• Jacobus Kotze


Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Interesting history

I love history. You can learn from history and thus you should study history. It is impossible to find any book written by me without history in it. Even the boring legal books, the law always reflects to prior judgments/verdicts and thus is history too. But many times when I do the research I discover new links and dots that I did not know before. That is what I intend to share on the next few blogs, taken from the first book written with my wife, Rebecca, “When Does It End?” A story of the Jewish Army rescuing Jews and others from Nazi-occupied Europe between 1942 and 1945. Unknown to most but vastly fascinating to me.

Let us start with what the Jewish Army was:

“I swear fidelity to the Jewish Army

And obedience to its leaders.

May my people live again,

May Eretz-Israel be reborn.

Liberty or death.”

This is the oath of the Armée Juive, or Jewish Army, a Zionist resistance movement created in 1942 in Toulouse, France. The Jewish Army was active in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two. At its height, it had over 2,000 members helping Jews escape to Spain via the Pyrenees as well as other places of safety. Their story has seldom to never been told to outsiders.

And now let us look at some training in Special Operations Executive:

“There is an electric shock that goes through you when you see the enemy in uniform strolling around. Your first reaction is to shoot the bastards. Then you remember just in time that you are behind enemy lines and not known to them as the enemy, but just another civilian. It sure is hard not to stare though. Staring was not recommended as most people will notice a stare. In wartime that may lead to your death.

British historian Ian Ousby wrote long after the war ended: “Even today, when people who are not French or did not live through the Occupation look at photos of German soldiers marching down the Champs Élysées or of Gothic-lettered German signposts outside the great landmarks of Paris, they can still feel a slight shock of disbelief. The scenes look not just unreal, but almost deliberately surreal, as if the unexpected conjunction of German and French, French and German, was the result of a Dada prank and not the sober record of history. This shock is merely a distant echo of what the French underwent in 1940: seeing a familiar landscape transformed by the addition of the unfamiliar, living among everyday sights suddenly made bizarre, no longer feeling at home in places they had known all their lives.”

Yes, it was not easy. SOE trained us to observe with one glance and not to stare since that attracts unwanted attention. Observing everything with a single glance is something which came naturally to policemen, apparently. We had two of them, Fairbairn and Sykes, with us as instructors in unarmed combat as well as for pistol shooting techniques, besides their skills with a knife that still bears their names, Fairbairn–Sykes. They were exceptional men.

William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes served on the Shanghai Municipal Police in China. There they learned and developed hand-to-hand combat methods unknown to the West at the time. Particularly Fairbairn, nicknamed “Dangerous Dan,” studied boxing, Kodokan judo (second black belt), wrestling, savate, jujutsu (Yoshin ryu), all from which he created his own style of fighting, Defendu. The man was always involved in fights with criminals. When he retired as Assistant Police Commissioner in 1940 his record showed 600 fights. His body was scarred from knife attacks that got through but did not kill him.

With him was Eric Anthony Sykes, a lower ranking officer that always ended every self-defense lecture with his trademark phrase “and then, kick him in the testicles...”

The thing is this, it was bad advice. The testicles are the one area where every man has a natural instinct to protect. The kick will almost always be blocked. A short hard and fast jab to the throat is much better, in my opinion, based on experience.

The two men became enemies when Sykes felt belittled. He moved to Canada, training SOE and other agents on that side of the Atlantic, dying in 1945 of ill health.

Fairbairn, the more famous of the two, lived until 1960. He said of the combat knife which became the symbol of all Commandos since then, “In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than a knife. In choosing a knife there are two important factors to bear in mind: balance and keenness. The hilt should fit easily in your hand, and the blade should not be so heavy that it tends to drag the hilt from your fingers in a loose grip. It is essential that the blade have a sharp stabbing point and good cutting edges, because an artery torn through (as against a clean cut) tends to contract and stop the bleeding. If a main artery is cleanly severed, the wounded man will quickly lose consciousness and die.”

Well, as we found out, a garrotte (a steel wire) worked so much better to behead a guard if you could get him from behind. But the head would then fall and being mostly encased in a steel helmet, would make a lot of unwelcome noise. The blood would spurt out, like a headless chicken, was nasty to those close by. The body would twitch too for several minutes, last seen with guillotine executions, then still in use in France and Germany.

Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotine, a Jesuit, invented the killing machine during the French Revolution. Between 1933 and 1945 Nazi Germany used it to execute about 16,500 prisoners. The Nazi executions skyrocketed between 1944 and 1945, more than 10,000 died. In the end, in my experience, a bullet between the eyes, even a well-aimed crossbow bolt, was so much better and effective than a knife fight which you might lose or be wounded in return. Yes, we had crossbows too, a powerful shoulder fired one and a small handheld pistol type. Both were deadly although limited in range and reloading was slow.”

The Fairbairn-Sykes dagger is still used to this day. "When Does It End" can be found at Amazon in Kindle & Paper formats: .

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