Colonel John H. Patterson: Righteous Among the Nations

Colonel John H. Patterson: Righteous Among the NationsOne of the reasons that the museum features the story of Colonel John H. Patterson is that most people have never heard of him. That is unfortunate.

Another reason is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother, Yoni, was named after him. That is special.

The final reason is because we believe that his story should never be forgotten. That would be reprehensible.

Patterson was a staunch advocate of Zionism in a storied military career that included commanding the Zion Mule Corps, a contingent of 750 Jewish soldiers recruited from the Diaspora to fight in the Boer War and in World War I.

Two years after it was formed in 1915, the Mule Corps was expanded and, thereafter, was known as the Jewish Legion. Its five battalions consisted entirely of Jewish volunteers. The 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers was comprised of Jews living in Great Britain and a number of Russian Jews who joined forces with the former Mule Corps members. The 39th Battalion was made up of Jewish men from the U.S. and Canada. Palestinian Jews and former Jewish POWs held captive by the Ottomans became the 40th Battalion. The 41st and 42nd Battalions completed the Legion, but were posted in England without seeing action.

The Jewish Legion fought in the Battle of Jerusalem in 1917 and the Battle of Megiddo in 1918. The Battle of Megiddo was the last, and decisive, Allied offensive thrust in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign under General Allenby. Patterson served as commander of the 38th Battalion until his retirement in 1920. Perhaps his passion and vision for Zionism are best exemplified, not by what he said at the end of his career, but by what he said to his men on March 31, 1915 upon the formation of the Zion Mule Corps.

“‘Pray with me that I should not only, as Moses, behold Canaan from afar, but be divinely permitted to lead you into the Promised Land.”

His prayers were answered as he led his men in recapturing the Promised Land in a battle that was among those with the fewest Allied casualties in all of World War I.

Patterson served in the British military for 35 years until his retirement. There is no doubt that leading the Jewish Legion, the forerunner of the Israeli Defense Forces, was his greatest honor.

Following WWI, Patterson authored The Story of the Jewish Legion, somewhat of a companion piece for his previous books, With the Zionists at Gallipoli and With the Judeans in Palestine. Patterson successfully lobbied to raise funding for Zionist efforts after retiring to California.

He died in La Jolla on June 18, 1947, less than a year prior to the establishment of the nation of Israel, a day for which he had worked and prayed for an entire lifetime. According to his last wishes, Patterson’s ashes were brought to his beloved Zion and buried in an undisclosed location. This Museum is planted here for the very same reason that his ashes are. Because we love Israel.

In 2004, Patrick Streeter published Mad for Zion, A Biography of Colonel J.H. Patterson. His inspiring story is available at

Miep Gies: Righteous Among the Nations

Miep Gies: Righteous Among the NationsIf not for the list of the Righteous among the Nations, the world might have long forgotten Miep Gies and her husband, Jan, and she might have passed away into obscurity when she died on January 11, 2010, a month shy of her 101st birthday. But, as is the case with so many more, we must keep her memory alive so that “never again” will the events she experienced recur.

On her 100th birthday she said, “I am one hundred years old now. That is an admirable age, and I have even reached it in fairly good health. So then, it’s fair to say ‘You’ve been fortunate,’ and being fortunate seems to be the red thread running through my life.”

At an earlier date she declared that she stood, “at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more – much more – during those dark and terrible times years ago. But, always, like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness, never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.”

Miep was Austrian by birth. At the age of eleven, Herminie Santrouschitz was taken-in temporarily by a family in the Netherlands as part of a program to help the Austrian people recover from the destruction of World War I. As it turned out, it was decided, the situation being what it was, that Herminie – or Miep, as she was called in Holland – should remain in the Dutch family’s care. That turned out to be both fortuitous and sufferable.

She was fortunate to meet her future husband, Jan Gies, at work before she was laid off and took another job at the Opetka Company in Amsterdam. She and Jan became good friends with the owner of the company and his family. Over a short period of time, things turned ugly again in Europe as the Nazi regime in Germany set out to conquer the world and annihilate the Jews. Miep was fortunate to be living in Amsterdam rather than in her homeland of Austria. It seemed like the Netherland’s neutrality would keep it safe from Hitler’s madness.

As it turned out, that was only an illusion. Germany stormed the Netherlands and began to implement Hitler’s Final Solution there, just as it had elsewhere. Some Jews fled the continent. Others, like Miep’s boss, hid. Miep and Jan brought food and other necessities to his family to provide for their sustenance whilst in hiding. She risked her life, using her lunch break to make her daily deliveries. She knew that, should they be found or she be caught, they would all be subject to the same fate. Unfortunately, the family was eventually found and sent to their miserable fate. Only the father was saved alive. As for Miep and Jan, no one was the wiser.

After the war, Miep said that, “I am not a hero. More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.” Any righteous person would do the same.

Her kindness extended beyond helping her boss’ family. After the family had been taken, she visited the place where they had been hiding to gather up their personal effects and deliver them to her boss, Otto Frank. Among those belongings were the diaries of Otto’s daughter, Anne, which would eventually tell a small part of the story of the persecution of the Jews during World War II. Little did Miep know, when she handed those diaries to her boss, how many lives would be changed by a simple act of kindness.

All Miep knew was that, “It was not enough.”