Jews in General Anders’ Army in the Soviet Union
During the latter half of 1941, the Polish government-in-exile in London began organizing the mustering of forces from the Poles (a million to a million and a half) who had reached the Soviet Union. Many were in interned in Soviet POW camps. An estimated 400,000 Jews formed part of the Polish exiles and were also freed from prisons and camps. General Wladyslaw Anders was appointed to command the Polish forces and was subordinate to the Soviet High Command. Mutual distrust between Soviets and Poles eventually led to the transfer of Anders Army outside the Soviet Union and to the severing of diplomatic relations. Initially the Jews formed some fifty per cent of the recruits to the dissatisfaction of Anders. Later Jews, except for physicians, were purged from the forces. Antisemitism was rife in Anders Army. The Soviets discouraged Poland from enlisting Jews and the Jews were always the big losers. A controversial Jewish proposal to set up a separate Jewish unit was turned down. Anders was feeding his own ambition and bypassing the Polish authorities in London. The Soviets even acceded to Anders’ pressure to evacuate all his troops eastwards. Eventually all Anders’ 72,000-man army (plus wives and children) reached Iran. Only 3,500 Jewish soldiers (2,500 civilians of whom 1,000 were children — Yaldei Teheran) were among those reaching Iran. The Poles, despite Marshal Zhukov’s unofficial agreement to such an arrangement, did not include Polish Jewish citizens. When Anders’ forces were stationed in Palestine 3,000 out of the 4,000 Jewish soldiers deserted.