The University of Wisconsin Press

WWII History / Judaica / Cultural Studies / Israel


Perfect Heroes
The World War II Parachutists and the Making of Israeli Collective Memory
Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

"Perfect Heroes is the first study to take the parachutists' operation beyond the history of its actual occurrence and into the realm of memory and commemoration. . . . It quickly goes beyond the case study of commemorating the operation and its heroes and becomes a richer and even more valuable study of the uses of commemoration and the forces and considerations behind the shaping of collective national memory."Yoav Gelber, University of Haifa

During World War II, the British military dropped several dozen parachutists from Palestine, including three women, behind enemy lines in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. These young soldiers, most of whom had fled Europe only a few years earlier, faced a double challenge: their British mission was to find pilots who had jettisoned over enemy territory and assist them in returning to Allied-occupied lands; their Zionist mission was to contact Jewish communities, assist them in rebuilding the local Zionist movement, and, when necessary, help their members escape from the Nazis. Seven of the parachutists lost their lives in this effort.

In Perfect Heroes, an expanded and updated English adaptation of her Hebrew book Giborim le-mofet, Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz recounts the history of these parachutists' wartime escapades and also analyzes the ways that various segments of Israeli society—military, political, legal, educational, youth, literary, and artistic—used the parachutists' story over the course of fifty years to build a nationalist narrative and to promote their own partisan and, at times, contradictory agendas. Baumel-Schwartz also offers broader comparative discussions of how individuals were commemorated as WWII heroes and heroines in many countries, in service of national mythologizing and collective memory.

“Baumel-Schwartz uses the story of the parachutists to illustrate how myth is created, established, and demolished. The book is well written, clearly structured, and based on extensive primary sources. . . .The book will benefit readers interested in cultural studies, Israeli history, and Holocaust studies.”
—Anita Shapira, The American Historical Review

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz is chair of the Graduate Program in Contemporary Jewry and teaches in the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

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Cover image is red and black with white text, and the background contains pictures of various WWII heroes.

May 2010

LC: 2009040627 DS
320 pp.    6 x 9

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2004 Hebrew edition, Giborim le-mofet: tsan hane ha-yishuv be-milhemet ha-`olam ha- sheniyah veha-zikaron ha-kolektivi ha-yisreeli, published by Sde Boqer and Ben-Gurion University Press

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Updated December 8, 2011

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