Recently, Arthur Horwitz, executive editor/publisher of the JN, told me about a note he received from Eugene Driker, who found an obituary in the Davidson Digital Archives for his cousin, who died during the Anzio invasion of Italy in May 1944. This was a fierce battle. Although he was a child at the time, Driker related that he still remembers the grief following his cousin’s death in World War II. Of course, he was not alone. Families throughout America faced the same terrible news from 1941-1945.
During the past year, when I went back 75 years into the pages of the JN every week, I sort of lived with World War II. Notice I said, “sort of.” Reading about history can only provide an impression of the era. It’s not like living through the experience.
I thought about this story, especially since last week was the 74th anniversary of another famous landing, the largest invasion in recent history, June 6, 1944, “D-Day.” This was the day during World War II when the Allies invaded what Hitler had declared to be “Fortress Europe.” And, I wondered, what was the Jewish participation in this monumentally historic event?
The second headline on the front page of the June 16 issue of the JN in the Davidson Digital Archives gave me the answer: “Jewish Youths First to Land During Invasion.” So, yes, young Jews were there, fighting and dying, on the beaches of Normandy, France. And they would continue to fight in Europe for another year, but D-Day was the beginning of the end for the Nazis.
None but the men who were there can really understand what it was like. But we can read about them and honor their memory and their sacrifice.
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Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.