A sigh emitted because of a fellow's pain, breaks all the impenetrable barriers of the heavenly ‘accusers’. And when a person rejoices in the joy of his fellow and blesses him, it is as dear to God and accepted by Him as the prayers of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (The Baal Shem Tov), 1698-176

Peter C. Appelbaum

Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army During the First World War



Jacket Image: Chanukah 1916 on the Eastern Front.
(c) Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main

By Peter C. Appelbaum

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Publisher: Vallentine Mitchell & Co Ltd
Hard Cover: ISBN-13: 978-0853038474  
ISBN-10: 0853038473  Edition: annotated edition
Paperback: ISBN-13: 978-0853038283  
ISBN-10: 0853038287  Edition: Annotated edition

Approximately thirty Jewish chaplains served in the German army during the First World War. Their primary responsibilities lay in arranging services, visiting field hospitals, helping with correspondence, arranging burials, and distributing packages from home
.
On the Eastern Front, soup kitchens were organized for needy Jewish refugees made homeless by the mass expulsions of about one million Jews by the Tsarist army at the beginning of the war. Soldiers were cared for irrespective of faith. German military authorities supported the holding of services on Jewish High Holidays, other festivals, and the Sabbath. Services were held in barns, churches, ruined houses, caves, synagogues (where possible), and in the open; troops came from miles around to attend.

Jewish prisoners of war were included in chaplains’ duties where possible, and were included in services and festival celebrations. Passover and High Holiday services were held in the midst of the bloodiest battles of the war (Verdun, the Somme). Chaplains of West and East held regular conferences where matters such as troop welfare, religious services, kosher catering, the counteraction of anti-Semitism, Jewish prisoners of war, civilian welfare, and the publication of a Feldgebetbuch (military prayer book) were discussed.

Christian officers and men often participated in Jewish services and celebratory meals, which always included prayers for the Kaiser. In spite of their loyal service, between 1918 and 1941 all of these rabbis died, were incarcerated or were driven out of Germany, and at least four were murdered during the Holocaust.

Documents produced by Jewish chaplains include texts of sermons they delivered, diaries, articles written for Jewish journals, official reports sent to Army Headquarters, memoires written shortly after the war, and photographs. Here a selection have been translated into English for the first time, and richly annotated to provide a balanced view of the situation of Jews in the German army on the Western, Eastern and Balkan Fronts and also a glimpse into the vanished world of Eastern European Judaism.

This book is dedicated to the German rabbis who served, alongside their assistants, as chaplains during the First World War,some of whom gave their lives during the war for Volk and Fatherland, and some of whom were murdered during the Holocaust by the nation they had once served with such pride and devotion. Zachor [Remember].

Printing of this book was made possible by grants from Uri Tänzer in honour of his grandfather Rabbi Aron Tänzer, and the Ruth Ivor Foundation in honour of her grandfather Rabbi Bruno Italiener

Photo on left below below: Rabbi Siegfried Alexander at a memorial service in Berlin Weissensee cemetery in 1936 commemorating the 12,500 Jews who died for Germany during World War One (after propagation of the Nürnberg racial laws). (Centrum Judaicum, Berlin: Feldrabbinersonderausstellung Schnaitach, Franconia; July, 2010). Copyright collection Abraham Pisarek
Photo on right below is Siegfried Alexander during the WWI (Hannah Goldwyn, private collection)

 

Photo Below: Yom Kippur service in Brussels, 1915 apparently organized by Offizierstellvertreter Baum (Leo Baeck Institute, NYC). Copyright LBI NYC



Reviews

First World War Studies, Volume 6, March 2015, pages 111-112

Reviewer: Brian E. Crim, Associate Professor of History, Lynchburg College. Lynchburg, VA.

Jewish military chaplain Bruno Italiener expressed a sentiment shared by his colleagues who spent four years tending to the religious needs of thousands of German-Jewish soldiers serving in the Imperial Army: ‘If this war were to bring us Jews nothing else but greater understanding from, and greater inner closeness with, our Christian fellowcitizens, then that would already be a prize that we German Jews would receive with special joy’ (139). In many ways Italiener was vindicated, as evidenced by numerous accounts of shared sacrifice, comradeship, and the non-denominational commemoration of the fallen recorded by Jewish soldiers during and after the conflict. Yet the weight of both the military’s institutional anti-Semitism embodied by the infamous Judenza¨hlung (Jew census) of 1916 and the virulent wave of anti-Semitism in postwar society overshadowed Jews’ perceptions of national belonging. Peter Appelbaum’s edited collection of diaries and personal reflections from nearly a dozen Jewish chaplains active on both war fronts reminds us of German Jews’ tragically misplaced faith in the ‘spirit of 1914’ and the frailty of the civil truce proclaimed by Kaiser Wilhelm when Germany declared war. Many of the chaplains featured remained confident that the Kriegserlebnis (war experience) ultimately trumped facile social and religious divisions, even as the Reich collapsed around them.

 Appelbaum’s book is a straightforward volume of sources translated into English by a retired medical doctor passionate about recovering the history and legacies of the Imperial Army’s 30 Jewish chaplains. He personally collected and translated diaries, memoirs and other materials from German archives and personal holdings. Noted historian Michael Meyer contributes a useful historical introduction, but otherwise the book contains the chaplains’ experiences in their own words with nominal contextual remarks from Appelbaum. The result is a valuable primary source for anyone interested in a relatively unexplored aspect of the German Jewish experience during the First World War. While Rabbi Leo Baeck is a known figure, most of the chaplains profiled were accomplished, yet unassuming men more willing to reveal their opinions than the reticent Baeck. Equally interesting are the mundane details of daily life as a military chaplain, specifically the difficulty of travel, the psychological burden of attending to the dead and dying, or simply arranging appropriate accommodations for religious services in strange French or Polish towns with minimal infrastructure. Jewish chaplains, unlike their Christian counterparts, were volunteers funded by Jewish communities across Germany and aided by the nationalist Verband der deutschen Juden, which lobbied the Imperial Army to sanction the 30 rabbis. The chaplains cared for Jews and non-Jews alike, met with Jewish POWs from various foreign armies, and confronted the so-called Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews) with a combination of fascination, reverence, pity and sometimes revulsion. These encounters among others constitute the majority of the rabbis’ reminisces.
While each chapter’s subject represents a different perspective on the war experience, every rabbi spoke of bridging the artificial divide between ‘Jewishness’ and ‘Germanness’. George Salzenberger noted that the war undermined anti-Semitism’s efficacy, especially in Germany: ‘This war shows that Germans and Jews are both unloved if not hated by others because they are misunderstood’ (p. 31). Germany’s war, he reasoned, is also a war to save European Jews from hostile governments and ignorant populations. Salzenberger excoriated French anti-Semitism just as other chaplains assigned to the East blamed pogroms on the inherent savagery of the Russian mentality. On the other hand, many chaplains claimed that German anti-Semitism was mitigated by the power of the civil truce and continual examples of Jewish heroism. Several of Appelbaum’s subjects are more critical of their fellow Jews than the casual anti-Semites populating their daily lives. Salzenberger cautioned soldiers to accept that they are in fact their brother’s keeper. ‘If you, as a Jewish soldier, exhibit lack of discipline and insubordination, your Jewish brothers will pay the price . . . . If you are not honest and just in word and deed, you desecrate the name “Jew”’ (p. 252). The veterans organization National Association of Jewish Front Soldiers (Reichsbund ju¨discher Frontsoldaten) continued this effort to publicize Jewish contributions while seeking to ‘improve’ German Jewry as an antidote to rising anti-Semitism.
The collection seems oddly titled – considering that most of the subjects never communicated a sense of betrayal or hostility towards the German government or military and most of the book concerns the chaplains’ experiences during the war, not after. Appelbaum concludes with a short epilogue detailing the fates of the chaplains during the Third Reich, revealing that while most emigrated to safety, five perished in the Holocaust. In addition, the volume includes several useful appendices providing biographical data on every rabbi, their assistants, and the names and ranks of rabbis who served as soldiers. As we continue to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is worth noting that many aspects of the tragedy continue to elude us. The contributions of these 30 Jewish chaplains deserve recognition and their reflections reveal much about the hopes and disappointments of German Jews in the midst of total war. Peter Appelbaum’s effort in translating and editing these sources is commendable; researchers and advanced students will surely benefit from them.

Humanities and Social Sciences Online H-War January,2015

Kauffman on Appelbaum, 'Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army during the First World War'
Reviewed by Jesse Kauffman (Eastern Michigan)

Publised on H-War (January, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

The Kaiser's Loyal Rabbis
Scholars of the First World War and of the history of German Jews will find a great deal of useful material in this book. However, the publisher should have made it clear what this volume is a collection of primary sources produced by German army rabbis during the Great War and collected, translated, and annotated by Peter Appelbaum.

Loyalty Betrayed opens with an eloquent foreword by the London-based rabbi and scholar Jonathan Wittenberg, who has a personal connection to this volume; his grandfather served as Jewish chaplain in the German army during the First World War, and is one of the rabbis whose memoirs are translated here. Wittenberg's account is followed by a series of introductory essays, one by historian Michael Meyer and one by Appelbaum, providing historical background on Jewish chaplains and soldiers in Germany's militaries prior to and during the First World War. In addition to providing important historical context, the three introductory essays touch on themes that are embedded in the documents that follow. Many German Jews of the era of the Great War, they note, were intensely patriotic and, far from seeing some sort of conflict between their German and Jewish identities, believed them to be deeply intertwined--even mutually reinforcing. At the same time, however, many of them believed that they were not fully accepted as equals by their co-nationals. While the men whose sources are collected in this volume seem to have experienced very little hostility or bigotry in the army, their fate at the hands of the Nazis--many fled the country, and a few were murdered in the Holocaust--represented, as the title of the book notes, a terrible, tragic betrayal of their sacrifices and their loyalty. In this sense, the story of the rabbis represents the story of Germany's Jews as a whole.

Appelbaum includes in this collection excerpts from published wartime sermons, a postwar essay by Reinhold Lewin on what Lewin believed to be the deep rooted anti-Semitism of the German army, a chapter containing short excerpts from a variety of different sources, and the minutes of two meetings of Jewish military chaplains held during the war. The heart of the book, however, is the substantial collection of writing (mainly memoirs or other published accounts of their wartime activities) by five army rabbis: Georg Salzberger, Martin Salomonski, Bruno Italiener, Aron Tänzer, and the distinguished rabbi and philosopher Leo Baeck. Each of these is followed by a helpful summary by Appelbaum (though these are confusingly labeled "Author's Summary" rather than "Editor's Summary"). Equally helpful are the expository notes provided by Appelbaum, who explains the biblical references and the Jewish terms and customs mentioned in the rabbis' texts. Appelbaum also provides detailed information on the diseases, wounds, and other medical issues discussed by them. Appelbaum is uniquely qualified to explain this, since he enjoyed a long and distinguished career in microbiology (he holds both an MD and a PhD and is Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Penn State) before taking up his vocation as a historian.

In their writings, the rabbis vividly evoke the strenuous nature of their day-to-day lives at war, as they organize religious services, compose sermons, visit the sick and wounded in hospitals, preside over burials, and write to the grieving families of the fallen. All of this was very similar to the duties performed by their Christian colleagues, but given the centrality of communal meals to Jewish religious observances, the rabbis are also constantly searching out sources of food and drink. All of this provides insight not only into Jewish life in the German army during the war, but also into the nature of the war in the rear areas under military command, as well as how the bureaucracy and command structure of the German military functioned.

Beyond this, the richness of these documents will allow for scholars to use them to explore a great variety of topics and questions. The amount of time the rabbis spend in hospitals, for example, combined with Appelbaum's knowledgeable notes, make these excellent sources for students of military medicine during the war. (One of the most refreshing qualities of this book is that Appelbaum does not treat disease as a cultural trope, but as a real and terrifying facet of everyday life.) Those more specifically interested in Jewish history will find here much to ponder and analyze--especially regarding the nationalism of the rabbis, as well as their views of other Jews, both eastern and western. (Aron Tänzer reacts angrily to an "insolent letter from the chief physician of Reserve Wunderlich ... [a] meshuggene monster and fanatical Zionist from the Frankfurt orthodox community. Miserable rabble," he concludes [p. 212]). The impact of Germany's callous and clumsy "Jewish count" on the men is also illustrated; Georg Salzberger in particular is enraged, and powerfully evokes its psychological and emotional impact: "Every Company Clerk received the 'secret decree,' misunderstood it or had to misunderstand it, and acted as if he himself was from now on authorized, even duty-bound, to investigate his Jewish comrades, even Jewish officers and physicians, for slacking. And this too was calculated to undermine harmony, if not authority as well. The chasm between Jews and Christians, which had once been bridged, opened up again. The Jew felt marked.... One good thing has resulted, however: it has welded Jews together. Antagonisms between liberal and orthodox, Zionist and 'assimilationists' had already receded greatly. But now, in the field, in the face of our common distress, everything which separates us has been forgotten. People who before wanted to know nothing about their Jewish faith are at once emphatically reminded of it" (pp. 74-75).

By translating these sources and making them widely available, Peter Appelbaum has done a great service to the scholarly community. Perhaps less obviously, the clarity of the translations and the evocative nature of much of the writing make these documents well suited for use in a variety of courses, including those for undergraduates.

The Times Literary Supplement Published: 28 March 2014

Reviewed by Edward Timms
LOYALTY BETRAYED Jewish Chaplains in the German Army during the First World War
358pp. Vallentine Mitchell, £50 (US $79.95). 978 0 85303 847 4 by Peter C. Appelbaum


Census of 1916
For readers whose image of German - Jewish relations is overshadowed by the Nazi period, this book will come as a surprise. During the First World War, approximately thirty rabbis were appointed as army chaplains to support the spiritual needs and social welfare of the tens of thousands of Jews who served in the German army. Peter C. Appelbaum deserves considerable credit for having collected, edited and translated the diaries and memoirs of the most notable of these chaplains, including Leo Baeck and Georg Salzberger. The title Loyalty Betrayed sounds particularly apt when we recall that a mere twenty-five years later Salzberger was compelled to flee to England to escape persecution, while Baeck was imprisoned in Theresienstadt.

The documentation presented in Appelbaum's book, introduced by Michael Meyer with a foreword by Jonathan Wittenberg, shows that during the First World War those rabbis, like the maJority of German citizens of Jewish faith, were loyal supporters of the Fatherland. Scholars may already be familiar with Salzberger's memoir, originally published in German in 1917, which stresses the spirit of solidarity that greeted the outbreak of war and offers vivid impressions of the Western Front.

Baeck's writings are more restrained, but he, too, praises the revival of Jewish piety created by the war, which he links with the virtues of German organization: "Jewish soldiers have, by order of the High Command, been given necessary leave for the festival of Sahvnot", he reports on May 18, 1915. Interfaith solidarity in the national cause is epitomized by one of the most striking photographs reproduced in this book: Leo Baeck in German military uniform, flanked by similarly dressed Catholic and Evangelical chaplains.

The most gripping section of the book is devoted to the writings of Aron Tänzer, which chronicle the experiences of a rabbi from Württemberg who served on the Eastern Front. Initial enthusiasm is displaced by a more sober account of the ordeals of service near the Front, recorded in increasingly fragmented diary notes as he traversed vast tracts of occupied Eastern Europe to comfort the wounded, and to conduct services for the Jewish festivals in both German and Hebrew. On November 28, 1915, at Kobryn, a town thronged with refugees, he notes the attendance of eight Christian officers in the synagogue. Shared experiences strengthened relations between the Jewish chaplaincy, local community leaders and the German military.

Tänzer's pastoral activities went far beyond the call of duty. Juggling his military duties with a passionate concern for displaced Russian and Polish Jews, he set up a network of soup kitchens for those impoverished by the war, using his influence with the High Command to obtain the necessary permissions, food supplies and support staff. A further striking photograph shows Tänzer standing proudly at the centre of a large group of soup-kitchen staff, wearing his officer's uniform with an armband denoting his pastoral status.

As an army chaplain, with the military rank of captain, he mediated between the German authorities and Jewish communities in many other ways. On June 1, 1916, Tänzer delivered a lecture on "The Culture of the Jews in Poland", which was so well received that the military command had it published for wider circulation. Working long hours, distributing charitable funds and risking his health and safety, Tänzer could be Justly proud of his achievements. His most astonishing initiative is a proposal dated April 10, 1916, about how funds raised in Berlin from the Jewish Benevolent Society should be used to protect vulnerable Jewish communities under the German occupation. "I receive another 10,000 marks. I support my plan for a Concentration Camp for the homeless and will supply a written explanation of the need for this". Clearly, he had a sheltered refugee camp in mind, but his wording is uncanny.

An encounter recorded in autumn 1917 confirmed Tänzer's standing with the High Command. He had Just returned from Berlin, having learnt that charities in the capital had no funds to support Jewish soldiers or other needy Jews in Poland. On September 13, he writes: "Visit to Excellence von Bernhardi who receives me in a very kindly way and requests a list of poor Jews, for the distribution of 1,000 marks". It seems strange to find a notorious German militarist supporting an altruistic rabbi - in 1911 Friedrich von Bernhardi had advocated pre-emptive military action in Germany and the Next War. But Tänzer, whose sons also served with distinction in the army, was so highly regarded that he was awarded the Iron Cross. So what went wrong? As the war entered its third year with no prospect of victory, the need to find a scapegoat for the failures and food shortages triggered a resurgence of anti-Semitism. Jewish profiteers were allegedly enriching themselves while honest German soldiers bled to death at the Front. In a misconceived attempt to check such rumours, the High Command instituted a census in autumn 1916 to ascertain whether Jews were indeed shirking their military duties. The results were never officially published, but the very existence of this Jewish Census appeared to confirm the malicious rumours. When a group of Jewish army chaplains met in Brussels on December 5, 1916, they deplored the humiliating effect the Census was having on the soldiers entrusted to their care.

Appelbaum's documentation shows that the resurgence of anti-Semitism placed patriotic Jews in an impossible position. At the beginning of the war, as Georg Salzberger observed in his diary, "all faiths were united as brothers". Now, he continued, it was almost impossible to comprehend why "such base suspicions and endless calumnies have been voiced so loudly against a portion of the nation that is surely second to none in its readiness to sacrifice and offer up blood and material possessions for the Fatherland".

The further biographical details and explanatory notes that conclude this well-researched and handsomely produced volume foreshadow the fateful consequences of the collapse of November 1918 and the unleashing of more venomous forms of anti-Semitism. When Leopold Rosenak, another influential rabbi who had served with Hindenburg on the Eastern Front, wrote to the Field Marshal in 1921, asking him to intervene, he was brushed off with an evasive reply. After Hindenburg was elected President of the Republic, Jewish war veterans enJoyed some measure of protection and public respect. But after his death in 1934, the Nazi government embarked on its unprecedented anti-Jewish campaign. Of the rabbis whose army service is chronicled more briefly in this book, five were murdered in the Holocaust. Tänzer was more fortunate in the sense that, after faithfully serving his Swabian community for many years, he died of natural causes in 1937. His children managed to escape abroad, but his widow Berta was deported to her death in Theresienstadt.

A remarkable feature of Loyalty Betrayed is that the author is a retired pathologist whose previous publications have been mainly in medical Journals. Peter Appelbaum, with his passionate interest in Jewish writing of the First World War, sets a shining example for mainstream scholars in the field. He has produced a landmark publication that transforms our understanding of German-Jewish relations at a decisive moment in modern history.

Amazon Reader Reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Important contribution to study of chaplains in World War One 18 Oct 2013 By P. Howson - Amazon UK

The contribution that chaplains made to the armies of World War One has attracted attention in recent years. Most of the work in English has concentrated on the experience of Church of England chaplains in the British army. This book is to be welcomed because not only does it look at chaplains from a different faith background but also those who were serving in the German army.
To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars

Loyalty and Betrayal 17 Nov 2013 By dlorah - Amazon UK
One of the great historical ironies is the fate of the Jews of Germany. During the 19th century there developed an intense German patriotism among them and many efforts were made to combine some form of `Germanness' and `Jewishness'.
To read the entire review click here


5.0 out of 5 stars

The Great War, as seen by German Jewish chaplains, now in English, with insightful commentary. More than timely after 100 years. November 24, 2013 By Uri H Taenzer - Amazon US Approximately sixteen million people died, among them nine million combatants and twenty million were wounded between 1914 and 1918 as a result the senseless conflict known as the “Great War.”
To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars

Exzellente Auswahl eindrucksvoller Tagebuchaufzeichnungen und Fotographien aus dem 1 WK 17. November 2013 Von Fritz - Amazon DE "Gute Deutsche und gute Juden", das sollten die jüdischen Soldaten der deutschen Armee im 1. WK nach Meinung der jüdischen Feldgeistlichen sein. To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars

... welch ein intimer Einblick in den 1. Weltkrieg!, 4. Dezember 2013
Von Hans Hubert Gerards - Amazon DE
Hier sind sie, die kleinen Leute, die Minderheiten, die sich für Deutschland eingesetzt haben, für Kaiser und Vaterland, in der Hoffnung, durch ihren Einsatz akzeptiert zu werden von ihren Mitbürgern und Nachbarn.
To read the entire review click here

5.0 out of 5 stars

Standardwerk, 1. Dezember 2013 - Von Gideon - Amazon DE
Lange musste die weltweite Forschung und der interessierte Laie warten, bis endlich eine wissenschaftlichen Ansprüchen genügende und zugleich allgemeinverständliche Abhandlung über die deutschen Militärrabbiner des Ersten Weltkrieges zur Verfügung steht. To read the entire review click here

Connect: contact@peterappelbaum.com

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