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Milton Feldman’s Tale of Imprisonment

Shalom Lamm’s career as a real estate developer spans more than two decades, including managing more than 9,500 properties. Shalom Lamm, also a military historian, successfully petitioned the government to have the grave markers of Jewish-Americans reflect their heritage through the Operation Benjamin project.

Operation Benjamin culminated in a program that would change the grave markers of Jewish-American soldiers who served in WWII to the Star of David instead of the Christian cross. The importance of honoring these soldiers is conveyed through Milton Feldman’s tale of imprisonment in the POW camps in Germany.

While Mr. Feldman was not a fatality of the war, the conditions of his capture highlight the sacrifice that many Jewish-Americans made-even in the face of Nazi aggression. In what would become the Battle of the Bulge, the troops set out on an orchestrated and organized march to defeat the enemy. The army of men were prepared to fight, even in miserable winter conditions and the low cloud cover.

However, one mistake led to complete chaos. The generals misunderstood the German retreat, and the soldiers soon were barraged by a counterattack. The once unified unit had unraveled, becoming a loose band of soldiers. A day or so later, Mr. Feldman and a few other soldiers walked upon a camp of German soldiers. Outnumbered and out rifled, the troops were captured.

The next couple of days they trekked through the German countryside. After a train ride, the soldiers were dropped off in front of German barracks run by both Allied and German soldiers. Faced with possible extermination, Mr. Feldman admitted to the officer checking him in that he was in fact Jewish. Although he did not suffer the brutality that most of the Jewish descent, his tale is a harrowing illustration of why honoring Jewish-Americans who served is very relevant, even almost 75 years later.

A Memorial to the American Soldier

In the last few years, Shalom Lamm has spent much time devoted to honoring Jewish-American soldiers who fought and died in WWII. Through Operation Benjamin, Shalom Lamm assisted families with having the markers on the graves of soldiers who fought changed to reflect their heritage.

Through Operation Benjamin, family members of fallen WWII soldiers were able to participate in a ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial that would honor their sacrifice by changing Christian grave markers to the Star of David to reflect their Jewish faith. The Cemetery is a beautiful monument comprised of 152 acres located on a plateau visible from a panoramic view.

The accompanying chapel is a white masonry building complete with sculpture and mosaic located in the middle of the cemetery. Twenty-five mosaic maps are located within the hemicycles and narrate the events of the battles that occurred in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Visit any time of the year, and the scene is picturesque and quiet, one that encourages reflective thought. However, one is easily transported back almost 57 years to the Battle of New Guinea, a battle where many soldiers lost their lives.

The Battle was a concerted effort of the Allied Forces and lasted a year-between January 1943 and January 1944. Described as a nightmare, the hostile terrain was filled a million with natural enemies, including the heat, monsoon rains, the morass of mangroves, and poorly constructed infrastructure.

Then, various diseases such as scrub typhus, dengue fever, and dysentery made the environment hostile. Shortages of supplies in a battle that often left the Allied Forces scrambling created the conditions for completing an impossible mission.

The scenes are similar to the excitement of an army advancing and retreating, artillery firing off and explosions filling the air as soldiers scramble and fight. Eventually, the Allied Forces overwhelmed the Japanese soldiers and won the battle, and the memorial in Manila would be a testament to the courage and sacrifice of the American GI.

Grave of Arthur Waldman Now Marked with the Star of David

The Origins and Work of Operation Benjamin

A founder of the Hatzoloh Medical Rescue Squad in Manhattan, Shalom Lamm also served on the board of directors for Camp Morasha, The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and Yeshiva College. Following decades of work in the construction industry, Shalom Lamm founded Operation Benjamin.

Created to honor Jewish soldiers who gave their lives in World War II as part of the US military, Operation Benjamin takes its name from Private Benjamin Garadetsky. The project discovered that Garadetsky lay in a grave in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial under a Latin Cross, marking him a Christian, despite his Jewish roots.

Operation Benjamin helped facilitate the paperwork required for replacement of that gravestone with a Star of David. That ceremony took place in the summer of 2018.

Since then, Operation Benjamin has collaborated with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to identify other Jews who also received grave markers not reflecting their true faith. Most recently, in February of 2020, the organization had the Star of David placed on the graves of five such soldiers located throughout the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.