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Second Edition, Volume 14: 238-241-249

Jewish Participation in World War I (by country)

U.S. 250,000

Great Britain 50,000

British Commonwealth 8,000

Czarist Russia 450,000

Austria-Hungary 275,000

Italy 8,000

France 35,000

Germany 90,000

Bulgaria 6,000

TOTAL 1,172,000


Jewish Participation in World War II (by country).

U.S. 550,000

Great Britain


South Africa

Australia and New Zealand

Palestinian Units in British army














France 35,000

Poland 140,000

Czechoslovakia 8,000

TOTAL 1,397,000


Number of Jewish Generals in the Soviet Army during World War II, by Corps

No. of Jewish Generals Corps

13 Engineering and Mechanical

13 Artillery

10 Tank

10 Medical

6 Infantry

5 Air Force Engineering

4 Air Force

4 Quartermaster Service

2 Veterinary

2 Navy

2 Cavalry

1 Communications



Jews served in the national armies of

most countries in which they settled. However, in many states

they were denied the right to bear arms before the 20t century

since they were considered to be second-class citizens,

not fit to fight for their country. A major consideration motivating

the Jewish desire to fight in the armed forces of the

countries of their adoption was that they hoped that the acceptance

of this obligation would entitle them to civic rights.

For this very reason, states which denied Jews civil rights

frequently restricted their service in their armies. In the 20t

century, however, Jews participated fully in modern warfare

as the Table: Jewish Participation in World War I and Table:

Jewish Participation in World War II show.

The figures in the table for the world wars were published

by the United Nations and do not include Jewish partisans

who fought against Nazi Germany. Jews served in all the services

and a few became army commanders, for example the

Italian general, Giorgio *Liuzzi. In the early years of Israeli

statehood, the military achievements of the Israel Defense

Forces during the *War of Independence (1948–9), the *Sinai

Campaign of 1956, and the *Six-Day War (1967) focused attention

on the quality of the Jewish soldier.

United States of America

Jews first did military service early in the colonial period in

the form of militia duty. Asser *Levy insisted on his right to

standing figure of the post-World War I period was General

Vilmos Böhm (1880–1947) who was commander in chief of

the Hungarian army during the four-month Soviet dictatorship

of Béla *Kun in 1919.


Following the Revolution of February 1917, Jews were granted

equal rights and for the first time were allowed to become

army officers. Many were transferred to officers’ schools and

on graduating received the rank of sub-officer (praporshchik).

When the Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917,

many Jewish soldiers fought in the Red Army organized by

Leon *Trotsky, aided by Skliansky and Jacob Sverdlov. Four

divisional commanders were Jews and a few units consisted

solely of Jews such as the brigade commanded by Joseph Furman.

After the civil war J.B. Goldberg became commander of

a reserve army. Among Jews who obtained senior army commands

were Grigori Stern, Jan Gamarnik, and Feldman. Most

of them were executed during Stalin’s purges, a notable exception

being Stern, who was sent to the Far East (1935), where he

routed the Japanese army which had invaded Soviet territory.

He later commanded the Soviet Far Eastern Forces with the

rank of full general and drove the Japanese from Mongolian

territory. Stern’s army was assisted by air force units under

Yaacov *Shmushkevich, appointed commander in chief of the

Soviet air force in 1940.

WORLD WAR II. Following the outbreak of World War II, the

Soviet Union annexed the Baltic state and territories in eastern

Poland and Belorussia thus incorporating a large number of

Jews within its borders. After the German invasion of Russia,

Polish and Belorussian soldiers in the Soviet army were considered

of suspect loyalty and were transferred to labor battalions.

In December 1941, however, the order was revoked and

Jews from the Baltic states were permitted to serve in all units

of the Soviet army. Subsequently four Lithuanian Jews were

made Heroes of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Jewish historian

Jacob Kantor estimated that almost half a million Jews fought

in the Soviet army in World War II of whom at least 140 were

awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union (the official Soviet

figure is 107). Jews constituted a disproportionately large number

of senior officers, largely because the percentage of Jews

having a university education was higher than that of other

nationalities. More than 100 Jews held the rank of general (see

the partial Table: Jewish Generals in the Soviet Army).

Jewish generals were particularly prominent as field

commanders, notably General Jacob *Kreiser. Other Jewish

commanders at the battle of Stalingrad included Lt. Gen. I.S.

Beskin and Major Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Matvey Weinrub. Jewish

generals also held key commands during the final assault

on Berlin. Lieutenant General Hirsh Plaskov was artillery

commander of the Second Guards Army, Lieutenant General

Semion Krivoshein commanded one of the first corps to

break into Berlin in the spring of 1945, and Lieutenant General

Weinrub was artillery commander of the Eighth Guards

Army. Special mention should also be made of the Jewish Cossack

commander, Major General Lev Dovator, who was killed

during the first Soviet offensive in December 1941, Lieutenant

General David Dragunski, who was twice made a Hero of the

Soviet Union, and Major Caesar Konikov, whose courageous

defense of the fishing village of Stanichka for seven months

led to the village being renamed Kunikovo after his death. In

addition Colonel General Leonti Kotlyar was commander

of the engineering corps and six Jews held the rank of major

general in the medical services (where there were a large

number of Jewish doctors and nurses): Vovsy, Levitt, David

Entin, Reingold, Gurvich, and Slavin. A number of Jews were

given the award Hero of the Soviet Union in the Soviet air

force, among them Michael Plotkin, who flew in the first Soviet

bombing raid on Berlin in August 1941, Henryk Hofman,

and four women: Polina Gelman, Zina Hofman, Lila Litvak,

and Rachel Zlotina, who belonged to a women’s air regiment.

Two Jewish Soviet submarine commanders became Heroes

of the Soviet Union – Israel Fisanovich and Isaac Kabar – as

did Abraham Sverdlov who commanded a flotilla of torpedo

boats. Jews were also prominent among the partisans, constituting

more than 20,000 men in separate units in the Polish-

Russian border areas. The official Soviet history of the war

mentions the names of several Jewish partisan heroes, among

them N.S. Kagan, one of seven Moscow Komsomol members

hanged by the Germans while on a mission behind enemy

lines, L.E. Bernstein, commander of the Pozharski unit which

joined the Slovak rising against the Germans, and Vladimir

Epstein, who escaped from Auschwitz to form a partisan unit

in Poland. (See also *Partisans.)

AFTER WORLD WAR II. Although famous Jewish generals

such as Dragunski and Kreiser retained their popularity after

World War II, Soviet policy toward the Jewish soldier changed

for the worse, in accordance with general Soviet policy toward

the Jews. It is believed that nearly all the Jewish generals of

World War II were retired by 1953 as were nearly 300 Jewish

colonels and lieutenant colonels. By 1970 the number of Jewish

senior officers on active service in the Soviet army had

declined drastically.


Before the beginning of the 19t century Jews were forbidden

to bear arms in any of the Italian states or to be a member of

any military organization. The French Revolution, however,

led to the demand for equal rights in Italy as elsewhere and

the Jews were among the beneficiaries of progressive legislation.

Following the conquest of north Italy by Napoleon, Italian

Jews even established their own units and fought with the

emperor all over Europe. However, during the reactionary period

in north Italy following the final defeat of Napoleon in

1815, Jews were debarred from military service. After the decree

of March 1848 granting Jews full equality in Piedmont, 235

Jews volunteered for the Piedmontese army in the war against

Austria. Enrico *Guastalla was among the Italian soldiers who

captured Rome in 1849, and among the Piedmontese troops

fighting on the allied side in the Crimean War (1854–6) was

Colonel Cesare Rovighi who later became aide-de-camp to

King Victor Emanuel I. In the war against Austria, 1859–0,

260 Jews volunteered for the Piedmontese armies and several

were awarded medals. There were 11 Jews among the 1,000 led

by Garibaldi who captured southern Italy and Sicily from the

Bourbons and Enrico Guastalla later became one of Garibaldi’

chief lieutenants. In 1870, 236 Jews were among the victorious

Italian army which conquered Rome. Jewish soldiers

were subject to no restrictions in the army of united Italy

and the percentage of Jewish officers was disproportionately

large. Many Jews held the rank of general in the Italian army.

They included Lieutenant General Achille Coen (1851–925),

Lieutenant General Emanuele *Pugliese, Lieutenant General

Roberto *Segre, Lieutenant General Angelo *Arbib (Arbid),

Lieutenant General Angelo Modena, and others. Other Jewish

soldiers rose to high military rank, among them Lieutenant

General Giuseppe *Ottolenghi who was minister of war

from 1902 to 1904. In all, several thousand Jewish officers and

men fought in the Italian army in World War I.

Other Jewish officers included four major generals: Carlo

Archivolti (1873–944), Armando *Bachi, Adolfo Olivetti

(1878–944), and Giacomo Almagia (1876–947), and 12 brigadier

generals. Five Jews became admirals in the Italian navy.

Augusto Capon, Franco Nunes (1868–943), and Guido Segre

(1871–942) were full admirals, and Vice Admiral Paolo Marani

(1884–950) and Rear Admiral Aldo Ascoli (1882–956) commanded

ships in the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. In November

1938 a new law was promulgated prohibiting Jews from serving

in the armed forces and all the Jewish generals and admirals

were forced to retire. During World War II no Jews fought

in the army of Benito Mussolini, and some joined the partisan

underground movement. Nevertheless two Jews were specially

recalled to service because of particular skills: these were Rear

Admiral Pontremoli and Major General Umberto Pugliese

(1880–961). The latter was given the task of raising Italian naval

vessels sunk by the British at Taranto. After World War II Giorgio

*Liuzzi who was one of the senior officers retired in 1938

was recalled to active service and was chief of staff of the Italian

army from 1956 to 1958 with the rank of lieutenant general.


In the early Middle Ages, Jews were accorded the right to bear

arms. Later on, however, with the deterioration in their social

and political standing after the upheavals of the *Crusades,

this right was gradually withdrawn until by the middle of the

13t century Jews, numbered with women, children, and clerics,

as being forbidden to bear arms. Exceptions to this rule

were rare during the following centuries (see Jud *Michel),

though Jews were very prominent as military *contractors

(purveyors of livestock, fodder, food, uniforms, etc.) in the

17t and 18t centuries.

The first German Jews conscripted in modern times were

from the left bank of the Rhine occupied by revolutionary and

Napoleonic France. German states under French influence

followed suit (*Westphalia). In 1812 Prussia decreed that Jews

were liable to military service and when the War of Liberation

broke out a year later many hundreds volunteered, 82 of them

receiving decorations. Nevertheless, Frederick William II repudiated

his promise that war veterans could receive positions,

irrespective of religion, and even wounded veterans suffered

discrimination. The sole Jewish officer in the army during his

reign was Major Meno Burg (1787–853), who owed his position

to the influence of the king’ brother, the commander of

the artillery. It was commonly accepted that Jews were inferior

soldiers and that their service was mainly of educational

and assimilatory value.

In 1845 the first Jewish officers were commissioned into

the Prussian reserve forces, the Landwehr. Until about 1885,

Jewish officers, primarily university graduates, were commissioned

by co-option; but after this date virtually none became

officers, despite their exemplary service in the Austro-Prussian

(1866) and Franco-Prussian (1870–71) wars, because of growing

antisemitism. An exception was Walther von *Mossner, the

sole senior Jewish officer in the Prussian army, and he owed his

position to personal connections with the king and converted

to Christianity during his career. Most German states followed

Prussia’s discriminatory policy (particularly Hanover) while

others were more liberal, Bavaria permitting Jewish officers

to rise to the upper ranks in the standing army. During the

1848 Revolution Jews enlisted in the National Guard, where

they were reluctantly accepted. That year the first Jewish doctor

was commissioned in Prussia, and subsequently, due to

the lack of physicians, the medical corps harbored Jewish officers

in large numbers without permitting them to become

senior officers.

Many thousands of Jews fought in the German army in

World War I. About 2,000 Jewish officers were commissioned

and 12,000 Jews were killed in battle. Nevertheless, during and

after the war there was an ugly upsurge of accusations that

Jews had either not enlisted or shirked front-line service. To

combat this propaganda the Reichsbund juedischer Frontsoldaten,

an association of Jewish war veterans, was founded. In

1917 the War Ministry ordered a thorough survey conducted

to find the number and proportion of Jews serving in frontline

units. The results and the dubious manner in which they

had been obtained became the subject of a bitter public controversy.

In fact, the percentage of Jews was almost equal to

that of Christians; that it was not higher is explained by the diminishing

birthrate among German Jewry (between 1880 and

1930) which resulted in a lower proportion of those of military

age relative to the non-Jewish population. After World War I

the small professional army of the Weimar Republic contained

few Jews, who were all removed in 1933.

[Henry Wasserman]


During the Middle Ages Jews were generally excluded from

military service except in times of emergency. Their position

remained unchanged until 1789 when, following the outbreak

of the French Revolution, all Frenchmen, including Jews, were

made liable for military service. Many Jews served in Napoleon’s

armies, among them Brigadier General Marc-Jean-Jerome

Wolffe (1776–1848) who commanded the first cavalry

brigade of the Grande Armée and Captain Alexandre Marcquefoy

who was awarded the Legion of Honor by Napoleon

himself; 800 Jews were estimated to be serving under Napoleon

in 1808, among them a number of Italians and Poles.

Berek (Berko) *Joselewicz, the Polish patriot, commanded a

regiment in Napoleon’s Polish Legion. The outstanding Jewish

soldier in Napoleon’s army was Henri *Rottenbourg who

was made major general in 1814. Nevertheless, conditions of

the Jewish soldiers were made difficult by the refusal of many

commanding officers to allow Jews into their ranks and the

restrictions on the rights of promotion.

During the early part of the 19t century an increasing

number of Jews fought in the French army and a few achieved

considerable prominence, among them Colonel Martin Cerfbeer,

Captain Abraham Lévy, Captain M. Vormess, and Captain

Benoît Lévy who were all awarded the Legion of Honor.

No exact details are available as to the number of Jews who

fought in the Crimean War (1854–6) but several won awards

for gallantry, among them Leopold *See and Colonel Abraham

Lévy. In the Italian war of 1859 See and Lévy were again

decorated as was Major Adolph Abraham, and in the Franco-

Prussian War (1870–1), Colonel Jules Moch and Captain Halphen

broke through the Prussian lines after the French army

had been surrounded at Metz. In that war Major Franchetti

was posthumously decorated having fallen during the siege

of Paris. During the Third Republic (1870–940), Jews entered

the French army in unprecedented numbers and 23 rose to

the rank of general. Although subject to no official restrictions,

Jews were frequently the target of antisemitic attacks,

the most notable occasion being the *Dreyfus case. The outstanding

Jewish officers of the period before World War I

were: Major Generals Leopold See, Aimé *Lambert, Abraham

Lévy, and Naquet-Laroque (1843–921), and Brigadier

Generals Edgar Wolffe (c. 1840–901), Gabriel Gustave Brisac

(1817–. 1890), Adolphe Hinstin (c. 1820–. 1890), Bernard

Abraham (1824–. 1900), and Adolphe Aron (c. 1840–. 1910).

On the outbreak of World War I, several hundred Jews vol-


for the French army, among them captains Charles

Lehmann and René Frank, both of whom had fought in the

Franco-Prussian War 44 years earlier. About 50,000 French

Jews, over 20 of the total Jewish population, fought in the

French army between 1914 and 1918, and an additional 4,000

Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe volunteered. Twelve

French Jews held the rank of general, among them Lieutenant

General Valabrègue, Major Generals Naquet-Laroque and

Justin Dennery (1847–928), who were recalled from retirement,

Major Generals Camille Baruch Levi (1860–933) and

Jules Heymann (1850–928) and Brigadier Generals René

Alexandre (1864–931), Lucien Lévi (1859–932), Paul Emile

Grumbach (1861–931), Gédéon Geismar (1863–931), and

André Weiller (1865–. 1940). Of 39 French Jewish airmen

who fought in World War I, all but four were killed in battle

and the total number of French Jews killed in action exceeded

8,000. Several Jews rose to the rank of general after

World War I, among them Major General Pierre Boris, Major

General Raymond Laroque and Brigadier General Albert

Baumann (1869–945).

Before the French collapse in June 1940 General Boris

was made general inspector of the French artillery. Major

General Charles Huntzinger and Major General Pierre

Brisac were all permitted by the Vichy régime to retain their

rank despite the racial laws against Jews. Similarly the Vichy

régime gave Samuel Meyer the award of the Legion of Honor

for bravery while André Gutman received the award of the

Croix de Guerre for bravery in action. The French army included

one regiment almost entirely made up of Polish Jews.

Following the French defeat in June 1940 many French and

East European Jews joined the Free French under Charles

de Gaulle in London, among them Ingénieur-Général Louis

*Kahn who was director of naval construction. Jews were also

prominent in the French resistance, among them Roger Carcassonne

who led the resistance movement in North Africa.

In 1944, following the liberation of France, General Boris was

one of several Jewish officers reinstated in the French army,

and in 1945 General *Dassault commanded the French artillery.

After World War II a small number of Jews served in the

French army in Indo-China.


Jewish settlement had begun in Poland by the 12t century

and Jews were conscripted principally to reinforce the local

militia and help build fortifications. They were not expected

to take any important part in the Polish army until the Tatar

attacks on eastern Poland at the end of the 16t century. Jews

were recruited into defense units and some were taken prisoner,

a fact recorded in the orders of the Russian czar Michael

(1613–645). A Jewish unit was formed under the command of

one Mozko and in some cities the general mobilization of Jews

was ordered. Jews were also prominent in the wars against

Sweden (1655–0). During the 18t century, Catholic pressure

was brought to bear against Jews fighting in the Polish army

and the number of Jews serving fell from over 2,000 to a few

hundred. During the uprising in the year following the second

partition of Poland of 1793, numbers of Jews joined the revolutionary

army along with other Poles and many Jews fought

in the Polish force which drove the Russians out of Warsaw.

Later in 1794, a Jewish cavalry legion was formed under the

command of Berek Joselewicz, initially numbering 500 men

and later nearly 2,000. The Jewish legion distinguished itself

in the defense of Warsaw but was completely wiped out in the

Russian massacre in the suburb of Praga after the collapse of

the rebellion. At the turn of the 19t century a number of Jews

joined Napoleon’ army and fought for France in Italy and

Eastern Europe. Joselewicz himself commanded a regiment

of Polish cavalry, and another Polish Jew, Caspar Junghof, was

awarded the Legion of Honor. Similarly Jews volunteered for

the army of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw established by Napoleon

in 1807. Among them was Josef *Berkowicz, the son of

Joselewicz, who fought with other Poles in the French army

which invaded Russia in 1812.

After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Jews in the area of

Poland under czarist rule played an active part in the Polish

uprisings of 1830, 1848, and 1863. During World War I, Polish

Jews fought in units of both the armies of the Allies and the

central powers. A number of Polish Jews in the Russian Austro-

Hungarian and French armies were decorated. After the

war thousands of Jews fought in the Polish army against Russia,

among them Colonel Goldman, Colonel Karaffa-Kreutenkraft,

and Colonel Floyar-Reichman. Nevertheless, Polish

antisemitism permeated the army and all the other organs of

state, and although there were never less than 20,000 Jews in

the Polish army between the wars, very few Jewish soldiers

held high military rank. An outstanding exception was Bernhard

*Mond who was promoted to colonel in 1924 and on

the outbreak of World War II commanded the Fifth Infantry

Division with the rank of major general. The condition of the

Jewish soldier improved during the nine-year rule of Joseph

Pilsudski (1926–5) but deteriorated after his death. Nevertheless,

400,000 Jews were recruited into the Polish army on the

outbreak of World War II and many thousands were killed in

battle during the four weeks of fighting. A large number of

Jewish soldiers were taken prisoner by the Russians and interned

in the Soviet Union. In 1942 an agreement between

the U.S.S.R. and the Polish government in exile resulted in

the formation of a Polish army in Russia under General Anders.

Although Jews were generally excluded from this army,

usually on the pretext that they were unsuitable for military

service, 4,000 fought in General Anders’army in Western Europe

while over 5,000 Jews fought in a second Polish army in

Russia, a large number of them holding officer’ rank. In addition

many more Jews fought in Polish units serving in the

armies of other Allied states.

Despite the fact that the Jewish population of Poland was

decimated by the Holocaust, a large number of Jews joined the

Polish army and after World War II many held senior ranks.

Following the Six-Day *War in 1967, however, nearly all of

them were removed from their posts.


Romania became an independent kingdom in 1881. Restrictions

were subsequently placed upon the right of Jews to serve

in the armed forces despite the fact that nearly 1,000 Romanian

Jews had fought against the Turks in the Balkan War of

1877. An outstanding Jewish soldier in the Romanian army was

Colonel Maurice Brociner (1855–1942) who was decorated for

gallantry in 1877 and in 1882 was made secretary to Charles I,

king of Romania. In 1896 a law was enacted prohibiting Jews

from volunteering for the Romanian army but in 1913, following

the involvement of Romania in the Balkan Wars, the law

was rescinded. During World War I, 20,000 Jews fought in the

Romanian army, including several hundred officers. Thirtyseven

Jewish officers and 845 men were known to have died.

After World War I a large number of Jews served in the Romanian

army, and some rose to the rank of officer. During World

War II, however, Nazi pressure led the Romanian government

to remove all the Jews from the Romanian army. Few Jews

served in the army of Communist Romania after 1945.


Following Bulgarian independence in 1878 Jews were given

equal rights with the rest of the population. Bulgarian Jews

fought in the Turkish army when Bulgaria was under Turkish

rule, and after independence they joined the Bulgarian army

in the thousands. Many Jewish soldiers distinguished themselves

during the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885 and were described

by Prince Alexander of Bulgaria as “true descendants

of the ancient Maccabeans.” Despite growing antisemitism,

no restrictions were placed on Jews entering the army or even

the officers’ training schools. Five thousand Jews fought in the

Bulgarian army in the Balkan Wars (1912–13) and several hundreds

of them were killed. In World War I a number of Jews

reached senior army ranks, among them three Jewish colonels

Graziani, Tajar, and Mushanov. Over 700 Jews were killed in

the war, among them 28 officers. Between the wars, Jewish soldiers

continued to enjoy equal rights in the Bulgarian army

until 1940 when Bulgaria allied herself with Nazi Germany. All

Jews were removed from the Bulgarian army and organized

into labor units to perform manual work. Many of them were

later sent to concentration camps but some succeeded in joining

the partisans headed by the Fatherland Front. After the

war most of Bulgaria’s surviving Jews emigrated to Israel and

hardly any joined the army of Communist Bulgaria.


Greek Jews were subject to continual persecution for many

years after Greek independence in 1821. Very few Jews joined

the army until the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War of 1897

in which 200 Jews fought in the Greek army. Abraham Matalon

rose to the rank of colonel during World War I and was

one of several Jewish soldiers to have been decorated. The

total number of Greek Jews fighting in World War I was estimated

at 500. Many Jews fought in the Greek army against

Italy in 1940 and by 1942, when the Germans invaded Greece,

over 13,000 Jews had been recruited, many of them from Sa-

lonika and Macedonia where there were large concentrations

of Jews. Five hundred and thirteen Jews were known to

have been killed in action, among them Colonel Mordechai

Parisi, who was killed after holding off an entire Italian brigade

for nine days. A monument was erected in his memory

in his native town of Chalcis and 25 Greek towns have streets

named after him. Following the German conquest of Greece,

many Jews were deported to concentration camps. Among the

Greek Jews deported to Auschwitz was Colonel Baruch who

set fire to part of the gas chambers and was later killed by the

Nazis. A few Greek Jews joined the partisan movement in the

mountains of northern Greece and some fought in the Allied

armies in North Africa.


Before 1850 Jews were exempted from military service upon

payment of a tax. In 1866 Jews were granted equal rights including

the obligation of military service but even before the

law of 1866 certain cantons permitted Jews to bear arms, the

first of them being Aargau where the civil authorities acceded

to a request of Marcus Dreyfus, head of the Jewish community.

In 1855 Moritz Meyer from Aargau was made an officer

and several other Jews became officers during the latter part

of the 19t century. Several hundred Jews were recruited into

the Swiss army for border defense during the two world wars

and two Jewish soldiers rose to the rank of colonel: A. Nordman

and his son, Jean Nordman.


Jews were allowed to bear arms in Holland from the 17t century

when the country became an independent state under the

House of Orange. In 1808, during Napoleonic rule, Jews were

granted equal rights and were therefore obliged to do military

service along with the rest of the population. The number of

Jews serving in the Dutch army grew steadily during the 19t

century and a few Jewish soldiers were singled out for merit,

one of them, Michael Kohen (b. 1877), being decorated for

outstanding bravery in the fighting in Surinam. Thousands of

Jews fought against the Nazi invasion of Holland in May 1940

and a small number of them succeeded in escaping to Britain

to continue fighting from there. After World War II, hardly

any Jews served in the Dutch armed forces.

Other Countries

A small number of Jewish soldiers rose to fame in India,

the Middle East, and North Africa, some of them serving as

soldiers of fortune. Some of the Jewish soldiers of fortune

achieved fame in the Turkish army in which several thousand

Jews fought during the Balkan wars of the 19t century.

Fischel-Freind (1885–928), a Polish Jew, became a colonel

in the Turkish army and was later governor of Syria with the

title Magyar Mahmud Pasha. An English Jew, Stephen Lakeman

(1812–897), was briefly a Turkish general with the title,

Mazar Pasha. In addition David Effendi Molcho, a Jew from

Salonika, was made head of the Turkish navy’ medical services

with the rank of vice admiral. Another Jewish soldier of

fortune was Rubino *Ventura who held military commands

both in Persia and in India during the 19t century. A small

number of Indian Jews reached high military rank in the

British army, among them Subadar Major Haskelji Israel Kolatkar

who was killed during the Burmese campaign of 1887

and Subadar Major Shalom Moses Penkar of the 15t Bombay

Infantry unit. Indian Jews fought in the two world wars and

after Indian independence, some became senior officers, and

one of them, Colonel Joseph Ephraim Jhirad, was killed in the

1965 war against Pakistan. North African Jews were prominent

in World War II both in the French and British regular

armies and in the French underground. Thus Maurice Guedj

(1913–945), a Tunisian lawyer, joined the Free French air

force and won numerous decorations. He was killed in action

in January 1945. Leaders of the underground included

José *Abulker, Pierre Smadja, and Raoul and Edgar Bensoussan.

Jews were not prominent in the Algerian war against the

French after 1955 or in the armies of the Arab North African

states after independence.

Women in Military Service

There is no record of Jewish women serving in the army of any

modern state until 1813 when Louise Grafemus (Esther Manuel;

1785–1852), in search of her husband in the Russian army,

joined the Prussian infantry disguised as a man. She was twice

wounded and rose to become a sergeant major before her sex

was discovered. Louise Grafemus was awarded the Iron Cross

and returned to her home in Hanau with great honor. During

the 19t century women played an increasing part in the

conduct of wars in auxiliary capacities such as nurses. Thus

nurse Woolf was decorated by King George V for her services

in the British army in World War I and several Jewish women

became nursing officers in the Allied forces in World War II.

During World War II women went into active service for the

first time as auxiliary troops; in Russia they served with men

in the front lines during the initial invasion by Germany and

afterward. A number of Soviet Jewish women became famous

through their bravery in action, among them Lyudmila

Kravetz who was made a Hero of the Soviet Union when as

a medical sergeant she took command of her unit when all

the officers were killed and advanced against the enemy. Riva

Steinberg (d. 1944), who was killed trying to rescue a Russian

soldier from a burning aircraft, was posthumously decorated.

Mary Ykhnovich, a senior battalion commander, Sarah Meisel,

Klara Gross, and Lea Kantorovich, a nurse, were all cited for

bravery under fire. Another Russian Jewess, Gitta Schenker,

a telephone operator, took command of an infantry battalion

during the battle of Stalingrad. However, the most famous

Jewish heroine of World War II was Hannah *Szenes who was

parachuted into Yugoslavia to organize Jewish resistance and

was captured and killed.

See also *Israel, State of: Defense Forces.


In most states Jews were not called upon to do military service

until well into the 19t century since the obligation to

take up arms was considered a privilege to which Jews were

not entitled. Even where they did fight they were usually restricted

in their right to hold officer’s rank (as in Prussia and

Russia) or were excluded from certain branches of the army

such as the general staff in Austria-Hungary. In the 20t century

most restrictions on Jews as soldiers were removed but

only in France, Italy, and Austria-Hungary was the number of

Jewish senior officers relatively high. Vilmos Böhm and Giorgio

Liuzzi were the only Jews to become commanders in chief

of an army, the former when he held this post in the shortlived

regime of Bela Kun in Hungary, the latter in Italy. Three

other Jews reached the rank of full general: John *Monash,

Grigori Stern, and Jacob *Kreyzer; and three Jews the rank

of full admiral: Ben Moreel (1892–), Augusto *Capon, and

Roberto Segre (1872–942). One Jew, Yaacov *Shmushkevich,

was commander of an air force.

Jewish Chaplaincy

In most countries of Europe where Jews have volunteered or

been enlisted into the armed forces, provision has been made

for the appointment of chaplains to look after the religious

needs of servicemen and women in times of war and peace.

One can generally say that from the middle of the 19t century,

following the political emancipation of the Jews, Judaism

became a recognized denomination having more or less

the same privileges and obligations as those of other denominations.

Commissioned chaplains were given relative military

rank, senior chaplains having the relative rank of colonel,

lieutenant colonel, or major. This was the case in Austria,

France, Prussia, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Holland, and Poland.

In Britain in 1889 Judaism was recognized as a denomination

for the purpose of chaplaincy in the forces. The first Jewish

chaplain was Rabbi Francis L. Cohen who was appointed in

1892. In European countries, such as Italy and Belgium, chaplains

were first commissioned during World War I when the

number of Jews serving in the various national armies increased

considerably. In World War I Jewish chaplains, with

the approval, and sometimes at the request of the superior

commanding officer, rendered service to the Jews in occupied

territories. Thus German Jewish chaplains acted as intermediaries

between the German army authorities and Jewish civilians

in Poland and in northern France. They also provided

religious appurtenances and Passover requirements (such as

maẓẓot and haggadot). British chaplains performed similar

services for Jewish civilians in northern France and Belgium.

They were supported by chaplains attached to the forces of

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, and chaplains

also served with the Jewish units serving in Palestine and

Egypt. A number of chaplains in both the Allied and central

armies were decorated for bravery. An outstanding example

of bravery was that of Rabbi A. Bloch of the French army who

was killed by a shell in 1914 after seeking a crucifix for a severely

wounded Frenchman when there was no priest available.

During World War II there was a further increase in the

number of chaplains in the Allied forces. On the other hand

the Dutch government in exile, for the first time, appointed a

Jewish chaplain, Chief Rabbi S. Rodrigues Pereira, to look after

the religious requirements of Dutch Jews serving with the

Allies. In the Polish army Rabbi J. Mieses was senior chaplain

to be succeeded by Rabbi B. Steinberg who was killed during

the Katyn massacre in 1943. Jewish chaplains served with the

Polish army in Russia, the Middle East, and Europe. The last

senior chaplain in the Polish army was Rabbi David Kahana

who served from 1945 to 1952. Jewish chaplains were also attached

to the Jewish infantry group made up of Palestinians

and Jews from other British army units who served in the

western desert, in Italy, and with the army of the Rhine. As in

World War I, a number of Jewish chaplains were decorated

for gallantry in the Allied armies, among them Grand Rabbi

Jacob Kaplan of the French army who was awarded the Croix

de Guerre. The duties of chaplains during the two world wars

were extensive and involved a considerable amount of travel.

They were required to organize religious services whenever

possible, particularly during the festivals and High Holy Days,

to distribute service prayer books and religious literature, visit

the sick and wounded in hospitals and casualty clearing stations,

and bury the dead. They were also required to assist

observant soldiers in following the religious requirements of

their faith without detriment to their army duties and to deal

with the many welfare and social problems affecting the domestic

life of the soldier. At the end of World War II chaplains

were additionally required to help bury Jews who had died in

concentration camps and to help those who survived as far

as possible. As in the case of chaplains of other denominations,

Jewish chaplains were requested to use their influence

in maintaining the morale and fighting spirit of the troops.

They were encouraged to participate in educational and recreational

programs designed to improve the mind and outlook

of the serviceman. In the Royal Air Force a scheme of moral

leadership courses was devised to guide and train officers and

men who had shown a talent for leadership to apply their potential

in the groups to which they were attached.

[Sir Israel Brodie]

IN THE UNITED STATES. The Jewish military chaplaincy in

the United States began in 1862 during the U.S. Civil War. Before

then army chaplains had to be ordained Christian clergymen,

selected by the officers of the regiments to which they

were assigned. By an Act of Congress of 1862, a regularly ordained

minister of any religious denomination could be commissioned

as a chaplain. Three rabbis were commissioned as

chaplains in the Union forces: Rabbi Jacob Frankel of Philadelphia,

who served the six Philadelphia military hospitals;

Rabbi Bernhard Gotthelf, of Louisville, Kentucky, who served

18 army hospitals in Kentucky and Indiana; and Rabbi Ferdinand

L. Sarner of Brith Kodesh Congregation, Rochester, New

York, who was elected chaplain of the 54t New York Volunteer

Regiment and was wounded at Gettysburg.

No Jewish chaplains served in the Spanish-American

War (1898), although Rabbi Emil G. *Hirsch and Rabbi J.

Leonard Levy of Philadelphia were commissioned. Rabbi Joseph

*Krauskopf of Philadelphia spent the summer of 1898

at military camps in the United States and in Cuba as a field

commissioner for the National Relief Commission, and conducted

religious services for Jewish personnel. A number of

other rabbis also conducted services at camps adjacent to the

communities in which their congregations were located.

In 1917 the *National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was organized

to serve the religious and morale needs of Jewish soldiers

and sailors in the U.S. armed forces during World War I.

One of the duties assigned to the JWB by the government was

the recruiting and endorsing of Jewish military chaplains. In

October 1917 Congress authorized the appointment of chaplains-

at-large of “faiths not now represented in the body of

Chaplains of the Army.” As a result, 149 of the 400 Englishspeaking

rabbis in the United States volunteered, and 34 received

the ecclesiastical endorsement of the JWB’s Chaplains

Committee. Of these, 26 received commissions. The first Jewish

chaplain commissioned was Rabbi Elkan C. Voorsanger of

St. Louis, who earned two decorations for gallantry under fire,

and became senior chaplain of the 77t Division.

After World War I, some chaplains maintained reserve

commissions, and a number of younger rabbis enlisted in the

reserves between 1918 and 1940. As World War II approached,

the chaplaincy underwent a major reorganization. Cyrus

*Adler was succeeded by Rabbi David de Sola *Pool as chairman

of the JWB Chaplaincy Committee, and the committee

was renamed Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities

(CANRA) of the JWB. Rabbi Phillip S. *Bernstein was

named executive director. By the time the United States entered

World War II, 24 Jewish chaplains were on active duty.

By the end of the war 311 rabbis had been commissioned and

served in the armed forces; seven died in service, among them

Alexander Goode who was one of four chaplains who lost their

lives on the military transport, S.S. Dorchester. CANRA provided

the chaplains with vast supplies of religious literature,

equipment, and kosher foods in a supply line that reached

around the world. Two tasks of special importance performed

by Jewish chaplains were their work as leaders in the first penetration

of areas cut off from Jewish contacts during the Nazi

occupation, and their aid to concentration camp survivors.

After World War II the chaplaincy became a career for some,

and a way for the promotion of senior Jewish chaplains to key

administrative chaplaincy posts. Many of those who did not

choose a career in the chaplaincy retained their reserve commission.

Only 18 Jewish chaplains remained on active duty at

the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950. Twelve Jewish chaplains

were decorated in that war.

After World War II CANRA was renamed to emphasize

its function within the JWB organization, which finances it,

first as the Division of Religious Activities and, after the outbreak

of the Korean War, as the Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy

of the JWB Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox rabbis

rotated as commission chairmen for three-year terms. The

commission instituted a draft to supply 100 Jewish chaplains;

it drew from all rabbis and newly-ordained students eligible

for military service who had not already served in the forces,

and required a two-year tour of duty. From 1950 to 1968 the

draft brought 485 rabbis into the chaplaincy, about a third of

all the rabbis ordained by the major Jewish seminaries of the

United States during the period. The commission also used

civilian rabbis who had their own congregations to provide

chaplaincy services at military bases, academies, and hospitals

and nonmilitary federal installations where no full-time

Jewish chaplain was assigned. About 800 rabbis were involved

in this program up to 1970. In 1969, reacting to anti-Vietnam

sentiment among rabbinical students, the commission

substituted a voluntary system for the drafting of newly-ordained

rabbis. When the Vietnam War led to a new military

buildup, four Jewish chaplains were assigned to duty in that

country. From 1966 to 1970, 11 chaplains were decorated. In

1970 Jewish chaplains were serving 611 domestic installations

and hospitals, as well as in more than 40 foreign countries.

Jewish chaplains were active in the later military actions in

Iraq. By 2005, in the renamed Jewish Chaplains Council, approximately

40 full-time military and Veterans Administration

chaplains, 55 chaplain reservists, more than 88 military

lay leaders, and thousands of Jews were serving at more than

500 military installations and VA medical centers.


1960s, religious-lay cooperation and interdenominational harmony

were strikingly evident in the work of the Jewish Chaplaincy

Commission’s responsa and publication committees.

The former formulated mutually acceptable answers to questions

of religious practices under military conditions. The latter

published prayer books, Haggadot, hymnals, and a library

of pamphlets on the Sabbath, holy days, festivals, Jewish ethics,

and Jewish history, all widely distributed and serving as

excellent expositions of Judaism to non-Jews in the military. In

1954 the commission published the first standardized religious

school curriculum for the children of servicemen, rewritten

in 1965 as “Unified Jewish Religious Education Curriculum.”

It is particularly important because of the growing number

of service children who live far from civilian synagogues and

Jewish schools. Religious education for service children has

become a prime task of the Jewish chaplains, who prepare

many youngsters for bar and bat mitzvah as part of an organized

program of elementary Jewish training.

[Bernard Postal]

Bibliography: M. Kaplan, Ha-Loḥem ha-Yehudi bi-Ẓeva’ot

ha-Olam (1967), incl. bibl.; J. Ben Hirsch, Jewish General Officers

(1967), incl. bibl.; G. Loewenthal, Bewaehrung im Untergang (1966);

J. Lazarus, Juifs au combat (1947); F. Servi, Israeliti italiani nella guerra

191518 (1921); J.G. Fredman and L.A. Falk, Jews in American Wars

(1963); A.L. Lebeson, Pilgrim People (1950); S. Wolf, The American

Jew as Patriot, Soldier, and Citizen (1895); P.S. Foner, Jews in American

History 16541865 (1945), 16–27, 36–42, 63–78, incl. bibl.; P. Wiernik,

History of the Jews in America (1931), 87–97, 229–41, 417–20; W.

Ziff, in: D. Runes (ed.), Hebrew Impact on Western Civilization (1951),

240–312; Z. Szajkowski, in: PAAJR, 26 (1957), 139–60, incl. bibl.; Com-

ite zur Abwehr Anti-semitischer Angriffe in Berlin, Juden als Soldaten

(1896); M. Fruehling, Biographisches Handbuch (1911); Wiener Library,

German Jewry (1958), 201–4; H. Fischer, Judentum, Staat und Heer in

Preussen (1968); R. Ainsztein, in: L. Kochan (ed.), Jews in Soviet Russia

(1970), 269–87. JEWISH CHAPLAINCY OUTSIDE THE U.S.: I. Brodie,

in: AJYB, 48 (1946/47), 58ff.; Ha-Gedudim ha Ivriyyim be-Milḥemet

ha-Olam ha-Rishonah (1968); A. Tabian, Australian Jewish Historical

Society Transactions, 6 (1965), 344; South African Jewry in World

War II (1950); Illustrierte Neue Welt (June 1970), 26; L’Aumẓnerie militaire

belge (1966), 88; Redier et Honesque, L’Aumẓnerie militaire française

(1960). IN THE U.S.: L. Barish (ed.), Rabbis in Uniform (1962);

O.I. Janowsky et al., Change and Challenge: A History of Fifty Years of

JWB (1966), 80–83; JWB Circle, 1 (1946– ), index. Add. Bibliography:

A.I. Slomovitz, The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains

and American History (1998).


Second Edition, Volume 14: 238-241-249

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