages and I found it fun and easy to read. I am sure you will enjoy it too.

We hope you have enjoyed our series of articles this month designed to highlight the resiliency of European-Americans impacted by the Holocaust.  As the month comes to a close, we hope you will pause and join in one of many observances and remembrance activities as our nation recognizes Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The European-American Special Emphasis Program welcomes new members throughout the year; we invite you to attend our next meeting scheduled for May 11.  Contact  Alan Shatz, our program chair at alan.shatz@dla.mil, if you would like more specifics about our group, or want to provide feedback on the information we shared this month.

Editor’s note: April is European American and Holocaust Remembrance Month. This is the second in a series of articles with the intention recognizing European Americans, specifically those European Jews murdered or marginalized by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. This year’s theme is “Resiliency, The Strength of a People…Never Forget.” The Holocaust was a genocide that refers specifically to the attempted annihilation of European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Annual remembrances ensure we never forget.

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