Martin Sugarman is an archivist for The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) and treasurer of its Stamford Hill and Hackney Branch. Author of five books on the Jewish contribution to the British war effort in the Second World War, and many other published research papers. Martin is an expert on Jewish military history and advises people on how to find out about their Jewish military ancestors. These views are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wiener Holocaust Library.
Over the past 25 years, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) archivist Martin Sugarman has made it his mission to ensure any Jewish war grave errors on headstones that are discovered or reported are corrected and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website. The number has been in the hundreds.
The most recent stone that has been changed is that of Kurt Theodor Goldschlager. Born in the Weiden district of Vienna, Austria, in 1912, he was one of four brothers, Erich, Paul and Robert (who later lived in Chicago, USA, with the changed surname Gordon). Their father Julius was an architect who died of natural causes in 1940, and his mother Irene, nee Von Posner; she was deported to Auschwitz and murdered in 1942. In the 1930s, Kurt had been a member of the Austrian National swimming and water polo teams.
Kurt fled to England in June 1939 and joined the British Army Pioneer Corp (PC) from 1940-1943. He was advised like many European Jews in the armed forces to change his name, in this case to 13801160 Pte Kenneth Edward Clarke.
He volunteered for the No 10 International Commando for a year in 1943 as a Corporal, 13118804/550135, probably in the No 3 Troop (Jewish Troop) but may also have served in the Dutch Troop. He was again posted to the No 10 Commando in the last four months of the war, where he was an interpreter and interrogator on the front lines, using his extensive language skills.
Whilst fighting in Europe after D-Day, he was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ for bravery near Osnabruck. He had cycled under fire in full view of the enemy to organise bringing a medical team to an ambushed and wounded Commando unit and saved many lives. He cycled further on and arranged for artillery covering fire for the Troop whilst they made their escape. He then entered Osnabruck ahead of his Troop and persuaded a whole company of heavily armed Hungarian Nazis to surrender, an act which was apparently captured on film and saved many more lives.
Before being demobilised in the summer of 1946, he took part in the de-Nazification process after the war in Germany. Post-army, Kurt ran a ladies tailoring business in Harrow Road, London, which failed, and so he moved to Manchester. He never married. In May 1977, he was a victim of a mugging and was badly injured, sadly dying soon after due to his injuries. He was buried in a pauper’s grave with no name market, in the Roman Catholic section, at Southern Cemetry in Chorlton, Grave Section 1, plot no. 1563. Nobody was aware he was Jewish or had family in the United States of America. And so it would have remained.
In April 2021, Kurt’s American niece, Tracy Fish (nee Gordon, daughter of his brother Paul) contacted Martin Sugarman via the American Second World War researcher, Leah Garrett, telling Kurt’s story. Sugarman knew of Kurt as he appears in the 3 Troop list of fighters in his book, Fighting Back: British Jewry’s Military Contribution in the Second World War.
Joe Flacks, AJEX Chairman of the Manchester branch, worked with Sugarman and they obtained finance from the philanthropist Jerry Klinger in the USA (President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation) to have a headstone with Kurt’s name placed upon his unmarked grave. A larger headstone was also placed in the nearby Jewish cemetery which explains who Kurt was and how his grave location, once unknown, can now be found.
A Jewish war hero whose burial place was all but lost is now remembered and Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for those who have passed away) will be said for him each year by the local Jewish community in Manchester. On 31 October 2021, the re-consecration ceremony took place in the Manchester Jewish Cemetry, organised by Joe Flacks, where Kurt Goldschlager’s stone was officially re-consecrated.
Martin Sugarman continues to ensure that all Jewish serviceman and womens’ graves are corrected. If you suspect that CWGC headstones are incorrect, or that important published facts about deceased servicemen and women on the CWGC website or elsewhere are wrong, please contact Martin Sugarman: 07806 656 756.
Graves that have been reassigned are due to the extensive research and help from: The late Harold Pollins (retired senior tutor at Ruskin College Oxford and researcher), the late Andy Green (a private researcher and active member of the Western Front Association), Saul Issroff and Gina Marks of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, Stan Kaye, a private researcher, Genealogist, Cathie Hewitt, Founder of ‘Jews of the RAF’ website, Col. John Starling of the Pioneer Corps/Logistics Corps Museum and Harvey Kaplan of the Scottish Jewish Archives, have all successfully and persistently worked with Martin for hundreds of amendments, which will be implemented in the coming months, or have already been changed.
Suggested further reading
- Fighting back: British Jewry’s military contribution in the Second World War by Martin Sugarman
- Jews in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War: Last Voices by Martin Sugarman
- From Dachau to D-Day: the refugee who fought for Britain by Helen Fry
- The King’s most loyal enemy aliens: Germans who fought for Britain in the Second World War by Helen Fry
- Striking back: a Jewish Commando’s war against the Nazis by Peter Masters
- X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II by Leah Garrett
For more related sources, try a search for any of the following keywords in our Collections Catalogue: Jews; British; Anti-Nazis; Armed forces; Army regiments; International Brigades; World War Two; Refugees; Exiles.