Friday 8th May is Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day. On this day we celebrate the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces on 8 May 1945, seventy-five years ago.
SCoJeC invites everyone to remember Jewish members of the armed forces who served in the Second World War – and to share your memories and photos on our facebook page.
We are remembering one such wartime hero from the Scottish Jewish community, Jack Zamansky.
Jack Leslie Zamansky
was killed in action on 23rd March 1943, at the age of 26.
Born on 11th April 1916, the first child of Michael and Mary Zamansky, Jack Zamansky grew up in Glasgow with his sisters Rose, Faye, and Jean, and with his younger brother, George.
He was a barber by trade, a member of the Jewish Scouts, and later of the Jewish Institute. He married Lena Katlov in 1936, and they had 2 daughters, Hilda and Joyce
At the outbreak of the war he joined the 5th Battalion of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
In the early part of the war, the 5th Battalion was shipped overseas and fought in North Africa and Sicily. March 1943 found the Eighth Army, of which the 5th Battalion formed part, at Enfidaville, Tunisia. The North Africa campaign had begun on 8th November 1942, when Commonwealth and American troops made a series of landings in Algeria and Morocco. The Germans responded immediately by sending a force from Sicily to North Tunisia, which checked the Allied advance east, in early December. Meanwhile, in the South, the Axis forces defeated at El Alamein were withdrawing into Tunisia along the coast, pursued by the Allied Eighth Army. The combined Axis force was hemmed into a small corner of north-eastern Tunisia and the Allies were grouped for their final offensive. There were a number of battles and it was during one of those, on Tuesday 23rd March 1943, that Jack Zamansky was killed in action. He was buried in the Commonwealth war cemetery in Enfidaville, Tunisia, 100 miles south of Tunis.
Notices of Jack’s death appeared in the Jewish Echo on 23rd April 1943, and the following week's edition reports that his widow Lena received a moving message from the non-Jewish Chaplain of the battalion. On behalf of the Commanding Officer, the officers and men, and on his own behalf, he extended deepest sympathy to Mrs Zamansky and her children on their great loss.
He wrote: “By moonlight that night I buried him near the place where he fell, in the sure and certain hope that in him the promise of Israel might be fulfilled. We were all so sorry to lose him, as we had the highest possible regard for his many fine qualities – his willingness to help, his cheerfulness, his courage and his devotion to duty. When I was Entertainment Officer in the Battalion, your husband was always ready to help me and his stage talents were fully used and greatly enjoyed by all who heard him – including Their Majesties the King and Queen and the Princesses. Through your great sorrow you can be justly proud of your husband, in that he sacrificed his life in the cause of good against evil. We hope and pray that his and many other sacrifices may be the means by which a sweeter and better world will emerge from this chaos.”
With thanks to Barbara Kliner and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre for original research and photograph.