Perfect Heroes: The World War II Parachutists and the Making of Israeli Collective Memory

Paperback | June 15, 2010

byJudith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

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During World War II, the British military dropped several dozen parachutists from Palestine, including three women, behind enemy lines in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. These young soldiers, most of whom had fled Europe only a few years earlier, faced a double challenge: their British mission was to find pilots who had jettisoned over enemy territory and assist them in returning to Allied-occupied lands; their Zionist mission was to contact Jewish communities, assist them in rebuilding the local Zionist movement, and, when necessary, help their members escape from the Nazis. Seven of the parachutists lost their lives in this effort.
    In Perfect Heroes, an expanded and updated English adaptation of her Hebrew book Giborim le-mofet, Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz recounts the history of these parachutists’ wartime escapades and also analyzes the ways that various segments of Israeli society—military, political, legal, educational, youth, literary, and artistic—used the parachutists’ story over the course of fifty years to build a nationalist narrative and to promote their own partisan and, at times, contradictory agendas. Baumel-Schwartz also offers broader comparative discussions of how individuals were commemorated as WWII heroes and heroines in many countries, in service of national mythologizing and collective memory.

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During World War II, the British military dropped several dozen parachutists from Palestine, including three women, behind enemy lines in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. These young soldiers, most of whom had fled Europe only a few years earlier, faced a double challenge: their British mission was to find pilots who had jettisoned over...

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz is chair of the Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry and teaches in the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:302 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:June 15, 2010Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299234843

ISBN - 13:9780299234843

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“The young Palestinian parachutists, most of whom had arrived from Europe only a few years earlier, faced a double mission, one British, the other Zionist. Their British mission was to make contact with pilots who had jettisoned over enemy territory and assist them in making their way back to allied occupied lands. Simultaneously, their Zionist mission was to contact Jewish communities in Europe, assist them in rebuilding the local Zionist movement and when necessary, help their members escape from Nazi clutches. Seven of the parachutists, including two of the women, lost their lives during the operation.”—from the introduction© The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Preface       

Part 1. The Heroes
1. The Operation: Reluctant Heroes, 1943–1945   
2. The Institutionalization of Memory: Initial Commemoration of the Parachutist-Emissaries, 1945–1949   
3. The Prodigals Return: Repatriating the Parachutists, 1950–1952   

Part 2. The Symbol
4. "An Example for the Nation": Politicizing the Operation's Commemoration in the 1950s   
5. "An Example for Both Youth and Adults": Commemoration of the Parachutists' Mission in Israeli Youth Movements, Schools, Literature, and Culture from the 1950s to the Early 1970s   
6. "An Example for All Time": Commemorating the Parachutists from the Mid-1970s Onward   

Notes   
Bibliography
Index   

Editorial Reviews

“The book reveals meticulously and persuasively a painful event that took place within a context of a bitter war. . . . Baumel-Schwartz resurrects characters, processes, events, and contexts, imaginary and real, that personify and vivify dark and difficult pasts, conflicts, and solutions. The sheer intensity will provide an excellent platform for class discussions.”—Nachman Ben-Yehuda, The Journal of Israeli History