The Palestinian Triangle: Czechoslovaks, Jews and the British Crown in the Middle East, 1940-1943
European Review of History
GB : Routledge
199 - 221 p.
Czechoslovakia, military exile, Palestine, Syria, Tobruk, multinational army, transnational culture
Between 1939 and 1945, tens of thousands of ‘Czechoslovaks’ fought against the Axis forces in France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the Middle East. In this latter theatre of operations, a battalion was formed in 1940 from the few men available to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. Czechs, Jews and Slovaks made up the bulk of this unit, later expanded to regimental level. In 1941, they were part of the British-led invasion of Vichy Syria before defending the Tobruk perimeter under Polish command. Before transferring to Great Britain in 1943, the Czechoslovak fighters lived a truly transnational experience. However, Czechoslovak leaders had to make compromises with both their British patrons and the ethnic or religious groups in the unit. Although relations with the British Crown were far easier than with the French or Soviet allies, military exiles had to defend their – limited – autonomy. On the other hand, Palestinian Jews of Czechoslovak origin, German speakers or Slovaks often expressed their discontent with living under Czech rule, highlighting the weaknesses of the Czechoslovak exile.