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2015 exhibition:

The Jewish Chaplains in the War of 1914-1918 



Opening of the exhibition of Jewish Chaplains in the War of 1914-1918 on Sunday May 1, 2015.




















Placed under the patronage of the Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia, this exhibition was an opportunity to commemorate the centenary of the "Great War", with the theme: the role of Jewish chaplains, both French and German, during the hostilities .

The afternoon opened with a presentation by Mrs. Véronique Dubois, one of the few women chaplains, and continued with the discovery of the exhibition.

















A large place was made there for the mythical character of the Grand Rabbi Abraham Bloch , who died while handing a crucifix to a dying Christian soldier. His grandson, Paul Netter came especially to the Judeo-Alsatian Museum to speak passionately about his ancestor to whom he had just devoted a very documented work.

Jonathan Blum, talented synagogue cantor and chaplain, broke the austerity of the afternoon with vibrant liturgical songs in a packed hall that was honored by religious dignitaries with their presence, chaplains of the three denominations "in full uniforms" emphasizing the multi-confessional character.

This very beautiful, richly documented exhibition was produced within the AMJAB by a working group led by Malou Schneider.

Véronique Dubois durant son intervention

2015 Exhibition: The Jewish Chaplains in the War of 1914-1918

In commemoration of the Great War, the Judeo-Alsatian Museum has chosen to devote an exhibition on the role of Jewish chaplains, both French and German, during the hostilities of 1914-1918.

This major exhibition is divided into two parts: the first paying homage to Abraham Bloch and the second dedicated to the "Feldrabbiner" in the German army.

Abraham Bloch, a Chief Rabbi in the Great War

Abraham Bloch (7 November 1859 - 29 August 1914)  was the grandson of Moïse Bloch, the 'Hokhem' of Uttenheim, and the first cousin of Rabbi Armand Bloch of Saverne.


Born in Paris in 1859, he studied at the seminary between 1877 and 1883.


In 1884, he became rabbi in Remiremont then Grand Rabbi of Algiers in 1897. 11 years later, in 1908, he returned to France to become Grand Rabbi of Lyon.


Abraham enlisted as a military chaplain when the Great War began. Struck by shrapnel as he attempted to bring a crucifix to a dying soldier, whom he had taken for a priest, he died on the battlefield located in the_cc781905 -5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_col d'Anozel, near the village of Taintrux, in the Vosges.

Abraham Bloch


Many illustrations represent this scene, such as paintings, postcards, statues, etc.

Abraham Bloch

Vintage postcard - coll. © M.& A. Rothé


Abraham Bloch rests today in Taintrux, a small village in the Vosges near Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.


A stele, recalling this terrible event and to celebrate the hero of the First World War, was erected on the initiative of the Patriotic Union of French Israelites in 1934. Inaugurated by Grand Rabbi Kaplan, it has been restored and practically brought back to life. new.

The "Feldrabbiner" in the German Army

More than 100,000 German Jews (not including Austro-Hungarians) were drafted into the Imperial German Army during the "Great War". Among them many volunteers. 


These German Jews  sincerely wanted to demonstrate to anti-Semitic Germany that they  were patriots as convinced as Catholics and Protestants.

In doing so, they demanded full integration into German society and culture as loyal fellow citizens, with no difference other than their religion. 


The synagogues resounded with prayers for the Kaiser and calls for courage and sacrifice to defeat an enemy who betrayed “  plus 

holy divine commandments ", without even asking the question of humanity or the religions of the opposite camp. 


The Kaiser therefore authorized, for the first time in September 1914,  the appointment of these Israelite military chaplains on all fronts.


These had to possess both a military rank to demonstrate that they had served the country, and to have served as rabbi of a community. They had to know how to ride a horse to visit all the combat units in a 200km sector. 


In tout, there were about thirty of them. And probably more,  in all arms, and from all streams of Judaism, from the strictest Orthodox to the liberal, passing through the convinced Zionist.


Regulations, these "Feldrabbiner" carried a revolver on the "feldgrau " uniform, embellished with an armband with the red cross and a chain bearing a medallion representing the Star of David.  Indemnified by the Ministry of War, their pay has never equaled that of their Christian colleagues. 

Many of them proudly wore the Iron Cross, as well as other decorations, in recognition of commendable behavior to the enemy, before or during their ministries. 


On the Eastern Front, the Kaiser and Marshals Ludendorff and Hindenburg personally encouraged Rabbi Leopold Rosenack in 1916 to the establishment of Jewish schools and community structures in territories captured from the Tsar, in order to convince Russian Jews to join Germany. 


The   "Feldrabbiner" were therefore the mirror of the German Jewish community, representing this need for integration through the recognition of their loyalty to the Reich through their presence in_cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b- 136bad5cf58d_ first lines of the various fronts, those who had only acquired  German nationality in 1871. 


However, as the war dragged on, the old German anti-Semitism resurfaced, in public opinion as well as in the press, and even in the Reichstag. 


In 1916, the Kriegsministerium undertook a census of Jewish soldiers, unlike Christian soldiers who did not have to fill out any form.

The purpose of this form was to whether Jews voluntarily enlisted in the army and when they served. Indeed, if it could be shown that they were in the offices or at the back, then we would have proof that they were evading their duty.


“This census has demotivated the Jewish soldiers ,” wrote Rabbi Rosenack._cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b- 136bad5cf58d_ pointing fingers at us now! ”.


However, the results of this census were never published, which fueled many anti-Semitic rumours. , because hope for equality was fading. 


The reverses of the winter of 1916/1917 led to serious food difficulties. Jewish traders were therefore accused of withholding commodities for speculative purposes. 

The various factious leagues grew stronger and federated in 1917 to reach more than 200,000 members. They launched into anti-Semitic propaganda like Germany had never known. 

In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was denounced as a Jewish peace, and the Weimar Republic as a Jewish republic. The Jews had become the cause of all evil : capitalism, Bolshevism,  reviled democracy, and even modern art!_cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b-136bad5cf58d_

The "Feldrabbiner" tried to fight against these evil ideas. Ainsi Rosenack  had to be protected by the police when leaving the anti-Semitic meetings he tried to fight. He published a brochure printed in 60,000 copies to denounce received ideas. 

The disappointed hope of support from Ludendorff and Hindenburg with whom he had worked was felt by him as a bitter betrayal. 


Aron Tänzer was active for a long time in veterans' associations. When the Nazis expelled him, he wrote to the Veterans as a testament: “In thanks to the fatherland. For my funeral, no eulogy or prayer will be pronounced in German, only the customary prayers in Hebrew will be said. » 

If some "Feldrabbiner" were able to emigrate in time thanks to their connections, others refused to abandon their co-religionists to their now foreseeable fate, and disappeared in the Shoah. 

Sources:   Gerald BEYRODT “Hochdekoriert, dann deportiert – Jüdische Soldaten im ersten Weltkrieg” - Trad. RL

photo credit: internet

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