The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation, and WWII

The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation, and WWII

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November 1944. The British government finally agrees to send a brigade of 5,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine to Europe to fight the German army. But when the war ends and the soldiers witness firsthand the horrors their people have suffered in the concentration camps, the men launch a brutal and calculating campaign of vengeance, forming secret squads to identify, locate, and kill Nazi officers in hiding. Their own ferocity threatens to overwhelm them until a fortuitous encounter with an orphaned girl sets the men on a course of action—rescuing Jewish war orphans and transporting them to Palestine—that will not only change their lives but also help create a nation and forever alter the course of world history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060932831
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/08/2002
Series: Harper Perennial Series
Edition description: First Perennial Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 482,631
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Howard Blum is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner American Lightning, as well as Wanted!, The Gold of Exodus, Gangland, The Floor of Heaven, and, most recently, a 2018 New York Times Notable Book: In the Enemy's House. Blum is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While at the New York Times, he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. He is the father of three children, and lives in Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The troops were singing. The Hebrew songs had broken out spontaneously when the trucks approached the docks in Alexandria and the men saw the cargo ships that would take them across the Mediterranean to Italy. As they marched up the gangplanks, their voices grew louder and more spirited. It was a bright Tuesday morning, the final day of October 1944, and at last the Jews from Palestine were going to war.

For the past three years, the volunteers in the three battalions that made up the British Palestine Infantry Regiment had spent their days doing monotonous guard duty in North Africa, chasing after goats stolen by mischievous Arab youths, and training in the hills north of Tel Aviv with outdated weapons. A world away the war in Europe had raged on. But just five weeks ago the three battalions had been ordered to Burg-el-Arab, a flat brushless stretch of desert between El Alamein and Alexandria, and had been swiftly re-formed and outfitted into the combat-ready Jewish Brigade Group.

The historical significance of these soldiers preparing to go off to Europe with a golden Star of David on their blue shoulder patches was appreciated by the Brigade's new British commander. Brig. Ernest Frank Benjamin announced to his officers that "this is the first official Jewish fighting force since the fall of Judea to the Roman legions."

But as the boats left the harbor, the men standing on the quarterdeck watched the Egyptian shore disappear and were excited by another knowledge. An army of Jews was finally on its way to confront an enemy that had set out to annihilate theirpeople.

Sgt. Israel Carmi did not go on deck with the others as the SS Stafford went to sea. He remained on guard by the bunks.

He had been ordered by the Haganah to smuggle two men to Europe along with the troops. Days ago he had stolen two uniforms, and his wife had tailored them at the kibbutz so that the impostors could march up the gangplank unnoticed with the rest of the soldiers.

But Carmi knew the two would never be able to fool a British officer. So he stayed with them as they lay on their bunks. He would try to intervene before anyone could become suspicious. He was prepared, though, to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the two stowaways arrived in Europe. Carmi was a sergeant in the British army, but his allegiance was to the Haganah and the land, the eretz, he was leaving behind.

That night, Capt. Johanan Peltz could not sleep. He went up to the deck and walked over to the rail. The moon was high in the sky and illuminated the sea with a silver sheen. The shoreline had receded from sight, and he was full of anticipation. He had spent seven years in this primitive, overbearingly hot part of the world, and he was glad to be leaving.

It felt blasphemous to be happy in these grim times, but he could not help being filled with a sense of joy as he imagined returning to Zabiec, his family's estate in Poland, once the war was over. In his mind it was all very clear. He would ride in a carriage through the allée of chestnut trees to the front door of the big brick house. It would be the dinner hour, everyone certain to be home. He would walk up the wide stone steps and when the maid answered the door he would tell her not to announce him. Then he would stride across the checkerboard floor of the main hall, tall and erect in his British officer's uniform, and into the dining room, while his parents and grandfather, proud and elated, rushed from the table to greet the returning hero.

Lt. Arie Pinchuk was in the radio room playing bridge. He, too, could not sleep. His stomach bubbled nervously. He was an officer in the Jewish Brigade, but he was traveling to Europe on his own private, and very vital, mission.

He could not concentrate on the cards, either. He was thinking about what he would need to do, all the obstacles he would face. And from the depths of his own internal hell, he was silently demanding, Mama, Papa, Leah, what has become of you?

It was nearly three A.M. when Pinchuk returned to his bunk, and by then the Stafford was rolling violently. The ship had headed into a storm. Waves crashed against the bow, and the swells surged over the deck. The winds were shearing. Yet the convoy continued on. All the men could do was hope the rough weather would soon improve.

The Brigade. Copyright © by Howard Blum. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Brigade: An Epic Story of Vengeance, Salvation, and WWII 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Brigade by Howard Blum is an amazing book. It’s the story of a brigade of Jewish soldiers who after seeing the horrors inflicted in German concentration camps, embark on a mission of vigilante justice hunting down Nazi war criminals. But the story isn’t just one of vengeance. There is a truly heart-touching element as they seek to rescue Jewish orphans. Overall I really enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I had intellectually understood the importance of Israel to the Jews, this novel made me feel the connection emotionally. A skilled wordsmith, Howard Blum takes you on a journey inside the minds and hearts of the individuals portrayed in stunning fashion. A terrific gift for a bar or bat mitzvah. Wish Miramax would get hopping on the movie rights-this would be stellar.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a personal interest in this story and read it with much appreciation for the author's vision to present this untold story of history to his readers. Mr. Blum's writing is wonderful. Thanks to him, the lives of these heroes will not be forgotten.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book opened my already opened eyes. I will now buy every book Howard Blum writes
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. Everytime the British thought that they had a way to keep the brigade in line, the leaders figured out how to overcome the obstacles. They were supposed to be cannon fodder on the Po River. Their British officers trained the men for combat. When high command officers visited the British Jewish officer about this problem, the CO took Hebrew lessons and continued the training. The men of the brigade took matters in their own hands and led a successful assault. After the war, they became a different type of warrior. They were always politically aware. If the book did not have photographs of the leaders of the brigade, I would not believe any of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was a page turner. It draws you into this true story which is so up-lifting. The four main characters are three dimensional, most admirable, and you can see how they change their views and their lives within the political events they experience. They go from being full of vengeance, to saving the world as WWII ends and its survivors and their future become the prime focus of the characters. This book makes you think. Bravo!!!
Polaris- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Artfully written account of the Jewish Brigade's history during the Second World War fighting as part of the British Eighth Army in the Italian campaign against the Germans towards the war's end. I found this to be a real page turner as the book's exciting episodes unfolded.Blum's skill lies with his merging of both the Brigade's own history and the individual stories of three of its members. All of which is based on extensive and painstaking research of published and unpublished histories as well as interviews with the surviving protagonists. There are really 3 or 4 book's worth contained within the one volume as the Brigade's story only really gets going once the war comes to an end in May '45.The central figures of Carmi and Peltz become deeply involved with the underground campaign to smuggle out Jewish war refugees and camp survivors against the wishes of the British authorities. The other main figure of Pinchuk meanwhile, sets off towards finding his lost sister Leah who he hasn't seen since leaving pre-war Poland for Palestine. Over the course of the book they all become involved in the people-smuggling as well as a fair share of gun running and acts of vengeance on those they hold responsible for the crimes of the Reich. Altogether a very exciting read, and very well written book of modern history.
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OConnell65 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful tale, well told. Someone should make the movie. A war story, with mystery, vengeance, escape, but not lacking in tender moments. Remarkably, it's not fiction
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