El Alamein War Cemetery and Military Museum
Al Alameen City
February 23, 2020
Fifteen years ago, a thought came to mind as I wandered through the rows of gravestones of British soldiers at the Htauk Kyant Second World War Memorial Cemetery that lies 25 kilometers north of Yangon in Myanmar:
Britain had the largest Jewish population in Western Europe. Surely many Jews fought in the British army. Surely some of them were casualties in the battles in Southeast Asia. Are they buried here?
I found a groundskeeper. With my right index finger I drew a Star of David on the palm of my left hand. The groundskeeper responded, “Israel.” I nodded. He took me to Jewish graves. They lie side by side with their Christian, Hindu, and Muslim comrades in arms - 27,000 in all.
Four years ago, I found Jewish graves at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. The area is known for the construction of the infamous “Railway of Death.” The Jewish soldiers lie side by side with their fellow British prisoners of war - 7000 in all.
Today I find Jewish graves at the El Alamein War Cemetery. They lie side by side with their Christian comrades in arms - 6468 identified casualties. Levy lies beside Lewcock. Schwartz beside Sciascia.
And once again, I read the most tragic inscription of all:
“A Sailor in the 1939 -1945 War. Royal Navy. Known Unto God.”