cover image X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War Two

X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War Two

Leah Garrett. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-358-17203-1

Garrett (Young Lions), a professor of Jewish studies at Hunter College, recounts in this dramatic and deeply researched history the WWII exploits of X Troop, a British commando unit made up of Jewish refugees from Austria, Germany, and Hungary. Garrett details the commandos’ various backgrounds (Olympic athlete, diplomat’s son); describes how they escaped Europe only to be detained as “enemy aliens” in the U.K.; and explains how the British military’s need for German-language speakers to interrogate prisoners and undertake reconnaissance missions led to the creation of X Troop. Trained in “advanced fighting techniques and counterintelligence,” the commandos were given British names and identity papers to protect them in case of capture and first saw action in the August 1942 raid on Dieppe in northern France. During the D-Day landings, X Troopers helped to take Pegasus Bridge and other strongpoints. One commando, “who was determined to capture and kill as many Nazis as possible,” drove 400 miles to liberate his parents from the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Garrett folds vivid profiles of Lord Mountbatten, Lord Lovat, and other prominent military figures into the story, and skillfully draws from war diaries and interviews with surviving X Troopers. This scrupulous history shines a well-deserved spotlight on its heroic subjects. (May)