73 years on, Italy awards Jewish Brigade medal of valor for fighting Nazis
Posted on October 10, 2018 in: Times of Israel



The Italian Ambassador to Israel, Gianluigi Benedetti, presents the Gold Medal for Military Valor to the IDF's 7th Armored Brigade on October 3, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
More than 70 years after soldiers from the British Army’s Jewish Brigade fought against Nazi forces in Italy, the Israel Defense Forces’ 7th Armored Brigade was awarded a medal of valor from the Italian government on their behalf.

The Jewish Brigade was formed in 1944 at the height of World War II, with the view that Jews had a right to fight the Nazis in light of the horrors being inflicted upon their coreligionists. The unit was made up mostly of Jews from British Mandate-era Palestine, along with a few Jewish and non-Jewish senior officers from the United Kingdom.

Last year, the Italian parliament voted unanimously to award the country’s Gold Medal for Military Valor (Medaglia d'oro al Valor Militare) — one of the country’s highest honors — to the Israel Defense Forces as a stand-in for the now defunct Jewish Brigade.

The Gold Medal for Military Valor, which was presented to the IDF’s 7th Armored Brigade by the Italian government on October 3, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The ceremony was held Wednesday in Moshav Avihail, near Netanya, in a museum dedicated to the antecedent of the Jewish Brigade, the Jewish Legion, which fought against the Ottomans in World War I.

The 7th Armored Brigade was chosen to receive the award on behalf of the IDF as it has historical ties to the Jewish Brigade, many of whose members joined the armored brigade after World War II. Indeed, the first commander of the 7th Brigade, Shlomo Shamir, was a veteran of the Jewish Brigade.

The Jewish Brigade saw combat in Italy in the spring of 1945, toward the end of the war, fighting as part of Operation Grapeshot against German and Fascist Italian forces.

The soldiers of the Jewish Brigade were “young people who did not have their own state but found the generosity to fight and die for the freedom of others,” said Gianluigi Benedetti, the Italian ambassador to Israel, after presenting the medal.

The Italian Ambassador to Israel, Gianluigi Benedetti, poses with veterans of the Jewish Brigade, which fought the Nazis in Italy during World War II, following an award ceremony on October 3, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

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