Jewish Soldiers in the First World War – First highly decorated, then deported

In sadness and dejection we remember the confident, courageous and brave, turned into disappointed, betrayed and ostracized Jewish soldiers and officers who fought for Germany in World War I and lost their lives.

Around 100,000 Jewish soldiers and officers fought in the German army in World War I, 78,000 of them from the front. 12,000 of them were killed. Thousands of Jewish soldiers and officers were badly wounded. About 30 percent of the Jewish fighters for Germany in World War I were decorated. Proportionally more Jewish than non-Jewish soldiers.

On November 1, 1916, a state-ordered statistical survey was carried out on the proportion of Jews in the German Army in the First World War, the so-called “Jewish census”, also: “Jewish statistics”. An analogous survey among Protestant and Catholic soldiers did not take place.

Enthusiastic and loyal to Germany, the Jewish soldiers first went to war. Their longing for social equality and equal treatment had still not been achieved: But they were “good Germans” and wanted to be seen and recognized as good Germans. In the war they proved their bravery a thousand times over.

They did not get recognition. It was soon to be their fault that Germany had no luck in the war. They were made responsible for shortages and undersupply. Now they were seen as stateless accomplices, as profiteers from the war, as slackers. Instead of being treated equally, they were denounced as the scapegoat for anything and everything. Jews were instrumentalized for the so-called “stab in the back” legend: a fictional fairy tale that said that the German army was not defeated by the opposing army coalition, but fell victim to the “internal enemies”. Besides the Social Democrats, the accused were primarily the Jews. The Peace Treaty of Versailles was denounced as a “Jewish peace”, the Weimar Republic as a “Jewish republic”. Jews should be to blame for everything and everyone: for capitalism, for Bolshevism, for the hated democracy.

Jewish soldiers in World War I. Only a little over two decades after the end of the First World War, most of the former soldiers were murdered in the German concentration camps. 

We remember in sadness and dejection. יְהִי זִכְרם בָּרוּךְ