‘The Jewish Brigade’ Tells a Forgotten Story in a Historical Graphic Novel

Comic Books Entertainment Reviews

As news of the Nazi atrocities of the Holocaust began to be published in the media, there was a call to allow for the formation of units of Jewish soldiers to strike back. On July 3, 1944, the British government called for the creation of a Jewish Brigade. By September of that year, the Jewish Brigade Group was formed with its headquarters in Egypt. It consisted of 5,000 Jewish volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine who were organized into three infantry battalions of the Palestine Regiment. The brigade fought against the German Army in the Italian Campaign. As the war came to a close, the members of the brigade searched for survivors of the Holocaust, provided aid to them, and even helped them immigrate to what is now the country of Israel. The Jewish Brigade was officially disbanded during the summer of 1946. However, many of its veterans would play an important role in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 following the creation of the state of Israel. Eventually 35 would become generals in the Israeli military.

What Is The Jewish Brigade?

The graphic novel The Jewish Brigade tells the story of members of the brigade during the final months of World War II and take readers to the start of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. It was written and illustrated by Marvano, a four-time Eisner-nominated cartoonist. The book is published by Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the Naval Institute Press. It is available in a softcover edition, which can be purchased at your local bookstore as well as several online sellers including Amazon. A Kindle digital version is also available. The suggested retail price for both editions is $24.95. 

a windmill in Poland
The story begins in Poland in 1945. Image courtesy of Dead Reckoning.

The Jewish Brigade brings to light a story that is unknown to most people. The graphic novel follows Leslie Toliver, a solider in the brigade who had been a race car driver before the war. As he assumes an avenging role in hunting down German SS officers, he rescues Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who continue to be victims of violence even after the war is over. All the while, Leslie is looking for information on his mother and fiancé, who were captives in the Nazi camps and did not survive the Holocaust.

the holocaust
The documenting of the Holocaust is described. Image courtesy of Dead Reckoning.

Why Should You Read The Jewish Brigade?

Marvano does a wonderful job as both writer and illustrator. His artwork is colorful, yet expresses the dreary landscapes of Europe at the end of the war as well as the deserts of Israel. Yet Marvano’s deep and rich storytelling shines above the art as it puts the reading into sometimes uncomfortable situations dealing with atrocities committed against men, women, and children because of their ethnicity as well as the extra-judicial killing of those who perpetrated the horrors of the Holocaust. Marvano masterfully melds the art and narrative into a work that takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster of joyful rescues and saddening failures which leaves readers in somber reflection.

Having majored in history at the university and taught it for two decades, I have researched the Holocaust and believe it is vital for students to learn about and understand this great tragedy. I have also studied the Arab-Israeli conflict after gaining an interest thanks to one of my high school history teachers who shared her passion for this region of the world and helped us students learn how to see both sides of a conflict. While I had heard of a Jewish Brigade in passing, I never knew much about its role in helping survivors of the Holocaust near the end and after the war, nor the atrocities committed against survivors as they tried to return home, especially in those areas under control of the Soviet Red Army.

racing across the desert
Leslie Toliver, the main character, helps fight for the Jewish state of Israel. Image courtesy of Dead Reckoning.

The Jewish Brigade is a great graphic novel. Don’t think of it as a light-hearted comic book. This work plunges readers into deep subject matter, showing normal people living through traumatic and violent times. Atrocities and genocide did not end with the Holocaust. They have continued since that time in various parts of the world and are currently taking place even today. The Jewish Brigade also helps readers understand the need for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel and the beginnings of the Arab-Israeli conflict which continues today. I continue to be impressed with the graphic novels published by Dead Reckoning and highly recommend The Jewish Brigade.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this book for review purposes.

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