1. Rank and File
Roughly 1.35 million Jews fought in
World War I, in the following armies:
500,000 – Russian
320,000 – Austro-Hungarian
250,000 – American
100,000 – German
55,000 – French
35,000 – British
2. Jew against Jew
In dozens of documented cases, Jews under opposing national flags fought and killed each other. Many Jewish authors later gave their experiences literary form. (See “War of Words,” p. 62.)
3. Gone Forever
Some 12,000 Jews were killed in the German army alone, amounting to 12% of the German Jews who enlisted. No other powers specified Jewish casualties.
4.Names of Peace
The number of Jewish children named Solomon (Shlomo) and Shulamith, both deriving from shalom, shot up during and shortly after the war. Many Jews hoped World War I would be the war to end all wars. Then came World War II, in which many of those Solomons and Shulamiths were murdered along with millions of other Jews.
5. Spanish Flu
Tens of thousands of Jews, civilians as well as soldiers, were killed in the war, but who knows how many more succumbed to the Spanish flu, which ravaged Western Europe in 1918–9? The epidemic claimed fifty million lives worldwide.
6. Fame and Glory
The five thousand Jewish soldiers who fought under their own national banner in the Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion were the best-known Jewish combatants in World War I. They constituted only one-seventh of the Jewish soldiers serving in His Majesty’s forces, and not even a third of a percent of all Jews fighting in the war, but their political importance as a visibly Jewish unit far exceeded their numbers.
Many Jews were decorated for bravery by both Allied armies and the Central Powers, though the Nazis subsequently stripped all German Jewish veterans of their medals.
7. Ask the Rabbi
Every army counted rabbis among its ranks, while some even had Jewish chaplains. But there was no kosher food, so observant Jewish soldiers had to fend for themselves and eat what they could.
8. Systematic Massacre
The German army systematically terrorized the inhabitants of the areas it conquered, particularly in France and Belgium. German soldiers murdered thousands of innocent civilians and burned down entire villages. Combined with the massacre of Armenians all over the Ottoman Empire by the kaiser’s Turkish allies, these atrocities set the stage for the German genocide of World War II.