Chelsea Foundation honors Jewish Royal Air Force members from WWII

Abramovich’s club partners with British Royal Air Force Museum to tell ‘untold stories’ of heroism.

Sam Griesman, second to the left, with his air and ground crew in front of the Lancaster.  Sam serviced the Lancaster bomber and, later, Halifaxes. From the book ‘Jews in Uniform’ by Michael Griesman, Sam’s son (photo credit: ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM)
Sam Griesman, second to the left, with his air and ground crew in front of the Lancaster. Sam serviced the Lancaster bomber and, later, Halifaxes. From the book ‘Jews in Uniform’ by Michael Griesman, Sam’s son
(photo credit: ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM)
The Chelsea Foundation, sponsored by Russian-Israeli Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, is partnering with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in London on a unique project called Hidden Heroes, which tells untold stories of Jewish military personnel during World War II.
"Hidden Heroes: The Untold Story of Jewish Personnel during the Second World War" was created mainly to raise awareness regarding the roles Jewish members of the RAF played in World War II and to preserve the memories of those veterans for years to come as a “challenge to antisemitism, racism and discrimination.”
The foundation will be inaugurating the final project at the museum early next year, following the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
The "Battle of Britain" was a three-month series of air battles fought in the skies over Great Britain from August to late October of 1940, in which the RAF fought against the Nazi air divisions - leading Hitler to abandon his desire to invade the last democratic stronghold in Europe. Nevertheless, Britain continued to face barrages of bombings by German forces throughout the war, regardless of Hitler's change in strategy.
“We are tremendously grateful to Roman Abramovich and Chelsea FC for supporting the RAF Museum’s Jewish Hidden Heroes project," said RAF Museum CEO Maggie Appleton MBE. "The Battle of Britain was the RAF’s defining moment, when they stood firm against Hitler and fascism. With many Jewish RAF personnel playing crucial roles, the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2020 provides the perfect opportunity to remember these incredible people. By highlighting their stories, we want to play our part in calling out the rise in antisemitism – and wider racism – in our society.”

The Luftwaffe, as the German air force was called, was defeated by the crucial efforts of the RAF. While all of its personnel were responsible for the collective effort of defeating the Luftwaffe and the Nazis forces in general, the Chelsea Foundation will be spotlighting the stories of Jewish personnel, who traveled from all over the world to join the British air force. In addition to being committed to fight against the Nazi invasion of Europe like the others, they also joined to fight against the antisemitic beliefs and acts that the Nazi government was responsible for championing and carrying out over the years against the Jewish population of Europe, in addition to communities of gypsies, Russian military prisoners, Polish citizens, Slavic groups of people, members of political opposition parties among others.
The Chelsea Foundation notes that many of these Jewish volunteers joined the RAF knowing very well that they risked torture and possible execution if captured, but that the need and desire to fight against tyranny, racism and antisemitism outweighed any fears they had, and instead inspired them to step up and do something about the situation, for the world and for all the victims of the Holocaust.
 
A pre-launch event will be held to further bring awareness about the project on December 4 at the Stamford Bridge football stadium, where Jewish RAF veterans, special guests and other keynote speakers will be in attendance to relay their first-hand accounts of the Second World War - opening a window into the past, keeping the memories of these heroes alive and preserving the selfless actions of Jewish RAF personnel throughout World War II.

“We are delighted to be able to support the RAF Museum with this project,” Chelsea FC Chairman Bruce Buck said. “Chelsea FC is committed to tackling antisemitism through education – and the Jewish Hidden Heroes [project] tells important stories about the bravery of Jewish RAF personnel during the conflict. Since we launched our ‘Say No to Antisemitism’ campaign in January 2018, and under the leadership of Roman Abramovich, we have been focused on tackling racism and discrimination in the stands and in wider society. There can be no place in our society for antisemitism or any form of discrimination – and we are determined to join with others to tackle this vital cause.”

The RAF and the Chelsea Foundation are inviting people from all over the world to “submit their own stories, as well as those of families and friends, of Jewish personnel in the Second World War – so they can be preserved and shared online and at the museum’s public sites.”

Stories can be submitted to rafstories@rafmuseum.org.