Jacob (‘Jack’) Goldstein was mid-upper gunner in a Lancaster bomber when it was shot down by a German night-fighter during Bomber Command’s final WW2 mission to Nürnberg. It was the night of 16 March 1945, just a few weeks before the war ended. He was the only member of the seven-man crew to be killed. The title of the book derives from the simple entry ‘Shalom!’ that Jack’s widow, Sadie, poignantly wrote in the book of remembrance at the Dürnbach War Graves Cemetery where Jack is now buried.
‘Shalom, Jack’ traces Jack’s Polish family origins in an impoverished and oppressed village near Warsaw, and describes his mother bringing him to England aged just 17 months, with his two older siblings. Her husband, Yosef, had travelled to London shortly before to pave the way to a new life. They were one of thousands of families who fled the increasing discrimination and persecution facing Jewish people in Eastern Europe just before the start of WW1.
The book vividly relates in detail the struggles of Jack’s upbringing amongst the poverty and deprivation of London’s East End, overwhelmingly tempered by the love and happiness of his family, and growing up as one of eleven siblings. It describes his marriage to Sarah (‘Sadie’) Goldberg, whose parents also came to the UK as immigrants from Russian Poland. Poverty, illness and tragedy were ever-present in Sadie’s childhood; she was still 15 years old when her mother died, and she had to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up her five siblings, ages ranging from 14 to just 3.
When WW2 broke out, all nine Goldstein and Goldberg boys enlisted for the armed forces, committed to fighting for the country that had given their parents safe sanctuary, freedom and opportunities for peaceful lives, and to help overcome the tyranny and evil aggression with which the Nazis threatened the world. But Jack’s applications to join the RAF were rejected because of his being of Polish birth. It was not until the need for more troops became so dire that ‘friendly aliens’ could volunteer. How ironic that Jack did not return - the only one of all the Goldstein and Goldberg boys.
This book traces Jack’s service in the RAF Volunteer Reserve as mid-upper gunner in Lancaster bomber RF154 of 166 Squadron, Bomber Command. It includes detailed accounts from fellow crew members of the events of that fateful night, 16 March 1945, when they were shot down by a German night-fighter, and all but Jack baled out to eventual safety.
The full story of what happened to Jack following the aircraft plunging to earth, and how he later came to be buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Durnbach, the most southerly of all CWGC German cemeteries, has finally been uncovered and evidenced beyond all reasonable doubt for the first time in this book. At last, after over 70 years, Jack's story in complete.
Based on painstaking and well-documented research, eye-witness accounts, and personal recollections, this book includes numerous photographs, documents and illustrations. It will be of particular appeal to those with interests in the history of the RAF and Bomber Command, London between the wars, social history of the 20th century, immigration, and Anglo-Jewish family life.
Insightful, analytical, emotional and at times humorous, the book finally lays to rest the mystery of exactly what happened the night Jack was killed. It also describes with great sensitivity the traumas of war-time England, the profound importance of family, and the devastating impact of Jack’s death. Coming at a time when immigration, Europe and anti-Semitism continue to be topical discourse, and in the years following the 100th anniversary of the RAF, 'Shalom, Jack' is both timely and relevant today to Britain and much further afield.