Happy Women’s History Month! Help JWA continue to lift up Jewish women’s stories, this month and every month, by making a gift today!
Close [x]

Show [+]

Shoshana Werner

1910–2000

by Esther Herlitz

Shoshana Werner (left) and Shoshana Gershonowitz, both early leaders of the Women's Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, April 9, 1951. Photograph by Fritz Cohen. Source: National Photo Collection of Israel, via Wikimedia Commons.  

In Brief

Shoshana Werner was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1910 and emigrated to Palestine in 1933. She joined the underground paramilitary organization Haganah and, during World War II, was among the first women to join the British Auxiliary Territorial Service, in which she served as a commanding officer in Gaza, Egypt, and Syria. After Israel was founded and the Women’s Corps of the Israel Defense Forces formed, Werner was tapped as the first commander of the women’s training camp, and in 1949 she was promoted to commanding officer of the Women’s Corps. Completing her military service in 1952, Werner went to France to study social work, later returning to Israel to participate in and lead several social work and welfare organizations.  

Article

Appointed as the second commanding officer of the Women’s Corps (see CHEN: Women’s Corps of the Israel Defense Forces) in 1949, Colonel Shoshana Werner was born in 1910 in Lvov, Poland, where she attended a Hebrew high school and began studying pharmacology. However, she did not obtain a degree before emigrating to Palestine in 1933. After working first as a fruit-picker in Rehovot, she moved to the Weizmann Institute, where she was employed in the Preserves Department of its experimental station. In fact, this was a cover for the production of dynamite.

In 1942, after some years of membership in the Haganah, she was among the first 66 women who volunteered for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) of the British Army. Having completed officer training, she served as a company commander in Gaza, as well as in Egypt and in Syria, with the rank of captain.

When the IDF Women’s Corps was established she became the first commander of the women’s training camp and commander of Battalion 201 in the center and south of Israel. In 1949 she became commanding officer of the Women’s Corps and on May 2, 1949, was appointed to head its staff, a post which had for reasons of economy been reduced to chief inspector of the corps. During her term of office, the servicewomen were posted directly to the units in which they were due to serve, and the corps’ command staff was abolished. Women inspectors were posted in district commands in the air force and navy, the medical corps, and the other units.

Werner advised the chief of staff on topics related to women’s service and occupations, supervised the corps’ training camp, dealt with disciplinary issues and fought for the ensuring of appropriate conditions for women in matters of rank, discipline, jurisdiction, health, equipment, accommodation, and welfare.

On completing her military service in 1952 with the rank of colonel, Werner proceeded to France to study social work at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work. On returning to Israel she became director of the Women’s League House in Tel Aviv (Beit ha-Halutzot) and later coordinator of the division for higher education of the Histadrut executive. She served as head of the Council for Jewish Welfare Services in the Tel Aviv district and for many years held the post of Secretary-General of the Union of Social Workers in the Histadrut.

She died in Kefar Sava at the age of 90.

Bibliography

Bloom, Anne. “Women in the Defense Forces.” In Calling the Equality Bluff: Women in Israel, edited by Barbara Swirski and Marilyn Safir, 138-138. New York: Pergamon Press, 1991.

Williams, Louis. “Women in the IDF.” In The Israel Defense Forces: A People’s Army, 319-340. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1989.

Have an update or correction? Let us know

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Herlitz, Esther. "Shoshana Werner." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 31 December 1999. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 1, 2024) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/werner-shoshana>.