RESEARCH is bringing to life incredible stories of service and sacrifice behind the 341 Diggers named on the Australian Jewish War Memorial (AJWM), which opened in Canberra last year.
The Department of Veteran Affairs-funded project – due for completion around Anzac Day – is enabling the ACT Jewish Community to create a digital database of narratives and images for use in a touchscreen at its museum beside the memorial.
“This project is unique, as this information has never before been prepared and aggregated at a national level,” project manager Dr Merrilyn Sernack said.
The research is being led by Peter Allen, former national coordinator of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, who has so far completed 62 draft narratives.
“It’s been a more emotional process than even I had anticipated,” Allen said.”It is quite heart-wrenching to find out not only what happened to these men, but also how that affected their families.”
Two recently completed narratives shed light on Private Julius Bloom from Sydney and Private Joseph Joseph from Melbourne.
Bloom – a 23-year-old member of Coogee Life Saving Club – enlisted on July 3, 1915 in the 2nd Reinforcement of the 17th Battalion, bound for Gallipoli.
Less than nine weeks after arriving, he was reading a letter from his mother when a Turkish mine exploded under his trench near Quinn’s Post, killing him instantly.
Private Joseph claimed he was 18 when he enlisted in the 31st Battalion on July 24, 1915 but he’d only turned 15 the month before.
Tragically, he became the youngest Australian Jewish soldier to both enlist and die in WWI, as he was killed in Fleurbaix on July 19, 1916 during the Battle of Fromelles.
Research for the project has also led to confirmation that two more names of Australian-born servicemen killed in action – WWII Royal Air Force pilots Braham Raines and Amichai Honig – qualify for future addition to the AJWM.
Meanwhile, a list of more than 6500 Jewish Australians who served in the military is now available on the Australian Jewish Historical Society’s new website, and the National Archives of Australia has completed digitising detailed records of another 70 Jewish Diggers who died in WWII.
Keith Shilkin, president of the Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women, praised all three initiatives for their “valuable role in making important records of Australian Jewish military service so readily available to the Jewish and wider community”.
To find out more about the AJWM digital database project or offer additional information of use, contact Peter Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.