Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia Incorporated

Founding Member General Sir John Monash GCMG KCB VD

Zymmunt (Israel) Mos Full Story

Zymmunt (Israel) MosWhat The 60th Anniversary Of The End Of World War I
- I Meant To Me In 2005

by Zygmunt (Israel) Mos

My name is Israel Abram Mosieznicki and I was born on the 17thApril 1923 in the Polish city of Suwalki, which is close to Bialystok.  Due to anti-Semitic discrimination, I changed my name to Zygmunt Mos.  In December 1939 the Germans occupied Poland.  They didn’t allow Jewish people to stay in line for food and my father ignored this rule and was taken away by a German soldier and shot.  After two months, all Jews were evacuated and sent by train to concentration camps.

During a brief train stop near a forest on this journey, my friends and I managed to escape through a slightly opened door.  I was then 16 years old as were my friends.  It was from then on that my struggle for survival commenced.

Whilst hiding out in the forest I joined the Polish resistance.  After about six months we met up with the Russian soldiers who informed me that due to my age, I could not join the Russian army.  Instead, I had to be educated in a Russian cadet school.  I found myself quite fortunate to have this rare opportunity, as not many were privileged to attend a cadet school.  The school was in the Russian city of Sverdlovsk.  I learned many skills there which enabled me to become a tank commander with the rank of sergeant.  In 1943 I completed my studies in the cadet school and joined the Russian army.  By that time we were advancing across Russian territory towards the Polish border under the command of Marshal Zukov.  We participated in many dangerous battles against the German forces.
By the end of 1943, all Polish-born members of the Russian army were transferred to the newly formed Polish army after its formation in the Ukraine.  I was then a sergeant serving in the 4thDivision.

In March 1944 we were advancing towards the town of Lublin in Poland.  Some 20 kms from this town, we came across Majdanek concentration camp.  Entering this camp, we witnessed some horrendous sights; people lying on the ground, most of them dead.  I tried to talk to one of the victims but he didn’t reply.  He was so weak that he couldn’t talk.  I couldn’t believe my own eyes that such atrocities happened in the world.  Most of these prisoners were Jewish but there were many Russians and Gypsies; and many children.  The Russian army provided some assistance in the way of nurses, who offered their help.  We could not stay there too long as we were under orders to move on.  We advanced towards Lublin and, after a two-week break, moved on to Warsaw and Berlin.

It was Christmas 1944 and our Division came to the Wisla (Vistula River) overlooking Warsaw.  On the other side of the frozen river were the Germans.  Our commander called for two volunteers to cross the river and bring back live German soldiers for the purpose of obtaining information on the strength of their forces and strategies.  Due to my knowledge of the German language I volunteered with a friend.  We were both dressed in German uniforms and successfully crossed the river bringing back two captured enemy soldiers, one of them a sergeant.  The darkness proved to be our best ally and as they Germans were unfamiliar with that territory, added to our success.  We took them to our headquarters and obtained a lot of valuable information from them.  After this operation, I was awarded two medals for bravery.  This was the most difficult and unimaginable experience throughout the entire war.
In January 1945 only the 4th Polish Division managed to cross the Vistula River without much enemy resistance.  However, when we crossed the German border, we experienced some heavy fighting but we came through it.

On the 3rd of May 1945 our Formation became the first to reach Berlin.  The war was practically over except for some resistance from German snipers.  We stayed in Berlin until the 9th of May – the day the Germans surrendered to the Russian Army.  This was the happiest day of my life.

Mr Mos is a member of VAJEX, and has attended our Services over the years with many of his comrades-in-arms from the former Soviet Union.

Henry Barclay Full Story

Henry BarclayThe Varied and Colourful Life of
Henry Barclay (Z′′L)

There are VAJEX members who can tell intriguing tales about their life and experiences, but very few can top the varied and unusual twists and turns of life compared to Henry Barclay.

His optimistic and positive outlook on life is like a breath of fresh air, and when talking to him, the enthusiasm he radiates is like a strong life force, illuminating the room he sits in.

Born in Lwow, Poland on 11th September 1914 as Henry Burzynka, he grew up in a traditional, secular Jewish home.  Finishing his studies in a gymnasium in his home town, he was very aware of anti-Semitism and prejudice through his school years.  “Insults and physical threats were part and parcel of my school years, being both short in stature and Jewish, but I was a fast runner, so usually got away before anything too unpleasant happened to me,” Henry says to me with a grin.

As the situation because more unpleasant, he decided that enough was enough, and it was time to leave Poland, and he left in 1935, emigrating to France.  “As I did not speak French when I arrived, I set out to learn as quickly as possible.” Enrolling in the Insitut de Chimie in Caen, he graduated with a Diploma in Chemical Engineering in 1939.

After completing his Diploma, he obtained a position managing a sugar factory for a few months, and later volunteered for the French army, but not being a French citizen, finished up in the Foreign Legion.  The possible option was to serve in Northern France or Indo-China, but he found himself shipped to Morocco.  While his ambition was to drive tanks, in good old army fashion was assigned to the cavalry instead.  Assigned a horse, Henry says, “I don’t know who got the bigger fright, the horse or me.”

After serving three years, at the fall of continental France to the Germans, his unit was demobilised and he was assigned to work on the Trans-Sahara Railway where he learnt a new skill using a pneumatic drill to break up rocks.  Several months later he was sent back to Vichy France, but as a returned French soldier, his Jewishness did not pose any serious problems.

He obtained a position as an industrial chemist masking beauty products, including hair creams, and even black boot polish that was sold to the German army. As the war progressed and Vichy France came increasingly under Nazi influence, Henry decided it was prudent to move on, and escaped across the Pyrenees to Spain.  Caught crossing the border, he was arrested and sent to the Miranda de Ebro Concentration Camp.  Never one to take things lying down, he staged a seven day hunger strike protesting against the poor living conditions.

Released in May 1943, he went to Madrid where he learned Spanish and worked in a dry cleaning plant.  A few months later he was sent to Portugal, then Gibraltar and a few months later was shipped to England.

Arriving in Scotland, it was suggested that it would be beneficial to change his name to one that would blend in the new environment.  This led to his transformation to Henry Barclay.  Resuming his military career, he joined the Free Polish Army, but through a series of misadventures, was arrested as a suspect spy.  Taken to London for intensive interrogation, his innocence was established and he left the army in October 1943, joining the work force once again in his field as an industrial chemist.

He met his future wife, Charlotte, they married and his son Michael was born in 1945.  In his spare time he became involved in the Scouting movement, a connection that would last for many decades.

Another chapter was opened in Henry’s life in 1956 when he decided to pull up stakes and emigrate “Down Under”.  On arrival he found a position with Fibre makers in Bayswater, initially as an industrial chemist, and later manager of the nylon plant.  In 1975 he retired after 19 years.  Not one to sit idly around, he joined a family firm of Roger David as a salesman, also became a Mason joining the Lodge of Tradition.

But his many other activities have kept him fully occupied over the years and brought him many accolades for selfless service.

Back in 1959, he and Harold Nathan formed the 24th Camberwell Scout Group, under the auspices of the Leo Baeck Centre, the first Jewish Scout Group in the Eastern suburbs.  One interesting sidelight was the ecumenical spirit at its opening, when Rabbis Jacob Danglow and Herman Sanger jointly officially participated at the formal opening.  This was the first time such a ceremony was performed jointly by a Liberal and Orthodox Rabbi.

Henry served as Group Scout Master for 15 years and on retiring was given the singular honour of being presented with a Medal of Merit by the then Victorian Governor, Sir Rohan Delacombe.  Adding to his multi-faceted talents, Henry began oil painting as a hobby and joined the Malvern Arts Society.  As well as this, he took up the hobby of collecting clocks.

Sadly, in the year of his and Charlotte’s Golden Wedding Anniversary, Charlotte died, leaving Henry devastated.  A few years later he met Bella Szmerling and they married in 1994, starting a new and happy chapter of his eventful life.

He took up further education learning new languages and skills, and he now speaks Polish, English, French, Spanish and Hebrew.

Henry is a born optimist and takes life’s hurdles in his stride.  His philosophy can be encapsulated by one of his quotes: “Digging the Trans-Sahara Railway, while everyone around me was complaining, I saw it as an experience.  I always try to make the most of any situation that I find and make life enjoyable.

A committee member of VAJEX since 1996, Henry is a true inspiration to everyone around him, and at 90 years young, continues to make travelling through life a positive and enjoyable journey.

(This article was written in 2004.  Henry passed away 22nd February 2009.  May his dear soul rest in peace.)

Herbert Bloustein Full Story

Herbert Bloustein, who was born in Ballarat, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 19th August 1914, aged 21 years.  He later served in Europe, where he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

On 25th April 1915, Herbert Bloustein landed on the shores of Gallipoli, Turkey with the 3rd Brigade.

He sent a letter to his father in St Kilda, which was published in The Argus newspaper on 9thJune 1915.

“Charge Of The 3rd Brigade

Herbert H Bloustein sent the following interesting particulars to his father Mr H Bloustein, of Grey Street, St Kilda from Cairo on May 8th:

"You will wonder at the above address.  As a matter of fact, I am in the second general hospital here.  I was unlucky enough to stop a bit of shrapnel at 10am on Sunday April 25th.  It was the first day of the war for the Australians.  Thank G-d I had a wonderful escape! As we were just advancing into the firing line to the support of another company of our battalion a shrapnel pellet hit me just at the base of the neck, glanced off the bone and lodged in the muscle of my chest.   l was quite stunned for a few minutes and was bleeding pretty freely.  I had the impression that I could not move my right arm.  I gradually moved it a little and then found it was quite free.  I had not fired a shot up till that time having seen no one to fire at.

March Out Of Cairo

Let me begin at the beginning.  We left Mena at half past 7pm on Easter Sunday, marched into Cairo, got the train to Alexandria, and embarked on the (ship’s name was censored) on Monday morning, left Alexandria Tuesday and arrived at Lemnos Island at dawn Thursday April 8th.  Lemnos is a pretty little place.  There is a population of about 40,000mostly Greeks.  Their costumes are very unique.  We went ashore a couple of times practicing disembarking under fire as we would have to do at the Dardanelles.  There is quite a fine harbour at Lemnos and ‘tis deep making a fine rendezvous for a big fleet such as ours.  There were crowds of transports and battle ships, amongst the latter being the Queen Elizabeth.  The boys all call her “Lizzie”.  She’s the pet.  We left Lemnos at 2pm on Saturday and anchored off the coast of Embros Island, which is much closer to the Gallipoli Peninsula.  At 11pm we heaved anchor and steamed slowly towards our destination.  Everyone was up at 3am on Sunday.  We were to land at 8am.  The 3rd Brigade landed just before dawn and we could hear the bursting shrapnel and rifle fire.

Bloustein Letter - The Argus Newspaper

A Hot Fire

It was very hot fire.  Of course, you’ve read how the boys fared.  General Hamilton said that he had seen British and Indian troops charge, but he had never seen anything like the charge of the 3rd Brigade when they landed.  They were fired at while they were in the boats and, without awaiting orders they tossed off their equipment and jumped into water up to their necks with rifles and fixed bayonets.  They never stopped once till they had driven the enemy about two miles from the shore.  It was a marvellous feat.  We landed about two hours later and worked our way up to the firing line.  The hills were hard enough to climb without taking them with the bayonet.  I could fill a book telling you of incidents.  Please G-d, I will live to tell you about it.  It seems a long way to bring the slightly wounded from Gallipoli to Cairo, but they are sending everyone here and to Alexandria.  My own opinion is that the casualties were not heavy, considering what we achieved.  I don’t think it will be very long before we are in Constantinople.  The battle-ships did wonderful work with the guns.  The (ship’s name was censored) silenced no fewer than 13 guns on an enfilading point from which the enemy was shelling the beach where we were landing.  When the Queen Elizabeth fires her 15in guns she shakes the earth.  She confines her operations to the forts on the other side of the peninsula, a distance of about eight or nine miles.

As soon as a gun of the enemy commences firing, Flight Commander Samson (who is a Sydney man and is the head of the Naval Air Corps), ascends in his seaplane and locates the position of the gun.  He then sends a wireless message to the battleship and they open fire.  He hovers over the gun until it is silenced.  Samson is doing wonderful work.  Aircraft and wireless have absolutely revolutionised warfare.  The officer casualties on our side were very heavy.  Captain Carter is now acting second-in-command of the 5thBattalion.

When we landed on Sunday, we got terribly mixed up.  I was in a trench on Monday with about 40 others, and they were from all brigades and battalions.  On Wednesday we were relieved, and retired to muster under cover of the hills overlooking the sea.  The ground we have to work over is awful.  It is thick scrub everywhere.  The enemy’s snipers were picking off a lot of our men, being able to creep up close to the trenches under cover of the bushes.  The snipers even got behind our lines and fired on our Red Cross men (non-combatants).  The enemy are paying no attention to the rules of war.  They are using dum dum and explosive bullets.  They are rotten shots, their aim being very high.  They are wasting a tremendous lot of ammunition.  You need not worry about me, as I am quite all right.  I have had the bullet extracted and will try to send it onto you.  To show you how slight my wound is, I was digging trenches for three days after I was hit.  I am very anxious to get back amongst our boys again.  I cursed having to come all this way.  The residents of Cairo are working wonders.  The ladies come every day and assist the nurses and bring all kinds of comforts in the way of clothes, cigarettes, writing materials, flowers etc.  Our hospital is the beautiful Ghezireh Palace Hotel.  There are spacious grounds for the convalescent patients such as myself.  I have not heard from you for a long time.  Suppose all my mail will follow me on here, and I shall have returned to the front and missed it again.  Anyhow, that’s one of the misfortunes of war, I believe all the Light Horse are going to be dismounted and sent on as infantry.  There seems to be no need for mounted troops in this war.  Horses could not work in the hills in Gallipoli.  Our artillery horses were landed, but were no use at all.  Mules had to haul our guns into position.  The enemy’s artillery is rotten, although they are doing a lot of damage.”

Leo Max Full Story

Leo & Anne Max - 1943-44Leo Max – a Dunera Boy (written by his Son Dennis Max)


The ship HMT Dunera (hired military transport) has been the subject of at least three books and one full length feature film and I do not intend to provide a summarized version of them in this brief article. For specific references I have relied on the excellent work “The Dunera Affair” by Paul Bartrop and Gabrielle Eisen published in 1990. If readers want to learn more they can refer to the abovementioned or a summary entry in Wikepedia.

Leo Max was born in the village of Kobersdorf in southern Austria on 29th October 1910. It was one of seven Jewish communities in Burgenland, Austria, and each had its own synagogue. He was one of seven siblings. After his schooling he went to Vienna to apprentice as a master tailor and lived in an apartment with an aunt in the second district, which had a large Jewish population.

In March 1938 Nazi Germany unified Austria to itself in what is referred to as the Anschluss. Life soon became more difficult for the Jews of Austria. A friend in his apartment building learned that the Jews at their address were to be arrested the following morning, and without any planning they immediately went to the railway station and caught a train in order to escape. They continued to travel by train across Germany with the intention of crossing the border into Belgium.

They left from their rail journey at a station close to the border and proceeded on foot, where they were apprehended by German soldiers and taken back to a guard house. Eventually an officer arrived and asked who they were and where they were going. They admitted that they were Austrian Jews attempting to cross into Belgium. The officer seemed sympathetic and offered to release them at the border that night. At the border they were told to run, and they zig-zagged through the trees fearing they would be used for target practice, but fortunately there was no shooting. They were caught by the Belgian border guards and eventually interned in a refugee camp with other German and Austrian escapees.

After Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939 and Britain declared war, the British recognised they had a shortage of various professions key to the war effort an issued requests for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, medical staff and TAILORS. Leo seized the opportunity and volunteered and was transported to England. He worked in a uniform factory in Slough, west of London.

Once the Low Countries were invaded in early 1940 panic emerged in Britain that some of the refugees might be fifth columnists and on 12th May an order was issued to either have Austrians and Germans report to police weekly, or to round up and intern “enemy aliens” between 16 and 60, depending on how they were categorized according to threat level. About 4000 were interned in Kitchener Camp in Kent. The objective was to transport these people to Canada, but after one of the ships – Arandora Star was torpedoed shortly after leaving Liverpool with the loss of many lives, and some survivors. Australia was then asked, and agreed to take up to 6000 refugees. The Dunera left Liverpool on 10th July. 1940 carrying over 2000 refugees. The conditions were appalling and the treatment meted out by the 141 British crew and guards was cruel, and subsequently senior officers were reprimanded and NCO’s were reduced in rank.


The Dunera arrived in Sydney 0n 6th September 1940 and the refugees were transported by train to two internment camps in Hay, NSW. After their arrival relatives and friends of the refugees still in Britain began to lobby the British Government over the status of the deportees and the Prime Minister Winston Churchill regretted the decision to send them away. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the prisoners were reclassified as friendly aliens and Released by the Australian Government. About 1000 volunteerd to join the Australian Military forces, and most of the rest went back to Britain to serve in their military.

Leo Max volunteered to remain in Australia, and like many of his colleagues joined the 8th Employment Company at Camp Pell, located on Flemington Road North Melbourne, where the Royal Childrens’ Hospital now stands.

He was a Private and worked in the Tailoring Unit, making uniforms for officers. After having located there for several months he realized that there were other Jews living in the immediate vicinity who had migrated to Australia prior to the war commencing. On his weekends he started offering his tailoring services to some of these people.

On one occasion he was conducting a fitting for one such gentleman and he noticed a young woman there was measuring up the man’s wife for a dress. She was originally from Germany and had arrived in Melbourne 2 years earlier and was living in Flemington Road, almost opposite Camp Pell. They started dating. Her name was Anneliese Meyer.

A couple of months later when he arrived to take her out the noticed he had a new chevron on his sleeve. “What is that?” she asked. He replied “Because I am a good tailor they have promoted me to Lance Corporal”. About two months later when he arrived to take her out and he had 2 chevrons. “And what is that?” she asked. He replied “Because I am a Master Tailor they have promoted me to full Corporal”. And about a month later he had 3 chevrons. “What is that?” she asked. “Because I am their best tailor I have been promoted to Sargeant and I am now in charge of all tailoring at Camp Pell.” He answered.

In 1943 Leo married Anneliese at Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.

Leo was de-mobbed at the beginning of 1946. He and Anne (Anneliese) lived at 205 Flemington Road until 1954 when they purchased a house in McKinnon. They had 2 sons – Dennis and Gary and eventually 5 grand children.


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