Peter C. Appelbaum

Loyal Sons: Jewish Soldiers in the German Army in the Great War

By Peter C. Appelbaum

Available at,, and
Hardcover: 390 pages
Publisher: Vallentine Mitchell & Co Ltd
ISBN-10: 0853039488
ISBN-13: 978-0853039488

Loyal Sons, with a historical introduction by Jay Winter and personal reminiscences by Inge Auerbacher and Peter Waldmann, describes, for the first time in English, the experiences of Jews in the German army during the First World War.

The stage is set by a description of Jews in the armies of Prussia and the other German states between 1813
(when they were first allowed to serve) through the three Bismarckian wars. During the Great War, approximately 100,000 Jews served in the German army, of whom around 80,000 fought on the Front and 12,500 were killed, died, or went missing. About 35,000 were decorated, 23,000 promoted, and more than 2,000 became officers.

The book traces the effect of the outbreak of war on the Jews of Germany. Excerpted diaries and memoirs of soldiers from all ranks of the army – soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers – describe their war experiences on the Western, Eastern, Balkan and Ottoman Fronts, impressions of other nationalities, and their varied feelings about anti-Semitism in the army. The experiences of those Jews who played a significant part in the nascent Luftwaffe are also provided. Rich annotation provides historiographical as well as religious and other details, and in the process a look inside the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry is provided by soldiers serving there.

Another interesting aspect of this book is a chapter on the German medical corps. No antibiotics and only a few vaccines were available during the First World War, and infected wounds, typhus, typhoid fever, cholera, malaria and finally the 1918 Influenza A pandemic took a heavy toll.

The book also contains an extensive analysis of the Judenzählung (Jewish census) of October 1916 – a pivotal event in the post-war development of German anti-Semitism. Loyal Sons closes with a few examples of the fate of these veterans, whose Fatherland thanked them for their loyal service less than two decades later by persecution, disenfranchisement, expulsion, imprisonment, and ultimately murder in the death camps.

Presentation Papers

Queen Mary, University of London
World War One International Conference - August 1st – 4th 2014 Perspectives On The “Great” War
Selected papers from the Conference as a downloadable PDF include:
"Infectious Diseases During the First World War" presented by Dr Appelbaum

Magazine and Journal Reviews:

Naval War College Review Published July 1, 2015
Reviewer: Timothy J. Demy

Centennial commemoration and observance of the First World War have generated many books studying major and minor aspects of what was hoped would be the "war to end all wars," or as H. G. Wells titled a 1914 book, The War That Will End War. It wasn't; instead, it was the first act of a century-long tragedy. The present volume provides a significant study of the more than 100,000 German-Jewish and 320,000 Austro- Hungarian Jewish soldiers serving during the war. One in eight was killed. First World War historian Jay Winter is correct when he writes in the volume's foreword, "we owe a debt to Peter Appelbaum for bringing to light the Jewish element in this tragic story." The volume is groundbreaking in its scope and depth.

The volume consists of eight chapters and four appendixes. The first chapter provides an overview of Jewish soldiers in the armies of the German states from the Prussian Wars of Liberation beginning in 1813 until the beginning of the First World War. The quest for respected and accepted service was part of the larger Jewish experience of nationalism and participation in German society and met with varied results. Although no Jew ever attended or graduated from the Prussian Military or Naval Academy, there were Jewish officers in the prewar Bavarian army and Austro-Hungarian army. The second chapter looks at mobilization and German-Jewish attitudes at the outbreak of the war. The outbreak of the war furthered German-Jewish patriotism. While there were dissenting, pacifist Jewish voices, they were largely ignored and overcome by Jewish organizations and individuals who published calls to volunteer. German- Jewish society responded at all levels and all ages. As the war progressed the initial zeal was replaced by calls for service based on duty (Pflicht) and honor (Ehre). German Jews entered service with hopes and confidence of no anti-Semitism. They were misguided. The third chapter studies in detail the experiences and opposing views of the war of two officers who served on the western front, Julius Marx and Herbert Sulzbach. This chapter and the fourth chapter, which looks at diaries and memoirs from the front, show the diversity of experiences and perspectives of religious and nonreligious Jews, all fighting with national loyalty, patriotism, and pride. The chapters also provide a good snapshot of everpresent Christian-Jewish sentiments.

With respect to naval matters and the Kriegsmarine, there is little available information on Jewish sailors. By geography and profession, maritime life was not a significant part of the experience of German Jews. However, Jews did serve in the Kriegsmarine aboard surface vessels and U-boats. The fourth chapter provides information on these activities, noting that the 1916 census of Jews in the military (Judenzählung) registered 134 in maritime service. At least thirty were killed, some in the May 1916 battle of Jutland.

Chapter 5 studies the experiences of German Jews who served as physicians, physician assistants, and medical orderlies. It shows that Jewish participation spanned the strata of society and reminds readers of the pain and trauma of those who were wounded and dying. This chapter is enriched by the author's knowledge and experience from his first career of forty years as a physician, microbiologist, and professor of pathology. The sixth chapter moves to the air and looks at the approximately 250 Jews who served in airships and single-engine aircraft. Several pilots were killed, several became prisoners of war, and others-such as Fritz Beckhardt, who was credited with seventeen recognized kills-garnered fame and glory.

By 1916 there was rising anti-Semitism on the home front and rumors that Jewish service and sacrifice were not comparable to those of non-Jews. The seventh chapter recounts these rumors and perceptions and the solution of the landmark Judenzählung. The final chapter provides an analysis, epilogue, and transition to the interwar years. In an attempt to counteract growing anti-Semitism during the postwar period German-Jewish veterans banded together in 1919 and formed the Reichsbund Jüdischer Frontsoldaten (Association of Jewish Front Veterans). One of the main activities was the publication of a monthly newspaper and other works attempting to neutralize anti-Semitic agitation. All of this effort was shattered by the National Socialists after Kristallnacht (1938) and the anti-Semitism experienced during the First World War culminated in the anti-Semitic tragedies of the Second World War.

The present volume is Appelbaum's second book addressing the Jewish military experience of the era. The earlier work, Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army during the First World War (2013), received significant attention and acclaim and Loyal Sons is deserving of the same.

Appelbaum delves deeply into published and unpublished diaries, letters, and memoirs of those who served. For the first time, widespread personal and archival materials are gathered and analyzed in a single source. The work is meticulously researched, well written, and enjoyable to read. The author has produced a volume that bridges the chasm between studies for academic specialists and works for general readers. It is a welcome addition to the military history bookshelf that is lively, engaging, and thorough. The appendixes and numerous photographs are interesting and enhance the work. Loyal Sons deserves a wide readership and will not disappoint even the most casual reader.
Timothy J. Demy is a graduate of, and professor of military ethics at, the Naval War College. He received a ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD from Salve Regina University. He is American managing editor of the Journal of Military Ethics and is coeditor of Military Ethics and Emerging Technologies (2014).

Strategy Page Review:
Reviewer: Mike Markowitz

The Kaiser's Jewish Soldiers Deeply rooted in Christian European culture was the medieval notion that the hated Jewish minority should not be allowed to possess or bear arms. Only after the French Revolution did this attitude begin to change. In 1808 a Prussian official wrote to King Friedrich Wilhelm III (r. 1797-1840): The Jew has fiery oriental blood and a lively imagination. All signs point to manly vigour when properly used and directed.

It should also be noted that in both the French and American revolutions, striking examples of Jewish bravery have occurred . Beginning in the “War of Liberation” (1812-1814) fought by Prussia and other German States against Napoleon, Jews were accepted as army volunteers. Small numbers of Jews served in Prussia’s wars with Denmark (1848-51, 1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870-71).

During the First World War, about 100,000 Jews served in the German Army. Of these, some 80,000 as Frontsoldaten (“combat troops;”) of whom about 12,500 were killed or missing in action, 35,000 were decorated (ironically, with the Iron Cross) and two thousand became officers, despite the fierce resistance of the aristocratic Prussian officer corps; Catholic Bavaria, which maintained its own Army within the German Empire, proved somewhat more willing to promote Jews to junior officer ranks.

When the European powers went to war in August 1914, it was on a wave of popular enthusiasm. Eager to prove their patriotism, to demonstrate their assimilation into German society, and to discredit racist stereotypes of the Jew as weak and cowardly, young Jewish men flocked to volunteer.

Loyal Sons is the first book-length English language account of Jewish soldiers in Kaiser Wilhelm’s military. One of the great strengths of the book is that we hear the voices of these men in their own words, carefully translated by the author, who makes extensive use of memoirs, diaries, and soldiers’ letters.

A particularly good chapter documents the significant role of Jews in the German Army medical corps. Appelbaum, the author was trained as a doctor and microbiologist, taking up military history after retiring from a successful medical career. His insights into the horrors of injury, disease and chemical weapons during the war are noteworthy.

Another chapter chronicles the development of the Imperial German Air Force, where some 200 Jews served as pilots, gunners, Zeppelin crew, balloon observers, or technicians, with about fifty killed in action.

Unfortunately the book provides relatively little information on Jews in the Imperial Navy. A considerable amount of space is devoted to the 1916 Judenzählung (“Jew count”) an attempt to conduct a census of Jewish front line combat troops. This was organized by anti-Semitic staff officers attempting to prove that Jews were slackers, deliberately avoiding hazardous duty. Nothing of the sort was ever proved, but the malicious slander had a negative effect on morale, and exacerbated tensions in the ranks. A melancholy final chapter describes the fate of Jewish veterans. Most who did not escape Germany before the outbreak of World War II perished in the Holocaust.

The author’s earlier book, from the same publisher, was Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army During the First World War (2014), throws additional light on this subject. One hopes that someone will undertake a similar study of Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Army (kaiserlich-und-königlich or K-u- K), where some 300,000 Jews served in the First World War. This would be a daunting research challenge, since the primary sources, in addition to German and Yiddish, will also be in Hungarian, Italian, Czech, Polish and Serbo-Croatian.
Mike Markowitz, a D.C. based defense analyst

Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, May/June 2015, Volume V,No.2, page
Review by Rachel Simon. Princeton University. Princeton

Appelbaum starts this book with a discussion of the century prior to the First World War when Jews were first allowed to serve in the German army. This introduction serves as a background to the bulk of the work, which focuses on the Jewish experience in the German army during WWI. Around 100,000 Jews served in the German Army; approximately 80,000 fought on the front, and 12,500 lost their lives< or went missing in action. The book is mainly composed of translated selections of letters, diaries and later memoirs of Jewish servicemen from various branches of the German army. The book includes eight chapters, four appendixes, a bibliography and an index. The first chapter examines the period 1813-1914 in which Jews are slowly included in the German army and during which, despite declarations about their legal status, Jews were often discriminated against and felt disappointed regarding the fulfillment of their rights, including military service. Chapter 2 describes the overall atmosphere in Germany when the war broke, focusing on the Jewish attitude, which was generally positive at the beginning, resulting in many mobilized Jews. The 3rd chapter provides two opposing views of the war, based on the memoirs of two Jewish servicemen. This is followed by snapshots from the front, taken from diaries and memoirs of several Jewish servicemen. The next two chapters focus on special groups: the medical corps and the air force. The 7th chapter examines the Jewish census of 1916, which was intended to count Jews serving in the front, resulting from accusations that Jews tried to evade mobilization and avoid service at the front. The census, which was never officially published and its original data was lost, worsened Jewish-non-Jewish relations and made Jews feel discriminated against. The final chapter provides an analysis and epilogue. Appendixes include German WWI military ranks; Hebrew and Jewish religious terms; place names then and now; and German-Jewish associations. Much of the text is based on letters, diaries and memoirs, mostly archived at the Leo Baeck Institute. This indeed is the main strength of the book: bringing to light extensive descriptions and views of Jews who served in various roles and branches of the German army during WWI, translated into English. The work is an important source on the condition of Jews in Germany, and especially during WWI, presenting their life and thoughts. Rachel Simon. Princeton University. Princeton NJ

Choice Reviews for Academic Libraries
Social & Behavioral Sciences Section
Review by C. Fink, emerita, Ohio State University

Drawing on published and unpublished diaries, letters, and memoirs, leading secondary sources; and his earlier book, Loyalty Betrayed: JewishC'haplains in the Gemum Army during the First World Wor (2014), Appelbaum's well-written study probes the wide range of experiences of Jewish soldiers, sailors, and airmen on Germany's four different battle fronts in WW I. Between the Napoleonic Wars and 1914, official discrimination had restricted German Jews' access to the officer corps and to rhe military and naval academies. Presenting a myriad of eyewitness details, Appelbaum contrasts the Jews' expanded combat role with their specifically "Jewish" circumstances, which included the notorious judenzdhlung, the 1916 census (osrensibly to uncover slackers) that Jews and non-Jews viewed as "a direcr insult" and protested against. Appelbaum's conclusion is somber: although 100,000 (or one out of every six) German Jews served in rhe military, 35 percent were decorated for bravery, and 12,000 died, anti-Semitism nevertheless persisted after 1918, and many Jewish WW I veterans and their families suffered persecution and deportation under the Third Reich. Their patriotism, military service, and sacrifice did not open the gate ro full and equal citizenship for German Jews before 1945.
Summing Up: ** Recommended. All levels/libraries.- C. Fink, emerita, Ohio State University

Excerpt from Review in Choice, Vol. 52, No. 10, June 2015
Appelbaum's well-written study probes the wide range of experiences of Jewish soldiers, sailors, and airmen on Germany's four different battle fronts in WW I. Recommended. All levels/libraries.

Excerpt from review in AJL Reviews, May/June 2015 [Subject: History, Military Studies, Jewish Studies, German Studies, World War I] important source of the condition of Jews in Germany, and especially during WWI, presenting their life and thoughts

Review by Harold Pollins in The Western Front Association Stand To! No, 103 May 2015
This is the second of Peter Appelbaum's books which deal with German—Jewish soldiers in the Great War, the first being about Jewish chaplains in the German Army. Both have the words 'Loyalty' and 'Loyal' in their titles, which perfectly illustrate the emotion exhibited by Germany Jewry towards their homeland. It was one of intense patriotism overlaid with an attempt to fuse 'Germanness' with 'Jewishness'. At the same time they were faced with much anti—Semitism and to some extent second—class citizenship. Thus it was hard for Jews to obtain commissions in the army, although easier as the war progressed given the heavy losses of junior officers. The book begins in the early 19th century when Jews, who had lived under restraint in Germanic lands, were allowed t loin the armed forces, in time for some to participate in the Napoleonic Wars. Later, they took part in the wars of the 1860s and against France in 1870-1. It is estimated that about 4,500 German Jews fought in the Franco—Prussian War, of whom about 400 were killed or wounded. Nearly 400 were awarded medals of some kind — there are larger figures in some sources.
This chapter is a chronological account of the years leading up to 1914 and the remainder of the book deals with the subject thematically. Broadly, it is estimated that 100,000 Jews served in the army in the Great War, of whom 12,000 died and a series of chapters consist to a large extent of the experiences of Jews in that war. They are taken from letters, diaries, and memoirs, some contemporary and others written after the event. The detail is fascinating, notably the descriptions of the horrors sometimes experienced but the soldiers reactions varied. Thus one chapter contrasts the experiences of two men who became officers, served throughout the war, and survived, Julius Marx was very conscious of his Jewish background and also of the anti—Semitism that he sometimes encountered. On the other hand, in his memoirs Herbert Sulzbach has nothing to demonstrate that he was of Jewish origin; incidentally, as a refugee from Nazism in Britain in the Second World War he was commissioned in the British Army.
Two chapters in particular are noteworthy. One describes Jews who served in the German air service, some of whom were aces and were acquaintances of Herman Goering. The other describes what can be considered the nadir of relationships between Jews and non—Jews.
Despite the sacrifices of Jewish soldiers the view became popularly expressed that the Jews were not serving in sufficient numbers and that those who were in the army were not at the front. An official census was instituted in order to find the numbers. As it happens the census was not published but its very institution illustrated one aspect of the growth of anti—Semitism and a forecast of what was to come. This is a fascinating book, and provides an excellent introduction to the German side of the conflict and especially the Jewish part in it. Harold Pollins

The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) April 15 Review by Edward Timms
Second class soldiers LOYAL SONS: JEWS IN THE GERMAN ARMY IN THE GREAT WAR by Peter C. Appelbaum Vallentine Mitchell, 2014, hardcover 347 pp., £50, ISBN 9780853039488

Readers of this journal were reminded in August 2014 by Anthony Grenville that approximately 100,000 Jews served in the German forces during the First World War. Even more remarkable was the fervour with which they fought for their Fatherland: ‘We Jews all leave for war of our own wish, / joyful to throng around our country’s flag,’ wrote a lawyer named Emmanuel Saul in a poem addressed to his children, translated and cited by Peter Appelbaum as a motto for this book. To document the extraordinary range of Jewish war experiences he examines a wealth of diaries and memoirs, starting with the contrast between Kriegstagebuch eines Juden (War Diary of a Jew) by Julius Marx (published 1939 in Zurich) and Zwei lebende Mauern: 50 Monate Westfront by Herbert Sulzbach (Berlin 1935; translated under the title With the German Guns, London 1973). These diarists share an intense German patriotism but their attitudes to their Jewish heritage could hardly be more different. Coming from a patrician family in Frankfurt am Main, Sulzbach served in the artillery and his narrative offers a distanced view of combat combined with sensitivity to the wider political conflict. Particularly impressive are his descriptions of the new ‘tank monsters’ that turned the tide on the Western front (cited page 87). But the most remarkable feature of his memoirs, according to Appelbaum, is that there is ‘no mention of the fact that he is Jewish’ (page 59). Julius Marx, who came from a textile-manufacturing family in Württemberg, served for four years in the infantry, rising (like Sulzbach) to the rank of lieutenant. But Marx writes with a gritty realism that reveals not only the sufferings of the trenches but also the pressures to which Jews were exposed in an increasingly anti-Semitic climate. Jews, according to a striking passage about the Battle of the Somme, are ‘fighting on two Fronts – one for Germany’s victory, the other for our equality in Germany’ (page 78). Even more humiliating was the Jewish Census of November 1916, instigated by the authorities in response to rumours about Jews shirking front-line service: ‘Do they wish to degrade us to second-class soldiers and make us a laughing stock?’ Marx asks (page 265). The analysis of that so-called Judenzählung is the most powerful section of Appelbaum’s book. Drawing on a compelling range of sources, he refutes the attempts by revisionist historians to downplay this example of state-sanctioned racial discrimination. In human terms, his documentation is even more poignant, culminating in a poem published in the Israelitisches Familienblatt, where a Jewish mother writes that ‘her son has been wounded by his own people more than by an enemy bullet’ (page 265). The other Jewish voices brought to life by this moving book range from pilots like Jakob Wolf and Willy Rosenstein to a medical dog handler named Adolph Lehmann. As in the case of Appelbaum’s earlier book on Jewish chaplains in the German army, Loyalty Betrayed, there is an impressive range of historical photographs of Jews in military uniforms. Their loyalty was indeed betrayed. After Germany’s defeat, Jews were targeted as scapegoats – even though 12,000 had died in the service of their country. Emmanuel Saul was one of those killed on the Russian front. Those who survived had to cope with a climate poisoned by anti-Semites who published data claiming to prove that the German army had been ‘stabbed in the back’. By 1938 German-Jewish military veterans were being imprisoned and murdered by their own government. Julius Marx was fortunate to find sanctuary in Switzerland, while Herbert Sulzbach escaped to England, was briefly interned, and joined the Pioneer Corps. As a footnote to Appelbaum’s fine book, it is worth highlighting Sulzbach’s career in the British army. He rose to the rank of captain and in 1944-48 masterminded an inspirational re-education programme for German officers at the Featherstone Park prisoner-of-war camp in Northamptonshire. For his services to Anglo-German relations he was honoured by both the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic. According to the obituary published in AJR Information in August 1985, he enhanced the work of reconciliation ‘by stressing his Jewish origin’.
Edward Timms The Association of Jewish Refugees

Amazon Reader Reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Buchempfehlung des Bundes jüdischer Soldaten 28. Oktober 2014 By Gideon - Amazon DE

Ein Jahr nach dem Erscheinen seiner ersten Dokumentation „ Loyalty Betrayed – Jewish Chaplains in the German Army during the First World War“ hat der bekannte Arzt und Mikrobiologe, Professor Dr. PhD Peter C. Appelbaum, im September 2014 ein zweites Werk – ebenfalls erstmals in englischer Sprache – veröffentlicht, in dem er ganz besonders über die treuen Söhne Deutschlands – die jüdischen Soldaten des Ersten Weltkrieges – berichtet. Damit hat er einen weiteren Schritt unternommen, um einem neuen Publikum bisher fast unbekannte Tatsachen vor Augen zu führen: den großen Patriotismus der jüdischen deutschen Soldaten trotz ihrer ständigen Diskriminierung und trotz der Desillusionierung infolge der „Judenzählung“ von 1916 – also mitten im Krieg. To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars
Großartig geschrieben und spannend zu lesen! 2. November 2014 By Fritz - Amazon DE

Das Ergebnis vorweg: Peter C. Appelbaum hat ein großartiges Buch vorgelegt! Der Autor erzählt die Geschichte der Juden in den deutschen Armeen des 1. Weltkriegs als die Geschichte treuer Söhne" (Loyal sons) des deutschen Vaterlands. In einem ersten Kapitel (1-45) erläutert er das Verhältnis der deutschen Juden zu den Armeen in den deutschen Ländern seit den Freiheitskriegen. Man liest Texte von Juden aus dem 19. Jh., die danach drängten als Freiwillige in den Armeen Preußens, Hannovers und Bayerns zu dienen. Sie leisteten dort viel zur Anerkennung der jüdischen Gemeinschaft, blieben aber in den meisten Fällen selbst bei größter militärischer Begabung oder vorbildlicher Tapferkeit im Gefecht ohne Aussicht auf Beförderung oder Aufnahme in das Offizierskorps. Sie wiederlegten immer wieder die damaligen Vorurteile vom kriegsuntauglichen Juden, wurden hochdekoriert, kämpften tapfer und treu, waren loyal und vaterländisch gesinnt. To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars
A remarkable tour de force of German Jewish military history - November 22, 2014 By Dr. S. Issrof

Peter Applebaum is a retired Professor of Microbiology, an unusual background for a military Historian specialising in WW1 German Jewish soldiers. This book is based on a lot of primary source material, not available to non-German speakers. His prior knowledge of German facilitated this work.
It is estimated that 100,000 Jews served in the German army, around 80,000 fought in the frontlines. The causalities were high, over 12% were killed, died, or went missing in action. More than 2,000 became officers. About one third were decorated, 23,000 promoted. The opening chapter deals with the century before WW1, as he states the role of Jews in the German forces in WW1 can't be understood without the context of Jews in the armies of the German states, the Prussian Wars of Liberation and the fight for equal rights. From 1813 Jews became eligible for conscription but could volunteer. The new laws of 1869-1871 guaranteed equal rights in all aspects to Jews. Despite exclusion from many fields Jews excelled in others.
To read the entire review click here

Emmanuel Saul's Poem To My Children inspired Arthur Cross painting The Loyal Stepson

Arthur Cross, Artist


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