The tough war inflicted a heavy burden on the Jewish woman Facing the horrors of the war, Jewish women also took part in the struggle for survival and for victory.
The fighting Jewish woman came to be expressed in ghetto fighting, within the ranks of the Partisans and the underground, and in the Allied Armies.
Many Jewish women soldiers within the various military services were awarded medals of valor for their fighting and their courage.
In Poland, hundreds of Jewish women joined the auxiliary forces and the groups of Partisans.
All over Belgium, Holland and France, many Jewish women performed within the underground frameworks, delivering intelligence and smuggling children and arms. Many of them were captured by the Nazis and executed while displaying immense courage.
In Britain, thousands of Jewish women participated in rear activity and in combat duties, as nurses and ambulance drivers, as pilots and as navigators, and as medics and sailors. When the battles were over they helped in locating refugees in Europe and in providing aid.
In Greece, in Yugoslavia, in Italy and in Bulgaria many women helped on the battlefield, as medics and as assistants in the delivery of intelligence, arms, food and medicine.
Many Jewish women served in the Soviet Army, enlisting on a voluntary basis. They were conspicuous as doctors, nurses and medics, and even as fighters in air, sea and ground forces. Many of them received decorations of excellence.
Within the ranks of the Partisans there were many Jewish women, who served as an important auxiliary force in their activities in the forests.
Operating in the regions of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine were young Jewish women, escapees and solitaries who viewed joining the Partisans as a chance to survive, to accomplish a mission and even to avenge the massacre of their families.
In the U.S. and Canadian Armies fought thousands of women, who were engaged in varied and diverse assignments in the various corps.
Many women from the Jewish population in the Land of Israel, the “Yishuv”, volunteered to help in the war effort.
On 5 January 1942, began the volunteering of about 3,500 women to the ATS (AUXILIARY TERRRITORIAL SERVICE), with assignments as drivers, nurses and medics, storekeepers, clerks, cooks, armories, technicians, auto mechanics, laboratory workers, signalers, code decipherers, radar operators, parachute folders, radio operators, translators, and more. The women soldiers served in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Italy and Austria.
On 25 May 1943, began the volunteering of about 700 women to the WAAF (WOMEN’S AUXLIARY AIR FORCE). They served with assignments as clerks and quartermasters, medics and radio and telephone operators, with assignments in meteorology, electricity and deciphering aerial photographs, and as parachute folders and mechanics. The volunteers to the Air-Force concentrated in the Land of Israel (“Eretz Israel”) and in Egypt. Among the paratroopers who were sent from “Eretz Israel” to the countries of occupied Europe were two women: Haviva Reik and Hannah Senesh.
Girl Company 502 was sent to Italy in the spring of 1944 and served there in an army hospital. Company 524, which managed the supply warehouses in Haifa, was transferred from Israel to Egypt. The volunteers’ work was done in a non-Jewish environment, in installations where most of the staff was British. Among the volunteers were girls and older women, some married and mothers to children. Women’s volunteering constituted about one-seventh of the entire volunteering in the “Yishuv”. The volunteers from “Eretz Israel” constituted about one-quarter of the total number of women in uniform in the Middle East.
At the end of the war, not a few women soldiers stayed to work in refugee camps in Europe. The soldiers served as teachers in schools for children Holocaust survivors, where they taught them to live anew, energized and encouraged them to immigrate to “Eretz Israel”.
The final service of the women of “Eretz Israel” in the British Army in World War II concluded on the verge of the War of Independence, in the end of the year 1947 and in the beginning of 1948, when women commanders, sergeants and women soldiers with experience and knowledge were called to constitute the nucleus of women’s service in the Israeli Defense Force and to lay the corner-stone to the women’s corps.