Checking Begin's military record
Ella Taylor, in her review of Witold Rybczynski's "My Two Polish Grandfathers" ["A Reluctant Memoir, by Design," March 1], has the author stating that "Menachem Begin, 'like a number of Polish Jews,' deserted a Polish battalion" once in Mandate Palestine.
The full truth, as our archival documentation demonstrates, is that Mr. Begin refused to desert and in autumn 1943 negotiations were conducted with the Polish Army Headquarters, with the participation of Aryeh Ben-Eliezer, who traveled from the United States, and Marek Kahan, among others, on the matter of releasing him through an official procedure. He did obtain a leave of absence and went underground in December 1943 as commander of the Irgun. A year later, however, the British police and army pressed the Polish army to rescind that official leave, which they eventually did, the war all but over in Europe.
The anti-Semitism that many Jews suffered while serving in Anders' Army of Free Poles should not be forgotten, either.
Medad is director, information and educational resources, Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.