Kevin Myers’s article doesn’t tell the whole story
Kevin Myers has again alleged that British Jews were under-represented in the armed services during the Second World War (“No other people have done more than the Jews ...”, July 9).
He claims that he does not know where Henry Morris, curator of the Jewish Military Museum, gets his figures of 60,000 to 65,000 Jewish servicemen during the war. I am also unaware of the precise source of Mr Morris's figures but as he, unlike Mr Myers, has a specialist interest (and, one presumes a specialist knowledge also) in the subject of Jewish military participation in the British Army, I'm more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In any case, it should be clear that Mr Myers' own methods of estimating Jewish participation are highly questionable. He has picked out a very few characteristically Jewish surnames — Cohen, Goldberg and Goldstein — and sought to find out how many individuals with those names either fought or died in the war.
How does he know that his sample is representative? Furthermore, many Jews do not have surnames that are exclusively Jewish (e.g. Green, Miller or Newman). Mr Myers’s approach leaves such individuals out.
The only way to calculate a minimum figure for Jewish representation in the armed services in the Second World War would be to search records to determine how many servicemen declared themselves to be Jewish (and I suspect that such research is the basis of Mr Morris's figures).
Finally, Mr Myers's assertion that before the creation of Israel the Jews were a “non-martial people” is highly questionable.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries Jews were conscripted into many European armies. However, in some of those armies anti-semitic prejudice prevented them from reaching high or even middle or junior rank.
In Wilhelmine, Germany, Jews were excluded from the commissioned ranks during peacetime. And in late 19th century France, Captain Dreyfus suffered because he was Jewish. But even before the creation of Israel, some armies had promoted to high rank Jewish officers — a good example being Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, the senior Australian officer in the First World War.