Three Soldiers – Three Brothers? – Fallen for France: Hermann, Jules, and Max Boers

The sources of historical and genealogical information about twentieth century military servicemen – official documents; private correspondence; photographs; news items; ephemera, and more – are vast.  And even among the historical records of any particular nation, one finds tremendous variation – over time, in different theatres of military operations; among and between different branches of the armed forces – in the way that information is recorded, categorized, and (hopefully!) preserved.       

Regardless of the era or conflict; regardless of the country in question; such military archival information can reveal patterns, relationships, and interactions encompassing both military service and civilian life.  The fragments of history can coalesce; suggesting; revealing; unfolding a larger, often unexpected story. 

As, seems to be the case presented below…

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In an effort to identify Jewish military casualties in the French armed forces during the First Wodl War, I’ve relied upon two books – Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) and, Le Livre d’or du Judaïsme Algérien (1914-1918) as the primary, central (and perhaps exclusive?) published works listing names of fallen French Jewish soldiers. 

Specific bibliographic information about these works is given below:

1) Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) (Israelites [Jews] in the French Army), Angers, 1921 – Avant-Propos de la Deuxième Épreuve [Forward to the Second Edition], Albert Manuel, Paris, Juillet, 1921 – (Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive [Reissued by the Circle for Jewish Genealogy], Paris, 2000)

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2) Le Livre d’or du Judaïsme Algérien (1914-1918) (The Gold Book of Algerian Jewry (1914-1918), 1919 – Pubication du Comiée Algérien d’Études Sociales 1er fascicule septembre 1919 ((Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive [Reissued by the Circle for Jewish Genealogy], Paris, 2000) – Avec la collaboration de Georges Teboul et de Jean-Pierre Bernard.

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Then, it was a process of on-line searching: The French Government’s SGA (Secrétariat Général pour l’Administration “General Secretariat for Administration”) databases covering World War One deaths and military casualties were thoroughly searched to identify and download records for the names listed in these two books.  The specific databases used in this endeavor have been “Died for France in the First World War” (for “PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS (‘PART TO BE COMPLETED BY THE CORPS’)” forms), “War Graves”, and to a much lesser extent, “Military Aviation Personnel.” 

Links for the three databases are given below:  

Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale (“Died for France in the First World War”)

Sépultures de Guerre (“War Graves”)

Personnels de l’aéronautique militaire (“Military Aviation Personnnel”)

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Though the above books have been absolutely essential in this endeavor, like other historical reference works (particularly those published very shortly after a historical event) they do manifest a variety of not unexpected problems. 

These include the absence of names, the presentation of information about the same person under multiple name variants, names for which other information is in error or fragmentary, and finally, names for which no equivalent (even a rough phonetic equivalent) can be identified at any of the SGA databases. 

The image below – a example of the notes I made in my copy of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (1914-1918) while researching the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale database – shows the challenges involved.  The circled dots indicate names definitively identified using the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale database.  Left-pointing arrows indicate names for which no record could be found.  (Well, the last time I searched…)  Finally, names connected by arrows indicate variants of the same name.  For example, “Mimoun Borianiche” and “Mimoun Bouaniche” are one and the same soldier.

This isn’t meant to detract from the efforts of the creators of these compilations.  Given the challenges they likely faced – incorrect, missing, or fragmentary original records, the simple unavailability of records, and, efforts constrained by limited staff, time, and other resources – they generated laudabl, historically invaluable, and above all necessary works.

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The records – the “hits” – generated by the SGA website comprise low-resolution (96 dpi) scans (from microfilm?) of “PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS (‘PART TO BE COMPLETED BY THE CORPS’)” forms.  The information fields on these forms comprise a soldier’s surname, given (first) and middle names, military grade, military unit, matriculation number in class, number, date and place of recruitment, date of death, place of death, cause of death, date of birth, and place of birth (Department in France, or name of another country.)

A very helpful discussion about the forms, by Thierry Sabot (with various talk-backs – one as recently as June of 2017) can be found at the History-Genealogy Magazine website.)

On arriving at page 18 of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, I noted something intriguing; curious, and above all – portentously sad:  Four soldiers with the surname “Boers”, three of whom were born in Amsterdam during a three-year time frame.  The page is shown below:

The three from Amsterdam men were Hermann Boers, Jules Boers, and Max Boers.  (The fourth “Boers” was Michel, from Paris.)

Upon reviewing their PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms for the three men, a relationship suggested itself. 

1) Their matriculation numbers are immediately sequential: 26749 for Jules, 26750 for Max, and 26751 for Herman. 

2) All served in the 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger. 

3) Jules and Max were killed on the same day, and at the same place: May 9, 1915, at Neuville-Saint-Vaast.  Both were missing (“disparu”), and will probably always be missing. 

Hermann was killed on September 28, 1915, at Souain, and was known to have been killed by the enemy (“Tué a l’ennemi”). 

4) Max, born on March 10, 1885, was the oldest.  Hermann was born thirteen months later, on June 11, 1886.  Jules, the youngest, was born eleven months after Hermann, on July 13, 1887.

All of which leads to a question:  Were they brothers?

I do not know. 

Unfortunately, PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms neither list the names of a serviceman’s next of kin, nor give his residential address.  Such information would be the key that answer the question.  But, the signs seem to point in that direction.

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One hundred and two years – over a century – have transpired since their deaths.  “Our” world is not the same as theirs – how could it be? – but I would like to think that one thing has remained unchanged in human nature: The need to remember. 

At least – in the world of 2017 – I hope so.

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Specific information about the men, and images of their PARTIE À REMPLIR PAR LE CORPS forms, is presented below.

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– .ת. נ. צ. ב. ה

Jules

Boers, Jules, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26749 au Corps E.V. 1914
Matricule S.M. 3245 au Recrutement Seine Central
Born July 13, 1887, Amsterdam, Hollande
Missing [Disparu]
May 9, 1915; Pas-de-Calais, Neuville-Saint-Vaast
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

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Max

Boers, Max, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26750 au Corps E.V. 191_
Matricule S.M. 2709 au Recrutement Seine B.C.
Born March 10, 1885, Amsterdam, Hollande
Missing [Disparu]
May 9, 1915; Pas-de-Calais, Neuville-Saint-Vaast
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

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Hermann

Boers, Hermann, Soldat de 2ème classe, Légion étrangère, 2ème Régiment de Marche du 1er Régiment Etranger
No. 26751 au Corps Cl. 1919
Matricule: 3530 au Recrutement Lyon Central
Born June 11, 1886, Amsterdam, Hollande
Killed by the enemy [Tué a l’ennemi]
September 28, 1915; Marne, Souain
Not listed in Sépultures de guerre database

 

Two Among Many: The Soldier and His Wife – A Jewish Volunteer in the French Army in the Second World War

Though information about the service and experiences of Jewish soldiers of the United States and British Commonwealth countries during the Second World War is readily available in print, archival, and digital formats, a very wide variety material exists covering what is perhaps the less widely known service of Jewish soldiers in the armies of other Allied nations.

Significant in this sense was the role of Jewish soldiers – both as refugee volunteers, and citizens – in the armed forces of France.  Though not covered as systematically as in such books as American Jews in World War Two, the superb two-volume Canadian Jews in World War Two, or Henry Morris’ We Will Remember Them, or even – ironically – the two books covering military service of French Jewish soldiers during “The Great War” (Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, and, Le Livre d’Or du Judaïsme Algérien – 1914-1918) other sources allow identification of French-Jewish soldiers (casualties, and those who received military awards) of the Second World War. 

These are 1) Livre d’Or et de Sang – Les Juifs au Combat: Citations 1939-1945 de Bir-Hakeim au Rhin et Danube, 2) Au Service de la France, 3) le combattant volontaire juif 1939-1945, and, databases found at the website of France’s Secrétariat Général pour l’Administration (SGA).  

Au Service de la France, and, le combattant volontaire juif 1939-1945, were published in 1955 and 1971 respectively, by the Union des Engagés Volontaires et Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945 (Union of Military Volunteers and Jewish Veterans of 1939-1945). 

Au Service de la France is essentially a photographic anthology covering various aspects of Jewish military service and armed resistance against the Germans during the Second World War.  It encompasses military service in 1940, the experiences of prisoners of war, activity in the Resistance, and – consistent with its 1955 publication – social services for Jewish veterans and their families, as well as action against antisemitism. 

An invaluable aspect of this book is the presence of lists of names of French Jewish servicemen who received military awards, or, who were killed in military service.

Le combattant volontaire juif 1939-1945 (The Jewish Volunteer Combattant – 1939-1945) was published in 1971, “…on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Union of Military Volunteers and Jewish Veterans of 1939-1945”, and is significantly different from Au Service de la France.  The text is in French and Yiddish (as a single volume) and though many photographs are present, text takes significant priority over images.  However, unlike Au Service de la France, the book does not include lists of casualties or recipients of military awards.

Some years ago, I was very fortunate to have been given a copy of Le combattant volontaire juif  1939-1945 through the kindness and generosity of Mr. Albert N. Szyfman of the U.E.V.A.C.J.-E.A. (Union des Engagés Volontaires, Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945 – leurs Enfants et Amis).  (Thank you again, Albert!)

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Realizing the importance of these two books – especially the text of Le combattant volontaire juif – in learning about the military service of French Jews during the Second World War, I’ve translated the context of the latter to English.

The purpose of the book is very well stated in its Foreword.  Namely:

“AS part of the preparation of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Union of Military Volunteers and Jewish Veterans, our management had initially planned to publish a special issue of “Our Will” which was to trace the activity of Union during the past quarter century. 

“This project, practically limited to the history of our activities, was finally abandoned.  The Committee took the view that it was necessary to reserve an important place to the testimonies and memories to boldly highlight the massive participation of Jews of foreign origin in the battles of World War II and their contribution to victory of the Allies over Nazi Germany.

“So this is the book that we present to the reader.

“While certain works, concerning this terrible time, tend to portray that the Jews could be lead to death without resistance, our book highlights in largely unpublished stories the courageous battles experienced by these men and women, with or without uniforms, alongside their French brethren.

“It would have been inconceivable that in a book edited by Jewish veterans that the horrible result of Nazi crimes, the extermination of tens of millions of human beings – including six million Jews – as it is only natural that this book speaks of the great historical event of the creation of the State of Israel and the solidarity that the Jewish veterans manifested in this regard.

“Dozens of former prisoners of war, internees in concentration camps, former resistance fighters who fought in the ranks of the F.F.I., survivors of Auschwitz and its crematoria, each, recount living episodes.

“These stories that trace, in most cases, often heroic acts, the testimonies of military leaders who commanded units with a high proportion of Jewish immigrant volunteers, the pages writers were willing to offer us for this work – all of this constitutes a somewhat original anthology.

“The reader will find in the following pages of text and illustrations covering our affairs during the twenty-five years of the existence of our Union such as the rights of veterans, the ongoing effort to preserve the memory of our dead, the struggle for peace, against racism and anti-Semitism, a just and lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and our social work.

“One third of the book is written in Yiddish; for many of our comrades, indeed, Yiddish was the mother tongue as it was for most of the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis.

“We are certain that in the pages of “The Jewish Volunteer Combatant 1938-1945” each member of our generation will be found, while youth will learn the nature of the last war that created immeasurable suffering.”

The book’s editorial board comprised Isi Blum-Cleitman, Dr. Samuel Danowski, Joseph Fridman, Bernard Pons, and Maurice Sisterman, in collaboration with Louis Gronowski. 

Its content was supplemented by information and documents provided by the following organizations:

The Office of Decorations of the Ministry of National Defense
The Historical Committee of the Second World War
The Center for Documentation of Contemporary Jewry
The Center for Documentation of Jewish Resistance and Mutual Aid
The Israel Tourism Office
The National Association of Veterans of the French Resistance

Le combattant volontaire juif – 1939-1945 is subdivided into five major sections.  These are 1) “Foreign Volunteers”, 2) “Remembrances of War”, 3) “In the Concentration Camps”, 4) “In The Ranks of the F.F.I.”, and, 5) “After the Liberation”. 

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In effect and intent, Le combattant volontaire juif – 1939-1945 is not an all-encompassing and minutely detailed and heavily-footnoted history.  Rather, through numerous vignettes by a variety of authors, it presents – through vivid prose and great detail – an account of military service and anti-German armed resistance by French Jewry during the Second World War.

Every such account is worthy of commentary and contemplation. 

An especially moving story is “Deux parmi d’autres” – “Two Among Others”, by Ilex Beller, who was President of the U.E.V.A.C.J. between 1986 and 2004.  

Beller’s story covers the life and fate of Srul and Golda Magalnic, both of whom were from Rumania.

The story is presented below, in French and English.

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deux parmi d’autres

Ilex Beller

Pendant trois semaines, nous avons manœuvré dans le camp de Larzac.  Nous n’avons rien appris de nouveau mais ça a été une occasion d’être débarrassé des puces barcaressiennes, d’habiter comme de vrais soldats dans une véritable caserne, de dormir sur de vraies paillasses.

En comparaison avec les conditions de vie de Barcarès, les manœuvres ont été pour nous une sinécure.

Mais un ordre est arrivé de retourner à Barcarès; nous refaisons rapidement les bardas et reprenons la route.

Il pleut de nouveau et c’est tout trempés que nous montons dans les wagons à bestiaux.  Arrivés à Rivesaltes, nous en descendons et parcourons à pied les 16 kilomètres qui nous séparent du camp.  Mais ici une surprise nous attend: dans les rues voisines de la gare se tiennent nos camarades de Barcarès, les 3 000 volontaires du 21e Régiment qui y attendent le train en partance pour le front.

Ils sont habillés de neuf, avec de longs manteaux et des casques de fer.  Seuls les bardas et les ficelles n’ont pas changé. On reconnaît à peine leur visage.

La permission nous est accordée d’aller prendre congé de nos camarades qui partent.  Alors des groupes se forment à nouveau, comme à Barcarès, un “cercle juif”.  On examine les nouveaux uniformes, on frappe sur les casques neufs, on se force à rire, à blaguer, mais ça ne colle pas; quel que chose a changé.  Sur tous les visages se lit le même sérieux. “Qui sait, c’est peut-être la dernière fois que je vois mon camarade.”

Le moment de la séparation est arrivé.  On s’embrasse.  Les soldats du 22e Régiment et ceux du 21e qui partent pour le front.  Les visages mal rasés sont tristes: “Fort Gesund”, “Partez en paix, chers camarades!”

Autour de nous, les habitants de Rivesaltes ont le visage préoccupé et triste, comme nous.

Nos camarades sont entassés dans les wagons à bestiaux.  Ce sont les derniers serrements de mains, les dernières recommandations:

          – Battez les fascistes!

           – Sauvez votre peau!

          – Josel, s’il m’arrive un malheur, pense à ma mère!

Le train s’ébranle lentement, Je revois Srolek agiter un mouchoir: “Au revoir! n’oublie pas Gol-dale et l’enfant!”

Le 21e Régiment (R.M.V.E.) est parti vers le front d’Alsace, occuper les positions devant la ligne Ma-ginot, dans la région de Minersheim et Alteckendorf.  Il a été rattaché à la 35’ division et placé sous les ordres des généraux Decharme et Delais-sey, prenant ainsi la relève du 49’ Régiment d’Infanterie.

***

Printemps 1940.  C’est le plus beau mois de mai.  Les premières jonquilles dorées fleurissent dans les vertes prairies.

Les hirondelles volent bas et s’amusent parmi les soldats, les cigognes regardent autour d’elles, perchées sur les hautes cheminées des beaux villages alsaciens.

Hitler a déclenché la grande offensive.  La puissante armée allemande, pourvue d’un matériel de guerre effroyable, se met en marche à travers la Belgique, contre la France.  Les premiers villages français sont ensanglantés avant d’être conquis.

Les trois régiments de volontaires étrangers, formés à Barcarès, sont relevés des positions où ils se trouvaient, pour être lancés dans les secteurs les plus menacés:

           – le 22’ régiment dans la Somme (la bataille de Péronne);

          – le 23’ régiment dans la région de Soissons;

          – le- 21’ dans les Ardennes.

Les avions allemands ne quittent pas le ciel. Ils bombardent les routes, les ponts et les gares.

Le 21’ régiment se déplace avec grande difficulté, voyage en train, en camion et marche beaucoup à pied. Il fait chaque jour des dizaines de kilomètres.

Il n’est pas facile de marcher, chargés de pioches, de pelles, de la musette, et le dos ployant sous le barda, le tout relié par des ficelles (les autres régiments nous appelaient “Régiment ficelle”; il y a les lourds fusils de 1914 aussi…

On se prépare à une guerre des tranchées et il faut creuser des centaines de kilomètres…

On s’approche des Ardennes.  L’itinéraire passe par Longchamps, Chaumont, Erize-la-Grande, après Sainte-Ménéhould, Cernay, le Morthome, jusqu’aux environs du village de Boult-aux-Bois.  Là, on s’arrête dans le petit bois, non loin du village, et on se trouve face à l’ennemi.

Le village de Boult-aux-Bois est occupé par les Allemands, les nôtres regardent vers les maisonnettes toutes blanches, avec les toits de tuiles rouges, entourées de champs resplendissant de toutes les couleurs.

C’est ici, dans les petits bois que la compagnie de Srolek, la “C.A.1”, va livrer sa première bataille.  Les nôtres, bien qu’épuisés par une longue marche, occupent rapidement les positions de combat.  Les Allemands commencent par bombarder le bois avec leur artillerie; les bombes explosent de tous côtés, criblent la terre, et projettent en l’air les troncs des arbres.  Puis ils attaquent, couverts par le feu des mitrailleuses lourdes.  Nous comptons nos premiers morts.

Voici un camarade avec lequel tu as vécu, que tu aimais comme ton frère, il gît ensanglanté dans tes bras, et te confie sa dernière parole… toi, tu dois partir et l’abandonner pour toujours…

Ce fut un combat bref mais sanglant, les nôtres furent obligés de se retirer.  Le lendemain, le bataillon occupait de nouvelles positions dans le village des Petites-Armoises, on creusait des trous individuels, on installait le canon 25, et les mortiers, on se fortifiait.

Les Allemands attaquent tous les jours et souvent la nuit, mais les nôtres arrivent à tenir les positions, et cela va durer 12 jours et 12 nuits.

C’est le 10 juin seulement que l’ennemi réussit à percer nos lignes sur les deux flancs.

Nous sommes alors menacés d’encerclement.  Aussi, l’ordre est-il donné de se replier sur Vaux-lès-Mourons, Longueval, Vienne-la-Ville, jusqu’à Sainte-Ménéhould.

Le général Delaissey vient personnellement visiter le bataillon: il faut couvrir la retraite du gros de l’armée.  Il faut tenir à tout prix Sainte-Ménéhould.

Le bataillon se fortifie autour de ce village.  Il fait sauter les ponts de l’Aisne qui coule à proximité, on creuse des tranchées près des lignes de chemin de fer. sur les places des villages.

Les Allemands attaquent le lendemain avec un armement lourd et puissant et s’engage une bataille acharnée, inégale.  Ils réussissent à passer la rivière et foncent avec leurs autos blindées sur le village, détruisent le seul canon 25 et les deux mortiers que le bataillon possédait.

13 juin.  Le bataillon a perdu presque la moitié de ses effectifs.  Dans l’après-midi, le capitaine La-garigue donne l’ordre de se replier.  Le groupe des mitrailleurs où se trouve Srolek Magalnik reste sur place pour couvrir la retraite.

Les Allemands ont déjà occupé tout le village de Sainte-Ménéhould, mais près du cimetière, une vieille mitrailleuse française “Hotchkiss” tire encore.

A 16 heures, une balle allemande a traversé le cœur de Srolek et a mit fin à se jeune vie.  Il est tombé à Sainte-Ménéhould, en défendant le sol français dont il a tant rêvé et auquel il a voué un véritable amour.

Le lendemain, des réfugiés, des paysans, l’enterrent sur le lieu même où il a donné son dernier souffle.

Ils n’ont pu déchiffrer son nom sur ses papiers militaires criblés de balles…

Le même jour se déroule la bataille de la Grange-aux-Bois, où sont tombés tant des nôtres.

Le régiment se retire en combattant jusqu’à Passavant et puis à Robencourt-aux-Ponts, et Chau-mont qui est en flammes.

Le 19 juin, ce qui reste du 21e Régiment se bat toujours à Colombey-les-Belles, et le 20 juin a lieu la sanglante bataille devant Allain.

Le 21 juin l’ordre arrive de l’état-major de cesser le combat, de détruire les armes.

Les Allemands occupent toute la région, désarment les régiments, promettent aux officiers de les traiter en “prisonniers d’honneur” et de leur accorder le droit de porter leurs armes personnelles…

Le 22 juin, jour où le maréchal Pétain signe l’armistice et livre la France à l’ennemi, le vieux général Decharme, chef de la 35’ Division (dont faisait partie le 21” R.M.V.E.) donne son dernier ordre.

Il ordonne de réunir tous les soldats rescapés du 21’ Régiment dans le village de Tuillier-les-Groseilles.  A 15 heures de ce même jour, il passe en revue les rangs des soldats sans armes, les habits déchirés et les visages ensanglantés.  Il marche lentement, s’arrête souvent, regardant les soldats droit dans les yeux, il sait sans doute ce qui les attend!  Puis il fait ses adieux:

“Je vous remercie pour votre héroïsme, pour votre abnégation, pour votre discipline, en mon nom personnel et au nom de la France.”

Le 23 juin, le reste du régiment est amené en captivité en Allemagne.

Le commandant de la C.A.1. (la Compagnie de Srolek) était le lieutenant Belissant, un homme cultivé et doux, qui aimait ses soldats, lesquels l’adoraient.

C’est un de ces Français pour qui les idéaux de la grande Révolution française sont chose sacrée, un de ceux qui ont contribué dans le monde entier à bâtir le renom de la France, comme pays de justice et d’humanité.

Le lieutenant Bellissant aimait beaucoup Srolek, et lorsque Srolek tomba, il pleura à chaudes larmes.

Dans la première lettre qu’il écrivit de captivité à sa femme, il dit: “J’avais un ami très cher, un Juif émigré de Bessarabie, il est tombé en héros.  Je sais qu’il a laissé une femme et un enfant à Paris. Trouve-les et tâche de les aider.”

***

Dure était la vie pour Goldale et son enfant dans ce Paris affamé, occupé par les Allemands.

Elle avait trouvé une petite chambre dans une vieille maison de la rue des Gravilliers, y avait transporté sa machine à coudre et travaillait illégalement pour gagner de quoi nourrir elle et sa fille.

Elle vivait continuellement dans la peur, et pleurait chaque nuit Srolek qui était tombé “quelque part en France”.

Mme Bellissant était une brave femme, digne de son mari.  Dès qu’elle reçut la lettre de son mari en captivité, elle se mit à la recherche de Goldale.  D’une adresse à l’autre, elle grimpait les étages, visitait les mansardes, jusqu’à ce qu’elle trouvât la chambre de la rue des Gravilliers.

 Les deux femmes firent vite connaissance et devinrent bientôt amies.  Goldale se confia à elle comme à une mère.  C’est Mme Bellissant qui retrouva la tombe de Srolek dans le cimetière de Sainte-Ménéhould.  Elles partirent ensemble poser une dalle sur la sépulture.

C’est aussi Mme Bellissant qui trouva la vieille concierge de la rue de Rennes, Mme Grimaud, pour cacher chez elle la fille de Goldale, Nelly, et la soustraire ainsi aux rafles allemandes.

***

Cela se passa au début de 1944, par une grise matinée d’hiver, le jour commençait à peine à poindre.  Paris dormait encore lorsqu’on entendit dans l’escalier de la vieille maison de la rue des Gravilliers les pas lourds des bottes militaires, les coups frappés brutalement à la porte et le cri: “Ouvrez!”

Avant que Goldale n’eût le temps de descendre du lit, ils enfoncèrent la porte.  J’aurais tellement aimé vous dire que c’était la Gestapo ou d’autres formations militaires allemandes organisant la chasse aux Juifs à Paris, qui vinrent arrêter Goldale.  Malheureusement, la réalité est tout autre.  C’étaient des Français; oui, il s’est trouvé des Français, des âmes vendues qui collaborèrent avec les Allemands, des fascistes déments… ou bien des gens des bas-fonds.

Goldale, en chemise de nuit, maigre, malingre, toute tremblante, essaya d’abord de les raisonner: “Laissez-moi tranquille, mon mari est tombé pour la France, j’ai un petit enfant!”

Lorsqu’ils l’entraînèrent de force dans l’escalier, Goldale se débattit.  Elle criait au secours, elle les injuriait, elle pleurait et, finalement, se mit à supplier: “Je n’ai fait aucun mal, je suis une pauvre couturière, laissez-moi tranquille.”  Deux grands gaillards s’emparèrent d’elle et l’emportèrent.

Les voisins sortirent, en chemise de nuit, le visage gonflé de sommeil, pour la plupart des vieillards, des femmes et des enfants amaigris, épuisés par quatre années d’occupation.

Plusieurs d’entre eux se tordaient les mains et pleuraient, regardant emporter notre Goldale dans la voiture de la police.

On la déporta de Drancy à Auschwitz, d’où elle n’est jamais revenue…

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Two Among Others

Ilex Beller

For three weeks we have been active in the Larzac camp.  We have learned nothing new but it was an opportunity to be rid of “Barcaressiennes lice”; to live like real soldiers in real barracks, sleeping on real mattresses.

In comparison with the living conditions in Barcarès, maneuvers have been our sinecure.

But an order came to return to Barcarès; we quickly deploy weapons and hit the road.

It’s raining again and all are wet as we get into the cattle cars.  Arriving at Rivesaltes, we descend and traverse the 16 mile walk that separates us from the camp.  But here a surprise awaits us; in the streets around the station stand our comrades from Barcarès, 3,000 volunteers of the 21st Regiment await the train bound for the front.

They are dressed with new long coats and iron helmets.  Only our weapons and threads have not changed.  We barely recognize their faces.

Permission is granted to us to take leave of our comrades who are departing.  Groups form again; as in Barcarès, a “Jewish circle.”  We examine the new uniforms, knock on new helmets; we might laugh, joke, but it does not remain; regardless, things have changed.  On every face one reads seriously. “Who knows, maybe this is the last time I see my friend.”

The time of separation happens.  We kiss.  Soldiers from the 22nd Regiment and the 21st; those who leave for the front.  The unshaven faces are sad: “Fort Gesund”, “Go in peace, dear comrades!”

Around us, the inhabitants of Rivesaltes were concerned about the atmosphere and sad, like us.

Our comrades are crammed into cattle cars.  These are the last handshakes, the last admonitions:

          “Defeat the fascists!”

          “Save your skin!”

          “Josel, if I encounter misfortune, think of my mother!”

The train moves off slowly; I remember waving a handkerchief to Srolek: “Goodbye!  Do not forget Goldale and the child!“

The 21st Regiment (R.M.V.E.) went to the Alsace front, occupying the positions to the Maginot Line, in the region of Minersheim and Alteckendorf.  It was attached to the 35th Division and placed under the command of Generals Decharme and Delaissey, thus taking over from the 49 Infantry Regiment.

***

Spring 1940.  It is the most beautiful month: May.  The first golden daffodils bloom in the green meadows.

The swallows fly low and play among the soldiers, storks look around them, perched on the tall chimneys of beautiful Alsatian villages.

Hitler unleashed the great offensive.  The powerful German army, equipped with dreadful war material, starts through Belgium against France.  The first French villages are bloodied before being conquered.

The three regiments of foreign volunteers, trained at Barcarès, are advanced to positions where they were to be launched in the most threatened sectors;

           22nd regiment in the Somme (The battle of Peronne);

           23rd regiment in Soissons region;

           21st in the Ardennes.

German planes do not leave the sky.  They bombard roads, bridges and railway stations.

The 21st Regiment moves with great difficulty, travel by train, truck and much walking on foot.  Every day it makes tens of kilometers.

It is not easy to walk, loaded with picks, shovels, gas mask [?], and back bending under the kit, all connected by cords (the other regiments called us the “Cord Regiment”; there are heavy 1914 guns also…)

Getting ready for a war of the trenches and you have to dig hundreds of miles…

One approaches the Ardennes.  The route passes through Longchamps, Chaumont, Erize-la-Grande; after St. Ménéhould, Cernay, le Morthome, to near the village of Boult-aux-Bois.  There, we stop in the little wood near the village, and are facing the enemy.

The village of Boult-aux-Bois is occupied by the Germans, ours looks all the white as houses with red tiled roofs, surrounded by glittering fields of all colors.

It is here, in the woods little that the company of Srolek, the “C.A.1” will deliver its first battle.  Ours, although exhausted by a long march, quickly occupy fighting positions.  The Germans begin by bombing the woods with their artillery; bombs explode in all directions, sift the earth, and cast up the trunks of trees.  Then they attack, covered by heavy machine gun fire.  We have our first dead.

Here is a comrade with whom you lived, you loved as your brother, who lies bleeding in your arms, and says his last words to you…you; you have to leave and abandon forever…

It was a brief but bloody battle; we were forced to withdraw.  The next day, the battalion occupied new positions in the village of Petites-Armoises, dug foxholes, and installed the 25mm cannon and mortars; we became strong.

The Germans attacked every day and often at night, but we came to hold positions and lasted 12 days and 12 nights.

It was only June 10th that the enemy managed to break our lines on both sides.

We are then threatened with encirclement.  Also, the order is given to withdraw to Vaux-lès-Mourons, Longueval, Vienne-la-Ville, up to Sainte-Ménéhould.

General Delaissey is personally visiting the battalion, which must cover the retreat of the main army.  Sainte-Ménéhould must be taken at any price.

The battalion is strengthened around the village.  It blows up the bridges of the Aisne flowing nearby, and digs trenches near the railway lines, on the village squares.

The Germans attack the next day with a heavy, powerful armament and undertake a fierce, uneven battle.  They manage to cross the river and with their armored cars darken the village, destroying the only 25mm canon and two mortars that the battalion had.

June 13.  The battalion has lost nearly half of its manpower.  In the afternoon, Captain Lagarigue gives the order to withdraw.  The group of gunners where Srolek Magalnik is situated are to stay behind to cover the retreat.

The Germans had already occupied the entire village of Sainte-Ménéhould but near the cemetery, an old French machine gun “Hotchkiss” still fires.

At 1600 hours, a German bullet pierced the heart of Srolek and put an end to his young life.  He fell at St. Ménéhould, defending the French soil of which he dreamed and to which he has devoted his true love.

The next day, refugees; peasants, bury him in the same place where he gave his last breath.

They could not read his name on his military papers riddled with bullets…

The same day unfolds the battle of the Grange-aux-Bois, which fell from us.

The regiment withdrew fighting to Passavant, and then Robencourt-aux-Ponts and Chaumont are in flames.

On June 19, what remains of the 21st Regiment is still fighting at Colombey-les-Belles, and on June 20, held the bloody battle at Allain.

On June 21, the order comes from the staff to stop fighting, and destroy weapons.

The Germans occupied the entire region, disarmed the regiments; the officers promised to treat them as “prisoners of honor” and to grant them the right to their personal weapons…

On June 22, the day the Marshal Pétain signed the armistice and signed France to the enemy, old General Decharme, head of the 35th Division (which included the 21st R.M.V.E.) gave his last order.

He ordered to bring all surviving troops of the 21st Regiment to the village of Tuillier-les-Groseilles.  For 15 hours that day, he reviewed the ranks of unarmed soldiers, with torn clothing and bloodied faces.  He walked slowly, often stopped, watching the soldiers right in the eye; he will know what to expect!  Then he bade farewell:

“Thank you for your heroism, for your sacrifice, your discipline, in my own name and in the name of France.”

On June 23, the rest of the regiment is brought into captivity in Germany.

The commander of the C.A.1. (Srolek’s Company) was Lieutenant Belissant, a cultured and gentle man who loved his soldiers, who adored him.

He is one of those for whom the French ideals of the great French Revolution are a sacred thing, one of those who have contributed over the world to build the reputation of France as a country of justice and humanity.

Lieutenant Bellissant loved Srolek and when Srolek fell, he wept bitterly.

In the first letter he wrote to his wife from captivity, he said: “I had a dear friend, a Jew who emigrated from Bessarabia, he fell as a hero.  I know he left a wife and child in Paris.  Find them and try to help them.“

***

Life was hard for Goldale and her child in Paris, occupied by the Germans.

She had found a small room in an old house in the Rue des Gravilliers; had transported her sewing machine and was working illegally to earn enough to feed herself and her daughter.

She lived in constant fear, and every night cried for Srolek who fell “somewhere in France”.

Mrs. Bellissant was a good woman, worthy of her husband.  As soon as she received the letter from her husband in captivity, she began looking for Goldale.  From one address to another, she climbed the floors, visited the attics until she found the room on Gravilliers Street.

The two women quickly became acquainted and soon became friends.  Goldale confided in her as a mother.  Mrs. Bellissant found Srolek’s tomb in the cemetery of St. Ménéhould.  They went there together and placed a memorial slab.

Mrs. Bellissant also found her old concierge of the Rue de Rennes, Mrs. Grimaud, to hide with her Goldale’s daughter Nelly, and thereby evade German roundups.

***

It happened in early 1944, on a gray winter morning, when daylight was just beginning to emerge.  Paris was still asleep when they heard on the stairs of the old house on Gravilliers Street heavy military boots; blows brutally beating at the door and crying, “Open!”

Before Goldale had time to get off the bed, they broke down the door.  I would have loved to tell you that it was the Gestapo and other German military formations organizing the hunt for Jews in Paris who came to arrest Goldale.  Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.  They were French; yes, the French, sold-out souls who collaborated with the Germans, demented fascists…or shallow people.

Goldale, in a nightgown, thin, skinny, and trembling, first tried to reason with them: “Leave me, my husband fell for France, I have a small child!”

When dragged by force on the stairs, Goldale struggled.  She screamed for help, she swore, she was crying and eventually began to beg: “I have done no wrong, I am a poor seamstress, leave me alone.”  Two big fellows seized her and prevailed.

The neighbors came out; in her nightgown, her face swollen with sleep, mostly old men, women and children; emaciated, exhausted by four years of occupation.

Several of them were wringing their hands and crying, looking upon our Goldale taken away in the police car.

Among the deported from Drancy to Auschwitz, from which she never returned…

____________________

Other aspects of the story… 

Srul was born in Rezcani, Romania, on August 16, 1912, while Golda (Vozer), also born in 1912, was from Pascani.  Srul served in the 21eme Régiment de Marche de Volontaires Etrangers (21st Regiment of Foreign Volunteers). 

Srul’s biographical profile at Mémorial Gen Web (Reference Number 1559751) does not specify the date of his death, only listing this as “1940”, and giving his surname as “Magalnick”, while Au Service de la France gives his surname as “Magalnik”. 

According to his biographical record in the Secrétariat Général pour l’Administration’s “Base des militaires décédés pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale” database, he died on June 17, 1940, rather than June 13 as given in Ilex’s account.  He was killed in action at Saint Menehould, Marne, and is buried at the Bagneux Cemeterty, in Paris.

After Srul’s death, Golda resided in at the Rue des Granvilliers, in Paris’ 3rd Arrondissement.  On November 11, 1942, she was deported from Drancy Camp, in France, to the Auschwitz Birkenau Extermination Camp, on Transport 45, Train Da. 901/38.  This is a correction to Ilex’s narrative which denotes that she was deported in 1944.

Above all and most important, Beller mentions that Srul and Golda had a “small child” – Nelly; their daughter – who resided with a Mrs. Grimaud, the concierge of Lt. Bellissant’s wife.  A search of Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victim’s Names reveals – fortunately – no record for “Nelly Magalnic” (at least, using the specific name “Nelly” in the “first name” search field). 

Therefore, it seems – one would hope – that Nelly survived the war. 

If so, assuming she was born in the mid-1930s, she would now be in her early eighties.

The Central Database of Shoah Victim’s Names reveals something else:  A Page of testimony in Golda’s memory, completed in December of 2002, by Victoria Schwartz (her niece?).

____________________

Some other Jewish military casualties on June 17, 1940, include:

Killed / Tué
– .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה. –

Bach, Andre, Chef d’Escadron, Legion d’Honneur
Armée de Terre, 121eme Regiment d’Infanterie, Groupe de 105 Hippomobile
“Son groupe ayant été coupé du corps d’armée le 7 juin, à continué à combattre avec d’autres éléments jusqu’au 17 juin, date à laquelle il à été mortellement frappé.”
(His group was cut off from the Corps on June 7, and continued to fight with other elements until June 17, when he was fatally struck.)
LODS, p. 126

Not in SGA Seconde Guerre mondiale website; Not in Sepultures du Guerre database
Place of Burial Unknown

Baum
, Alfred Isaac, Pvt., 6288801, Killed at St. Nazaire

The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), 2nd Battalion
Born 1919
WWRT I, p. 60
Prefailles Communal Cemetery, France – Grave 25

Boos
, Emile (AC-21P-27054), Blessures de Guerre; Rancourt
Armée de Terre, 70eme Régiment d’infanterie de Forteresse

France, Bas-Rhin, Nessenheim; 3/16/09 / France, Saverne
ASDLF, p. 138
SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” website lists unit as “70e RI Forteresse” – SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website lists Unite as “70eme R.I.F.”
Carre militaire “Navenne”, Navenne, Haute-Saone, France – Tombe Individuelle, No. 59

Bronstein
, Georges Youry (AC-21P-34431), Tué à l’ennemi; Yonne, Arthonnay

Armée de Terre, 42eme Régiment d’Infanterie, 5eme Compagnie
Born Russie, Saint Petersburg; 11/23/14
Place of Burial Unknown

Bucholz
, Kalmann (AC-21P-35484)

Born Pologne; 1/29/97
ASDLF – 138
Listed in SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” website, but not SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website; http://www.memorial-genweb.org/html/fr/resultcommune.php3?id_source=33507&ntable=bp05
(Gives first name as “Kalman”)
Bagneux Cemetery, Bagneux, Paris, France

Fleisher
, Soloman, Pvt.,

Royal Army Service Corps, 2nd Field Bakery
Mr. and Mrs. Morris and Ann Fleisher (parents)
Not listed in either WWRT or WWRT II
Dunkirk Memorial, Nord, France – Column 140

Freeman
, Leslie, Pvt., 6466563, Passenger aboard S.S. Lancastria, which received direct hit by enemy bomb at Dunkirk.

The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), 2nd Battalion
Born 1918
WWRT – I, p. 88
Dunkirk Memorial, Nord, France – Column 38

Goldinberg (Goldenberg)
, Albert, Soldat (AC-21P-195701), Tué au combat; Cote d’Or, Billy les Chanceaux

Armée de Terre, 232eme Régiment d’Artillerie Divisionnaire
Born France, Paris; 10/25/17
Information from SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website.  Not in SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” database.
Nécropole nationale “La Doua”, Villeurbanne, Rhone, France – Tombe individuelle, Carre E, Rang 14, No. 2

Harris, Stanley Louis, Sgt., 751759, Passenger aboard S.S. Lancastria, which received direct hit by enemy bomb at Dunkirk
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Number 98 Squadron
Born 1920
Mr. and Mrs. Louis and Minnie A. Harris (parents), Freemantle, Southampton, England
WWRT II, p. 27
http://www.rafweb.org/SqnMark098.htm
http://www.lancastria.org.uk/Victim_List/victim_list.html
Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England – Panel 15

Jungwitz, Mendel Juda, (AC-21P-58140), Tué au combat; Meuse, Sagny sur Meuse
Armée de Terre, 73eme Groupe de Reconnaissance de Division d’Infanterie
Born Pologne, Monwy Dwor; 12/22/03
First name from SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” website – SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website gives first name as “Mendel”; other information is identical in both databases.
Nécropole nationale “Faubourg Pave”, Verdun, Meuse, France – Tombe individuelle, Carre 39/45, No. 160

Khan
, Peter, Cpl., 13000584

Pioneer Corps, 53rd Company, Auxiliary Military
Born 1905
WWRT II, p. 16
Escoublac-la-Baule War Cemetery, Loire-Atlantique, France – 1,E,33

Levy
, Clement Nahman, (AC-21P-76681), “En mission”

Born Israel, Safad; 8/2/15
Place of Burial Unknown

Levy, Francois (AC-21P-76688), Meurthe-et-Moselle, Juvelize
Armée de Terre, 291eme Regiment d’Infanterie
France, Doubs, Besancon; 1/31/18
Place of Burial Unknown

Levy, Roger (AC-21P-78641), Bombardement; Ille-et-Vilaine, Rennes
Armée de Terre, 212eme Regiment d’Artillerie

France, Bas-Rhin, Benfeld; 8/11/06
Place of Burial Unknown

Lewis, Albert, Pvt., 4188602
Cheshire Regiment
Born 1902
Mr. and Mrs. Mark and Sarah Lewis (parents)
WWRT II, p. 18
Pornic War Cemetery, Loire-Atlantique, France – 1,C,6

Saks
, Tobiasz (AC-21P-151240), Tué au combat; Marne, Saint Menehould

Armée de Terre, 21eme Régiment de Marche Etranger
Born Pologne, Fedrzejow; 9/29/07
ASDLF, p. 143
Listed in SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” website – not listed in SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website; http://www.memorial-genweb.org/html/fr/resultcommune.php3?id_source=33507&ntable=bp05 (Gives first name as “Tobjasz”)
Bagneux Cemetery, Bagneux, Paris, France

Weil
, Francois Charles David, Lieutenant (AC-21P-169180), Legion d’Honneur; Vienne, Poitiers / Villampuy

Armée de Terre, Cavalerie / A.B.C. / 2eme // 3eme Bataillon de Chars de Combat
“Grièvement blessé le 17/06/1940 à Villampuy (28) par un coup direct sur son char.”
(Seriously wounded on 17/06/1940 in Villampuy (28) by a direct hit on his tank.)

“Lors de l’attaque de Crécy, le 19 mai 1940 à conduit sa section à l’objectif définitif et à contenu l’ennemi pendant sept heures malgré de violente bombardements d’aviation.  Après avoir brillamment participé aux contre-attaques du bataillon du 24 au 31 mai en direction d’Abbevville, à été grièvement blessé le 17 juin au carrefour de Villampuy en assurant la liaison entre ses sections.  Est mort des suites de ses blessures.”
(During the attack on Crécy, May 19, 1940 led his section to the final objective and contained the enemy for seven hours despite violent bombing by aircraft.  After brilliantly participating in the battalion’s counter-attacks from May 24th to 31st in the direction of Abbeville, he was seriously wounded on June 17th at the crossroads of Villampuy by linking his sections.  Died from his wounds.)

Born France, Paris; 10/2/13
LODS, p. 125
SGA gives date as 7/5/40; http://www.memorialgenweb.org/memorial3/html/fr/complementter.php?table=bp&id=112905
Place of Burial Unknown

Winer, Jack George, Pvt., 7659901, Killed in Dunkirk Evacuation
Royal Army Pay Corps
Born 1905
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Rose Winer (parents)
WWRT I, p. 174
Dunkirk Memorial, Nord, France – Column 148

Zadoc Khan
, Roger Bertrand, (AC-21P-172107), “Non mort pour France”, Creuse, Mas d’Arviges

Born France, Paris; 11/20/01
Place of Burial Unknown

Zapp, Victor Irving, Sgt., 147889, Passenger aboard S.S. Lancastria, which received direct hit by enemy bomb at Dunkirk.
Royal Army Service Corps
WWRT II, p. 23
Pornic War Cemetery, Loire-Atlantique, France – 2,C,15

Zerbib
, Raymond Fredj Rahsmin, Soldat (Zouave), (AC-21P-167211), Legion d’Honneur; Seine-et-Oise, Saint Cheron (environs)

Armée de Terre, 3eme Regiment de Zouaves
“Mortellement blessé le 17 juin 1940 en résistant courageusement aux attaques ennemies aux environs de Saint-Cheron.”
(Fatally wounded on 17 June 1940 by courageously resisting enemy attacks near Saint-Cheron.)

Born Algerie, Ain-Beida; 9/4/14
LODS, p. 128
First name and Date de deces from SGA “Seconde guerre mondiale” website – SGA “Sepultures de Guerre” website gives first name as “Raymond”, and lists Date de deces as “6/15/40”.
Nécropole nationale “Fleury-les-Aubrais”, Fleury-les-Aubrais, Loiret, France – Tombe individuelle, Carre 43, Rang 4, No. 58

Prisoners of War / Prisonniers de Guerre

Journo, Raoul, Zouave de 1ere Classe, Citation à l’ordre du Régiment
Armée de Terre, 10ème Corps d’Armée, 84ème D.I.N.A.
Prisoner of War (Prisonnier de guerre); Liberated 4/29/45
LODS, p. 99

Khelifi
, Simon, Soldat de 1ere Classe

Armée de Terre, 57eme Régiment d’Infanterie Coloniale (Mixte Sénégalais)
Prisoner of War (Prisonnier de guerre); Frontstalag 230 (France, Vienne, Poitiers)
“Evadé le 22 août 1944 (zone de combat Calvados).  Rejoint le bataillon 31éme de Pionnier.”
(Escaped on 22 August 1944 (Calvados combat zone).  Joined the 31st Pioneer Battalion.) 

Born Tunisie, Tunis; 5/17/15
LODS, p. 111
Liste officielle No. 46 De Prisonniers Francais (11/30/40), p. 33, Liste officielle No. 63 De Prisonniers Francais (1/13/41), p. 33

Wounded (Survived) / Blessé (Survécu)

Sahagian, Abraham, Soldat, Medaille Militaire
Armée de Terre, 107eme Regiment d’Infanterie

“A été grièvement blessé par balle le 17 juin 1940 à son poste de combat aux environs de Laon.”
(He was seriously wounded by a bullet on 17 June 1940 at his combat post near Laon.) 

LODS, p. 145

____________________

References

Books

“WWRT I”
Morris, Henry, Edited by Gerald Smith, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945, Brassey’s, United Kingdom, London, 1989

“WWRT II”
Morris, Henry, Edited by Hilary Halter, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945 – An Addendum, AJEX, United Kingdom, London, 1994

“LODS”
Chiche, F., Livre d’Or et de Sang – Les Juifs au Combat: Citations 1939-1945 de Bir-Hakeim au Rhin et Danube, Edition Brith Israel, Tunis, Tunisie, 1946

“ASDLF”
Au Service de la France (Edité à l’occasion du 10ème anniversaire de l’Union des Engagés Volontaires et Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945), l’Union Des Engagés Volontaires Et Anciens Combattants Juifs, Paris (?), France, 1955

Web

Ilex Beller (wikipedia entry), at https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_Beller

Ilex Beller (JewishGen KehilaLinks), at https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilex_Beller

U.E.V.A.C.J. (Union des Engagés Volontaires et Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945 (Union of Military Volunteers and Jewish Veterans of 1939-1945) (home page), at http://www.combattantvolontairejuif.org/160.html

Rue de Gravilliers (wikipedia entry), at https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rue_des_Gravilliers

Golda Magalnic (under surname of “Magalnik”) – biographical information at genweb.org

Flight in The Great War: Lieutenant Sol Wise, Aerial Observer, Armée de l’air – II: Biography, Briefly

In February of this year, I presented an article from a September, 1918 issue of The American Israelite concerning Lieutenant Sol Wise, a nephew of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who served as an aerial observer in Escadrille (Squadron) Br 111 of France’s Armée de l’air.  That article – in reality, a transcript of a lengthy letter written by Lt. Wise to his parents in July of 1918 – is a clear account of the life of an aviator on the Western Front during the final year of the “Great War”.  Lieutenant Wise presents a vivid picture of aerial combat, and, gives details – in an almost light-hearted way – about aspects of daily life between combat missions (accommodations, food, and the Escadrille’s Cadillac 8 automobile) at BR 111’s bases at Villers-en-Lieu and Pars-les-Romilly. 

Further research has shown that the article in The American Israelite was not the only account that Lieutenant Wise penned about his war experiences.  This was found at Ancestry.com.   

Intriguingly; disturbingly; curiously (and more…) despite the accumulation and collation of all this information, no publication resulted from this vast amount of material, at least in terms of a volume (or volumes) presenting biographies for and details about the military service of American Jewish soldiers during the First World War.

Fortunately, Lieutenant Wise received, completed, and returned his copy of the AJC’s questionnaire.  This is presented below.  In light of the details in the article from The American Israelite, the information recorded by Lt. Wise is surprisingly sparse, but it’s still an interesting supplement to that 1918 publication.

____________________

Sol’s WW II Draft Registration card, also from Ancestry.com, is shown below.

Sol passed away on January 5, 1974, and is buried with his wife, Florence (Stevenson) Wise, at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

____________________

References

U.S., WWI Jewish Servicemen Questionnaires, 1918-1921 (on Ancestry.com) at:
http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1765

Wise, Sol, Interesting Letter From Aviator, The American Israelite, September 9, 1918

Escadrille VB 111 – VC-111 – Sop 111 – Br 111, at
http://albindenis.free.fr/Site_escadrille/escadrille111.htm

Biographical Profile for Sol Wise, at FindAGrave.com

Photograph of Sol Wise’s matzeva by FindAGrave contributors Ken & Nancy

Flight in The Great War: Lieutenant Sol Wise, Aerial Observer, Armée de l’air – I: A Letter Home

The age of powered human flight commenced on December 17, 1903, with Orville Wright’s flight of the Wright Flyer I at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Nearly eleven years would transpire between that date and the beginning of First World War, during which time aviation – and particularly aviators – acquired a mystique akin to that accorded to astronauts half a century later. 

On one level, this was a reflection of the scientific and technological advances inherent to and resulting from manned flight, which would only accelerate in future decades.  (And, are still doing so.)  On another level, the advent of human flight represented – even as it generated – a change in the nature and perspective of mans’ “place” in the world, in terms of speed of travel, speed of communication, speed of thought, and as a whole, speed of action.

Unsurprisingly, a fascination with aviation was reflected in the popular press, in terms of news coverage accorded to the experiences and exploits of aviators, particularly military aviators. 

An example of this follows:  A 1918 article from The American Israelite, presenting a fascinating letter by Lieutenant Sol Wise, who served as an aerial observer / gunner in two-seat Breguet bombers with the Armée de l’air – the aerial arm of the French armed forces.

Portrait of Sol Wise in The American Israelite

The publication of Sol’s letter in The American Israelite (founded in 1854, and very much thriving today) would not have been altogether unexpected, as the paper’s founder was his great uncle (!) Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. 

Sol’s well-written letter gives insight into the experiences of a WW I military aviator in terms of combat flying and of equal note, the accommodations and living conditions associated with combat flyers in World War One.

Fortunately, through the sentence, “My esquadrille insignia is a white swan.  We are presented with a pin to wear after a certain number of trips over the lines,”  Sol has enabled us to identify the military unit to which he was assigned: “Escadrille (Squadron) Br 111”. 

An extraordinarily comprehensive and detailed website on French World War One Aviation created by Denis Albin (Les Escadrilles francaises de la Grande Guerre) features a page devoted to Br 111, which shows examples of the Escadrille’s white swan insignia, images of the aforementioned “pin”, information about the men assigned to Br 111, and, many photographs of its aircraft.

Insignia of Br 111 (art by Denis Albin)

In terms of Sol’s combat experiences, the article mentions that he shot down a German pursuit plane on August 14, 1918.  However, Frank Bailey and Christopher Cony’s The French Air Service War Chronology reveals that this does not seem to have been so.  No “Lieutenant Wise” (or any phonetic equivalent!) is listed as having shot down a German aircraft on that date.

But…

The list of BR 111’s aerial victories at Denis Albin’s website reveals that a “Lieutenant Oise”, flying as an observer / gunner for pilot Lieutenant Théodore Loustallot, claimed a German aircraft on September 2, 1918.  This is identical with information in Bailey and Cony’s book, which records their shooting down a German “scout” plane over “Basileux”, at 1500 hours.  Could “Lieutenant Oise” in reality be “Lieutenant [Sol] Wise”?

Lieutenant Loustallot’s identity was verified at the French Ministry of Defence’s Mémoire des hommes website (which provides digitized documents covering French military casualties, and French military personnel, from military conflicts of the twentieth century).  His full name is revealed as Théodore Daniel Loustallot.  From Bordeaux, he was born on April 26, 1894, where prior to the war he was a student.  As indicated on the document below, he was assigned to Br 111 on January 13, 1918.  

Sol revealed very little about the type of aircraft with which his squadron was equipped, other than the brief statement, “I have a fast plane or ship.”

The type of plane?  The French Breguet 14, a very successful two-seat bomber and reconnaissance plane, of which approximately 5,500 were constructed.  The image below, by Patrice Gaubert, shows a Breguet 14 bearing Br 111’s white swan insignia.

Sol would have occupied the aircraft’s back seat, which was equipped with two 7.7mm Lewis Guns.  An excellent image of this crew position is shown below, in a photograph (Image Q 69230) from the Imperial War Museum.

THE FRENCH AIR FORCE ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 69230) The twin machine-guns mounted on the rear cockpit of a French Breguet 14 A.2 biplane at the Villeneuve aerodrome, 16 December 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205358272

In the context of military aviation in WW I, the names of many other Jewish aviators (American, Australian, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, and Italian) can be mentioned.  I will save those for future posts. 

____________________

INTERESTING LETTER FROM AVIATOR
Cincinnati Flyer Brings Down Enemy Airplane

American Israelite
September 19, 1918

Lieutenant Sol Wise of the United States Aviation Corps, the writer of the appended letter, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Sig Wise (of the Cincinnati firm of Meyer, Wise and Kaichen).  The young officer – he is just twenty-six years of age – enlisted a soon as the United States entered the war.  After due training he was sent abroad last November and after further training was put on detached service with a French esquadrille on July 13.

The letter, which is a very interesting one, reads as follows:

The Western Front, France
July 20, 1918

My Dear Parents: – I suppose you have received the letter I wrote a few days ago saying I am now flying on the front.  I am a full fledged aviator now as I took my first trip over the lines yesterday afternoon and as one of the other observers was sick, I went in his place.  I had been expecting to go across soon, but not as soon as I did, as our ship wasn’t ready.  Of course, it’s a great strain going over the lines the first time, but I was glad I was not told the night before.  The greatest nervousness is felt at the time of departure when all the machines are lined up on the field in long rows just before starting.  We had to wait around a long time as the orders were changed several times in a short while.

You see during this attack the lines are changed constantly and sometimes great gains are made so that it would be dangerous to bomb a certain town which might have been taken by the French, as you will see the French have made great gains north of Chateau Thierry.  I got all my flying clothes out to go up to 5,000 meters, then I had to change to go up to 3,000, as there is a great difference in temperature and it is very necessary to dress properly, especially the hands, face and feet, as the trip lasts over two hours in the air.  There are a few American teams in my esquadrille and the remainder are French.  They always hold an assembly on the fields just before starting to correct our maps and point out our objective.

Well the signal for the start was given and I hopped into the observer’s seat, my guns in good condition and a load of bombs on our lower wings, all set for the Huns.  It was very hot and I was perspiring when we left the ground.  It was a wonderful sight to see a large number of planes all taking off across the field at once in separate groups, all bent for Germany.  We left the ground at 6:15 p.m. and went right up to 3,200 meters, 10,000 feet, in formation.  I felt great after the first half hour in the air.  I had so much to do looking on the maps and watching for enemy planes that I wasn’t thinking of anything else.  As we flew along I saw Rheims burning in the distance and fires here and there.  As we neared the lines I saw some sausage balloons several thousand feet below and over our head our big three-plane fighting planes.  The aviator gets a real view of the whole front from both sides.  I saw the trenches far below just before we turned to cross the lines.  The ground was literally pitted with shell holes from artillery.  We crossed over into Germany amid the clouds which were pierced by the sun’s rays here and there very black and dusty looking.  I found out afterwards that these were so-called clouds of battle from the day’s gun fire.  I was very careful to look for Boche planes which I knew were in the vicinity as I noticed we were being trailed by a strange group of planes far to the rear.  Just after I released my bombs I saw the other planes do the same.  I heard several nasty bangs and rings of black smoke hung in the air.  This was the barrage put up by the anti-air craft.  They are called Archies.  The bombs dropped from the surrounding planes like so many loads of coal being dumped over.  I kept one hand on the guns and just after we turned I saw seven Boche planes well to the rear getting ready to attack.  They dove down on our formation and I fired.  Every plane in the group was shooting but the Huns did not stay around long; their closest distance was 500 yards.  I could see where my shots went by the tracers.  The Boche won’t dive right through a formation as a rule, but wait on the edges for some poor fellow’s motor to go wrong.  The guns worked beautifully.  Our bombs took good effect as you will see in the French air report of July 19th.  The Boche planes, which were those new Fokker triplanes, did not stay around long and after a half hour’s good driving

I saw familiar objects again.  My pilot let me drive the rest of the way home.  I was mighty glad to get a chance to sit down as the observer has to stand up and constantly look around the country; compare the land with the map and look for enemy plans as well as note things of importance in the enemy territory.

It was a great and glorious feeling when our own air dome [sic] loomed up and we landed safely.  Had supper about 9:30 and waited around for the Boche to come over and drop us a few presents at night.  It was a beautiful moonlight night and we heard him coming about 11:30 p.m.  Searchlights were flashing around the sky and shrapnel was bursting all over but we could not see the Hun – nevertheless he dropped a few eggs.  I had just got into bed when the orderly came around with his little red note book showing my order for the alert at 4 a.m. – great stuff.  I felt fine, but could not sleep – excitement was too intense.  I began to realize that there is a war and a real one at that.  Have been on the alert all day, which means that you should be ready to go up at a minute’s notice, but the weather was bad today, and it’s called off and I am now on repose.  During the attack you have to be ready to go at any time, depending when the call comes in from the line.  There is always some news coming over the wires.  The French officers are very cordial and great sports.  We have our own bar and the food is excellent.  The plates on the table are painted in with the esquadrille number and insignia.  My esquadrille insignia is a white swan.  We are presented with a pin to wear after a certain number of trips over the lines.  My orderly takes care of my clothes, shines my shoes, makes the bed and does my errands.  I pay him 20 francs a month with tobacco.  It’s a great life.  We have our own car, a Cadillac 8, for about seven American officers.  We are not directly at the front, but can hear the big guns booming all day and night.  I have gotten quite used to them.

We came in so late last night that we could not set them up but my pilot and I were going to buy champagne (for the first time over) tonight.  It’s the custom.  This is the greatest branch of service.  It can’t be beat, and now that I have been over the lines and know what it is like, I want to go often – the more the merrier.  Guess I will get some mail from you in a few days; it is delayed somewhere.  Hope you are all well and write often.

First Lieutenant W.M. Ellis in my esquadrille left last night for American to take up instructions.

SOL

Since writing the above Lieut. Wise has been across the lines numerous times.  He has taken part in several combats and on August 14th succeeded in sending down a Boche flyer, after an exciting fight, for which he was decorated, receiving the Croix-de-guerre, the French War Cross.

In another letter he writes: “The life in camp is great.  The meals are splendid.  We always have wine and last night there were two kinds of wine and champagne.  I am living in a tent with a wooden floor and everything is fixed for the greatest comfort.

“I have a fast plane or ship, as the boys call them, and a good pilot.  We always cross the lines in groups or formation for safety, as the Boche won’t attack a formation unless he has three to one in his favor as a rule.  The Allies have the supremacy of the air at present and will continue to improve their effectiveness in the air as time goes on.  I am perfectly satisfied with the life at the front here and I hope I stay with the French until the war ends.  Like everything else, you get used to going over the lines, as it’s all in a day’s work and after you get thoroughly used to it and know the ins and outs of the war game in the air, you think it’s the greatest sport in the world.  I haven’t received your letters for several weeks but suppose they will turn up somewhere.  Write often as mail is scarce.

SOL

Lieutenant Wise is a grand nephew of the late Rabbi Isaac M. Wise.

____________________

References

Bailey, Frank W., and Cony, Christopher, The French Air Service War Chronology 1914-1918, Grub Street, London, England, 2001

Wise, Sol, Interesting Letter From Aviator, The American Israelite, September 9, 1918

The American Israelite (Wikipedia), at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Israelite

Breguet 14 (Wikipedia), at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breguet_14

Breguet 14 Observer’s Position (Photograph), at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205358272

Escadrille VB 111 – VC-111 – Sop 111 – Br 111, at http://albindenis.free.fr/Site_escadrille/escadrille111.htm

Military Aircraft Personnel (Database of Navigators and Ground Personnel of the [French] Air Force During the Great War), at http://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/en/article.php?larub=81

 

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in l’Univers Israélite (The Jewish World) – Sur la mort d’un héros (On the Death of a Hero – Sous-Lieutenant André Fraenckel), April 16, 1915

A week after l’Univers Israélite – in its issue of April 9, 1915 – presented a moving account of a Pesach Seder held among Sephardic soldiers, the periodical published an account covering the military career, death, and family background of a fallen officer: Sous-Lieutenant André Fraenckel.

Born in Elbeuf in June of 1893, Andre was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Fraenckel, his father having been President of the Chamber of Commerce of Elbeuf, and, vice president of the religious association of Elbeuf. 

The article presents an account of his nonchalant attitude after having been wounded in January, and, an extract from a letter Andre wrote to either his parents, or, the editor of l’Univers.  The article continues with a transcript of a letter written to Andre’s parents by a Captain Vital (first name not given), Company Commander of a Battalion of Chasseurs, which details about Andre’s death, and, information about Andre’s family.

As with prior – and hopefully future – blog posts concerning Jewish World War One Casualties in the French army, I have included “Partie À Remplir Par Le Corps” cards from the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale (Died for France in the First World War) database.

____________________

Andre was not the only French Jewish soldier to lose his life on March 4, 1915.  The others included:

Sous-Lieutenant Leon Eugene Bauer; 41ème Bataillon de Chasseurs a Pied
At La Chapelotte, in Cher
Born at Le Havre, on June 19, 1893
Mentioned in l’Univers Israélite on September 10, 1915
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, page 8)

Sergent Major Armand Levy; 170ème Regiment d’Infanterie (?)
At Hurlus, in Marne
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, page 53)
(“Partie À Remplir Par Le Corps” card could not be found or identified at the Morts pour la France de la Première Guerre mondiale (Died for France in the First World War) database, at Mémoire des Hommes (Memories of the Men) website.)

Soldier (Soldat) Max Levy; 149ème Regiment d’Infanterie
Died of wounds at a Temporary Hospital, at Hay-les-Mines, in Pas-de-Calais
Born at Alsace-Lorraine, on August 10, 1876
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, p. 56)

Sous-Lieutenant Henri Leon Rothschild; 370ème Regiment d’Infanterie
At Neuville-Saint-Vaast, in Pas-de-Calais; Disappeared
Born at 9ème Arrondissement of Paris, on September 15, 1887
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, p. 72)

Sergent Robert See; 313ème Regiment d’Infanterie
At Vauquois, in Meuse
Born at Colmar, in Alsace-Lorraine, on January 19, 1878
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, p. 77)

Lieutenant André Wahl; 18ème Bataillon de Chasseurs (André’s Battalion)
Died of wounds, at Fortin de Mesnil les Hurlus, in Marne
Born at Doaui, in Nord, on February 23, 1884
Mentioned in l’Univers Israélite on March 17, 1916
(Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française, p. 85)

– .ת. נ. צ. ב. ה –

____________________

Sur la mort d’un héros

On the Death of a Hero

l’Univers Israélite
April 16, 1915

The Jewish World
April 16, 1915

A la mémoire du sous-lieutenant André Fraenckel
tombé en Champagne, le 4 Mars 1915

In memory of Second Lieutenant Andre Fraenckel

fallen in Champagne, March 4, 1915

Il nous était revenu an début de janvier, la téte emmaillottée de linges blancs, blessé pour la deuxième fois.  “Ce n’est rien, disait-il, une balle morte”. Une citation à l’ordre de l’armée disait ce qu’il passait sous silence: là blessure reçue en organisant, debout sous le feu, un saillant enlevé par ses chasseurs. 

He had returned year early at the beginning of January, head swathed in white cloths, wounded for the second time.  “It is nothing, he said, a dead ball.”  A quote from an order of the Army and he was silent: The wound was received by organizing, a defensive position under fire; a salient removed by his chasseurs.

Il décrivait la vie là-bas, dans une forêt de l’Argonne: au flanc d’un ravin, la tranchée; sur le versant opposé, la tranchée allemande; entre les deux une vallée fauchée par les balles. Il parlait avec enthousiasme de ses chefs et de ses homes; ces belles amitiés d’officiers en campagne, auxquelles la présence de la mort et l’éloignement de tous les intérêts du monde imposent tant de confiance et de profondeur, devaient plaire à cette âme loyale et absolue.

He described life there, in a forest of the Argonne: the side of a ravine, the trench; on the opposite slope, the German trench; a valley between the two swathed by bullets.  He spoke with enthusiasm of his leaders and their homes; these beautiful friendships of officers on campaign, which the presence of death and the removal of all worldly interests require so much confidence and depth, should please this loyal and absolute soul.

Il avait presque la nostalgie du front, tant les préoccupations de ceux qui ne se battaient pas lui paraissaient mesquines. 

He was almost nostalgic at the front, so that the concerns of those who did not fight to him seemed petty.

“Il ne faut pas croire, disait-il, que notre vie soit triste ou effrayante. Je me rappelle un soir où l’on nous a prévenus que nous aurions à attaquer le lendemain matin. C’etait la pente du ràvin a descendre, en tête de nos hommes, sous le feu des mitrailleuses allemandes. Nous avons passé la nuit à fumer des cigarettes. L’air était très calme, le ciel tout plein d’étoiles. Nous n’avions aucune tristesse, aucune arrière-pensée. Nous savions que nous allions mourir de la plus belle des morts, et la certitude de mourir est un sentiment très doux qùi ne laisse de place pour aucune crainte. Avant le matin, l’attaque fut décommandée: nous l’avons tous regrette.

“Do not believe,” he said, “that our life is sad or frightening.  I remember one evening when we were warned that we would have to attack the next morning.  It was the slope of the lower ravine, our forward men, under the fire of German machine guns.  We spent the night smoking cigarettes.  The air was calm, the whole sky full of stars.  We had no sadness, no ulterior motive.  We knew we were going to die the most beautiful of deaths, and the certainty of death is a very sweet feeling that leaves no room for fear.  Before the morning, the attack was called off: we all regretted.”

Il devait retrouver, hélas! l’occasion attendue de ce sacrifice.  Quelques semaines après son départ ses lettres cessèrent d’arriver. Un jour son capitaine écrivit qu’il était blessé, puis grièvement blessé, et le lendemain vint celle belle lettre d’un admirable chef:

He should find, alas, the expected time of this sacrifice.  A few weeks after leaving his letters stopped coming.  One day his captain wrote that he was hurt, and hurt badly, and next came the beautiful letter of an admirable leader:

Le 19 mars 1915.
On March 19, 1915.

Monsieur,
Sir,


Je ne veux laisser à aucun autre la douloureuse mission de vous révéler la triste vérité. La peine que j’ai éprouvée moi-méme m’a fait différer de vous écrire, pensant bien que l’absence de lettres quotidiennes vous préparerait un peu a l’idée d’un malheur.  Vous excuse-rez aussi les mensonges de mes dernières lettres destinées uniquement à amortir le choc un peu brutal de la cruelle vérité.  Voire fils Andre est tombé en héros, à la tête de sa troupe, le 4 mars dernier, frappé d’une balle au cœur, sans une plainte, sans avoir souffert aussi, comme le témoignait le calme de ses traits. C’est la belle mort du soldat qui l’a fauché dans un élan superbe, dont une citation à l’ordre de l’armée consacrera le souvenir.


I will leave no other painful passion to reveal the sad truth.  The trouble I have proven my same made me defer to write to you, thinking that the absence of daily letters to you prepares little to you the idea of a misfortune.  You also excuse the lies of my last letters, intended only to soften the somewhat brutal shock of the cruel truth.  Your son Andre became a hero at the head of his troops, last March 4, struck by a bullet in the heart, without a complaint, without suffering too, as evidenced by the calm of his features.  This is the beautiful death of the soldier who broke into a superb momentum, including a citation in army dispatches consecrating his memory.


Permetez-moi, Monsieur, de m’associer à votre douleur paternelle, en tant que chef et en tant qu’ami. La vie de campagne créé des liens indissolubles, et je m’étais très sincèrement attaché a ce jeune homme si vivant et si vibrant qu’était votre enfant. L’ardeur qu’il mettait en tout, il l’a manifestée dans cette attaque de tranchée pour la prise de laquelle il a donné sa vie. Avec vous je pleure la nature généreuse et la belle âme d’officier qui en était en lui.


Allow me, Sir, to associate myself with your father’s pain, as leader and as a friend.  Country living created indissoluble bonds, and I was sincerely attached to this young man, so alive and vibrant was your child.  The passion he put into everything he manifested in this trench attack the decision for which he gave his life.  With you I cry generously for the beautiful soul of the officer that was within him.


Que la beauté de cette mort soit pour vous une atténuation à votre peine. C’est du sang jeune, abondamment répandu, que sortira notre régénération. J’aurais voulu pouvoir donner le mien pour épargner sa vie: la balle est folle et ne choisit pas.


May the beauty of this death be for you an attenuation to your sentence.  It is the young blood, fully given, that will release our regeneration.  I wish I could give mine to save his life: the bullet is crazy and does not choose.


Je me hâte de répondre à une question que je devine.” Le corps de votre fils, mis en bière, repose dans le petit cimetière de….., côte à côte avec ceux de ses compagnons d’armes. Lorsque le bataillon a défilé devant lui, pour la dernière fois, beaucoup ont fait serment de le venger.


I hasten to answer a question I guess.  “The body of your son, placed in a coffin, is buried in the small cemetery of …, side by side with those of his fellow soldiers.  When the battalion parades before him, for the last time, many have sworn to avenge him.


Pardonnez-moi encore, Monsieur, de vous porter un coup si cruel. J’ai préféré vous annoncer moi-même la pénible nouvelle, sans recourir à la voie administrative. Je m’incline respectueusement devant votre douleur paternelle et je vous prie d’accepter l’expression de mes plus sincères et mes plus profondes condoléances.


Forgive me again, sir, for dealing you a blow so cruel.  I preferred to tell you the painful news myself, without resort to administrative means.  I respectfully bow to your father’s pain and I beg you to accept the expression of my profound and deepest condolences.

Signé:
Capitaine Vital,
commandant la… compagnie du… bataillon
de chasseurs à pied

Signed:
Captain Vital,
Commandant of the … Company of the … battalion
of
chasseurs à pied

On a su depuis, par une lettre d’un de ses camarades, que tout, autre que lui eût pu être sauvé. Dès le début de l’attaque, il avait été blessé à la tête par un éclat d’obus. Il aurait dû aller se faire panser. Mais c’était une conscience qui ne marchandait pas avec elle-même. En toute chose il ne comprenait que le don total de soi. Souvent, silencieux, il nous écoutait discuter autour de lui; puis brusquement, de sa voix jeune et un peu bourrue, il donnait son avis : c’était ton-jours le plus généreux. Pour tôus ceux qu’il aimait, pour toutes les causes qui lui paraissaient justes, etait toujours prêt à s’offrir tout entier.

We have since learned, by a letter from one of his comrades, of everything else that could have been done to save him.  From the beginning of the attack, he had been wounded in the head by shrapnel.  He should have gotten [the wound] dressed.  But he had a consciousness that had not bargained with itself.  In everything, he did not understand the total gift of self.   Often silent, he listened to us talk about him; then suddenly, in his little young and gruff voice, he gave his opinion: it was the most in the most generous tone.  For all those he loved, for all cases which he considered fair, was always ready to offer a whole.

C’est un privilège de ceux qui meurent à vingt ans d’avoir conservé jusqu’au bout cette belle foi joyeuse dans la vie : c’est un de leurs privilèges aussi de demeurer éternellement jeunes dans la mémoire de ceux qui les ont aimés.  Ce beau jeune home, ardent et vibrant, bien pris dans son uniforme bleu foncé, restera, pour tous ceux qui l’ont connu, un souvenir lumineux et sans tache, et, à la tristesse de l’avoir perdu se mêlera toujours pour les siens la douceur de conserver de lui une image si fraîche et si pure.

It is a privilege of those who die at twenty to have been preserved through this beautiful joyful faith in life: it’s one of their privileges as to remain young forever in the memory of those who loved them.  This beautiful young man, ardent and vibrant, well caught in his dark blue uniform, will remain, for all those who knew him, a bright and spotless memory, and the sadness of losing him will always mingle with his gentleness to keep him pictured so fresh and pure.

Pour moi, je le verrai toujours vivant et fort, courant à la tête de ses chasseurs, dans un élan superbe, sur ce coin de la terre de Champagne pour lequel il a donné son sang, avec sur le visage l’expression que donnent une volonté héroique et cette certitude de mourir que ne laisse de place pour aucune crainte.

For me, I see him still alive and strong, running at the head of his fighters with a superb momentum, on this corner of the land of Champagne for which he gave his blood, with his face in an expression that gives heroic determination in the certainty of death that leaves no room for fear.

E.H.
(La Dépéche de Rouen)

E.H.
(The Disptach from Rouen)

André Fraenckel était le fils unique de M. Paul Fraenckel, président de la Chambre de Commerce d’Elbeuf et vice-président de l’Association cultuelle d’Elbeuf, et de Mme Paul Fraenckel.  Il avait fait sa premierè année de service à Rouen au 74e d’infanterie.  Il achevait la seconde année comme élève officier dans un bataillon de chasseurs à pied lorsque la guerre éclata.

André Fraenckel was the only son of Paul Fraenckel and Mrs. Paul Fraenckel, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Elbeuf and vice president of the religious association of Elbeuf.  He had his first year of service at Rouen in the 74th Infantry.  He finished the second year as a student officer in a battalion of Chasseurs when war broke out. 

Il ne tarda pas à se distinguer par sa conduite au feu, qui lui valut une citation à l’ordre du jour de l’armée; il revint deux fois blessé.  Il était parti il y a quelques semaines pour reprendre son poste sur un point du front où la lutte était particulièrement active.

He will soon be distinguished by his conduct against fire, which earned him a citation in the orders of the army.  He returned twice wounded.  He had been there a few weeks to resume his position on the point of the front where the fight was particularly active.

Toute la ville d’Elbeuf, où le jeune André Fraenckel comptait autant de sympathies que parmi ses camarades de bataillon, s’est associée à la douleur d’une famille justement considérée et qui, venue d’Alsace après 1870, paie de la vie d’un fils unique la reprise du pays natal toujours regretté.

The whole town of Elbeuf, where the young André Fraenckel had many sympathies among his battalion comrades, is associated with the pain of a family and it is rightly considered that, from Alsace after 1870, it is regretted that the homeland is always paid with the life of a son.

M. Marc Bernheim, président de l’Association cultuelle du canton d’Elbeuf nous a écrit pour nous dire, en son nom et au nom de tous ses coreligionnaires d’Elbeuf et de la région, la part sincère qu’ils prennent au cruel deuil qui vient de frapper la famille Fraenckel.  Nous nous associons de tout coeur à ces condoléances. 

Mr. Marc Bernheim, president of the religious association of the canton of Elbeuf wrote to us saying, in his name and on behalf of all his coreligionists of Elbeuf and the region, they take cruel mourning that has struck the family Fraenckel with a sincere hand.  We join wholeheartedly in these condolences.

Reference

Les Israelites dans l’Armée Française (Israelites [Jews] in the French Army), Angers, 1921 – Avant-Propos de la Deuxième Épreuve [Forward to the Second Edition], Albert Manuel, Paris, Juillet, 1921 – (Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive [Reissued by the Circle for Jewish Genealogy], Paris, 2000)

– Transcribed and Translated by Michael G. Moskow – 2016

 

 

 

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in l’Univers Israélite (The Jewish World) – Le Séder sur le Front (The Seder at The Front), April 9, 1915

The following item, from l’Univers Israélite, is as moving as it is interesting.

Covering the observance of the “first” Pesach Seder of World War One – occurring on the 15th of Nisan, 5675 (Tuesday, the 30th of March, 1915) – the essay was written by a Jewish chaplain serving in the French Army. 

Each paragraph is introduced with a transliterated Hebrew phrase, and a discussion of that phrase is then used to segue into a discourse on the relationship between various aspects of the Seder night in particular, and Pesach in general, and contemporary military service by Jewish soldiers, touching upon the discomforts and dangers of military life, support of French Jewish troops by the Consistoire, and musings about an eventual, more peaceful future.  

Notably, the fact that this particular Seder was held by and among a group of some forty Jewish soldiers from North Africa, specifically Zouaves and African chasseurs – men from Constantine and Oran – is strongly emphasized. 

This essay is actually the first of several such items published by l’Univers Israélite in the course of World War One, and its presence would be very strongly echoed in other organs of the Jewish press during that conflict (such as The Jewish Chronicle). 

And inevitably, in subsequent military conflicts, as well… 

Le Séder sur le front
The Seder at The Front

l’Univers Israélite
April 9, 1915

The Jewish World
April 9, 1915

Leil chimourim.             Ces mots qui désignent dans la Bible la soirée pascale, pourraient fort bien se traduire par “Nuit de garde”.  Joseph Derenbourg a rapproché cette expression hébraïque de l’arabe samara, qui s’applique aux entretiens nocturnes des arabes du désert lorsque accroupis, le soir, autour du feu, ils devisent des légendes héroïques du passé.

Leil chimourim.                 These words in the Bible meaning Passover evening, could well be translated as “Night Watch”.  Joseph Derenbourg has brought this Hebrew speaking Arabic Samara, which pertains to nocturnal meetings of Arabs in the desert, when squatting around the fire, in the evening, conversing about heroic legends of the past.  

Je pensais à ces explications en donnant, comme on dit, ou comme on devrait dire, en “ordonnant le Séder avec une quarantaine de soldats israélites dans un village à demi détruit, à moins de deux kilomètres de l’ennemi.  C’était à…  Si je pouvais vous dire le nom, vous reconnaîtriez une localité qui sera renommée dans l’histoire de cette guerre, car les zouaves y menèrent une de leurs plus fougueuses attaques.  C’étaient justement des zouaves, survivants de l’épopée, qui étaient réunis ce soir, avec quelques chasseurs d’Afrique et même quelques tirailleurs.  L’assistance, le lieu, le moment, tout cela faisait que jamais le Séder ne parut plus émouvant ni la Hagada plus éloquente.

I thought of giving these explanations, as they say, or as we should say, in “ordering the Seder with forty Jewish soldiers in a half destroyed town, less than two kilometers from the enemy.  It was…  If I could tell you the name, you would recognize the place as being famous in the history of this war, because the Zouaves led one of their most spirited attacks upon it.  These were precisely the Zouaves, survivors of the epic, who gathered tonight, with some African chasseurs and even some sharpshooters.  The assistance, the place, the time, this was all such that the Seder never seemed any more moving or the Haggadah more eloquent.

Ha lahma…                   Après l’office du soir et le Hallel, la table sommaire fut dressée dans la salle délabrée.  L’invitation n’en fût pas moins cordiale: “Voici le pain de misère que nos pères ont mangé en Égypte.  Que celui qui a faim vienne en manger; que celui qui est nécessiteux vienne célébrer la Pâque.  Cette année nous sommes ici, l’année prochaine puissions-nous être dans pays d’Israël!  Cette année nous sommes esclaves, l’année prochaine, nous serons libres !” Jamais appel et souhait ne portèrent aussi bien.

Ha lahma…                         After the evening service and the Hallel, the summary table was drawn up in the dilapidated room.  The invitation did was no less cordial: “This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in Egypt.  That the hungry come and eat; that the needy come and celebrate Passover.  This year we are here, next year may we be in the land of Israel!  This year we are slaves, next year we will be free!”  Never call and wish not also doing well.

Ma niçhianna…             Après cette invitation en arméen, le questionnaire…  en arabe.  Suivant un ancien usage conservé en Algérie, la Hagada est traduite dans la langue du pays.  Le Constantinois se sert de l’arabe, l’Oranais de l’Espagnol, l’Algérois du francais…  quand il sait encore.  J’avais demandé au plus jeune des fidèles – classe 14 — de poser les quatre questions traditionnelles; il s’en acquitta en chantant une mélopée en arabe que je ne compris guère.  C’eût été à moi de questionner.

My niçhianna…                  After this invitation to the army, the questionnaire…in Arabic.  Following an ancient custom preserved in Algeria, the Haggadah is translated into the language of the country.  Arabic is used in Constantine, in Oran Spanish, in Algiers French…when he yet knows.  I asked the youngest of the faithful – Classe 14 – to ask the four traditional questions; he acquitted himself singing a chant in Arabic that I hardly understood.  It would have been for me to question.

Abadim hayinou…         Je répondis tout de même.  Oui, nous avons été esclaves en Egypte et ailleurs depuis;  mais Dieu nous a délivrés et cela plus d’une fois.  Aussi fusions-nous tous sages et âgés — et il y avait bien parmi nous quelques ignorants et quelques novices — que nous aurions considéré comme un devoir et un plaisir de faire et de refaire le récit de la sortie d’Egypte.  Volontiers nous aurions prolongé la veillée jusqu’à la pointe du jour, comme jadis les rabbins réunis à Bené Beraq, si nous n’avions craint que la garde vînt nous dire: “Il est temps d’aller se coucher”.  Mais honneur à Ben Zoma, qui a montré par une ingénieuse déduction que la sortie d’Egypte devait être dite la nuit, car le soldat en campagne n’est pas libre dans la journée.

Abadim hayinou…            I answered anyway.  Yes, we were slaves in Egypt and elsewhere since; but God saved and delivered us more than once.  We all emerged wiser and older – and there were many ignorant among us and some novices – we would have considered it a duty and a pleasure to tell and retell the story of the exodus from Egypt.  Gladly we would have prolonged the vigil until daybreak, as the rabbis once gathered in Bene Beraq, if we had feared that the guard would come to say: “It’s time to go to bed.”  But credit to Ben Zoma, who showed by an ingenious deduction that the exodus from Egypt was to be called the night because the soldier in the field is not free in the day.

Barouch Hamaqom…     Il y a quatre sortes de soldats, et de soldats israélites.  Le hakkam, c’est dans le civil l’ouvrier ou l’employé intelligent et dévoué, dans le religieux le croyant sincère et le pratiquant éclairé, dans le militaire, c’est le “poilu”.  Le racha, c’est dans le civil l’oisif ou le raté, dans le religieux, le lâcheur et le “je m’enfichiste”, dans le militaire, c’est l’embusqué.  Le tam, c’est dans le civil, le garçon de bonne volonté qui ne demande qu’à faire mieux, dans le religieux celui qui chante sa paracha comme un perroquet, dans le militaire c’est le “bleu”.  Le quatrième enfin, c’est dans le civil celui qui joue à la guerre, déjà, dans le religieux celui qui épelle le Chema avant de le comprendre, dans le militaire c’est celui qui “entrera dans la carrière”, quand ses ainés n’y seront peutêtre plus…

Baruch Hamaqom…         There are four kinds of soldiers, and of Jewish soldiers.  The hakkam, is the civilian worker or the intelligent and devoted employee; the sincerely religious believer and informed practitioner, in the military, he is the “poilu”.  The racha, is in the idle or missing civilian, the religious, the quitter and “I enfichiste”; in the military, he’s the evader.  The tam, in civilian life, is the boy of good will just waiting to do better, in religion the one who sings the parsha like a parrot; in the military he is the “blue”.  The fourth finally, is the one who plays at civil war, already in religion one that spells the Shema without understanding, in the military he is the one who “will enter the career,” when his elders perhaps there will be more…

Mitchilla…                    Reprenons le fil de la Hagada; rappelons la merveilleuse et émouvante histoire, là descente en Egypte, la chute dans l’esclavage, puis la montée vers la Terre Promise, l’ascension à la liberté.  Ces deux actes du drame, qui les joue aujourd’hui?  Eux et nous.  La tyrannie, la persécution, la cruauté jusqu envers lés enfants, l’orgueil et les défis à la Divinité, c’est eux, et quel commentaire cette partie de la Hagada que le Rapport officiél sur les atrocités allemandes!  A nous les durs labeurs et les corvées pénibles, mais à nous aussi les prodiges et les revirements merveilleux de la fortune, et à nous bientôt la sortie, le passage, la victoire et la libération.  Nous ne demandons que les réparations et non la vengeance.  “Si Dieu nous délivre des Egyptiens et qu’il n’exerce pas de représailles contre eux, dayénou: suffit!”

Mitchilla…                          Take up the thread of the Haggadah; remember the beautiful and moving story, the descent into Egypt, the fall into slavery, then the climb to the Promised Land, the ascent to freedom.  These two acts of the drama, which plays today?  They and us.  Tyranny, persecution, cruelty against children, pride and the challenges to the Divinity, it is they, and any comment on the part of the Haggadah that is the official report on the German atrocities!  To us is hard work and drudgery, but we also wonder and wonderful reversals of fortune, and we will soon exit the passage, the victory and liberation.  We ask for reparations and not revenge. “If God delivered us from the Egyptians and did not engage in reprisals against them, dayenu: enough!”

Bechol dor…                 Ah! qu’il est donc vrai que dans tous les siècles chaque Israélite doit se considérer comme bénéficiant en personne de la déliverance d’Egypte…  C’est pourquoi nous sommes tenus de louer et de célébrer Celui qui nous conduit de la servitude à la liberté, de la douleur à la joie, des ténébres a la lumiére…  Sois béni, Seigneur, qui nous as fait la grâce d’atteindre cette soirée.  Notre Dieu et Dieu nos pères, veuille que nous atteignions ainsi d’autres fêtes et d’autres solennités, qu’elles nous trouvent en paix, heureux du rétablissement de la cité et de la restauration de la foi.  Alors nous chanterons un cantique nouveau pour notre affranchissement et notre libération!”  Combien cette prière nous parut actuelle et comme elle fut sentie ce soir-là!

Bechol dor…                      Ah! it is true that in all ages every Israelite must consider himself personally benefiting from the deliverance from Egypt…  This is why we must praise to Him who led us from bondage to freedom, from pain to joy, from darkness to the light…  Blessed are you, Lord, who hast made us the grace to reach this evening.  Our God and God of our fathers, grant that we reach other festivals and other solemnities, that we are at peace, the happy restoration of the city and the restoration of faith.  Then we will sing a new song for our liberation and our freedom!  “How this prayer seemed to us today and as it was felt that night!

Mais il n’y a pas que la Hagada dans le Séder.  Il y a aussi le repas!  Hélas!  Plats délectables de Pésah, ou êtes-vous?  Cependant nous ne sommes pas entièrement dépourvus, grâce à la prévoyance de nos familles et des œuvres, et nous pouvons contenter Rabban Gamliel, sinon notre estomac!  Voici, à côté du vin cachir de la Maison Hanoui-Lachkar, d’Alger, voici le pain de misère, la maça, épaisse galette algérienne, qui fait concurrence au biscuit de guerre, ou friable crêpe parisienne, envoi du Consistoire.  Voici le maror, du pissenlit cueilli cet après-midi dans un champ parmi les “marmites”.  Nous aurions pu y joindre, a la manière de Hillel, du harocet nature: la boue des tranchées.  Nous avons mieux: nous avons des briques, représentées par les tablettes de chocolat pascal, don délicieux de l’ “Aide fraternelle aux soldats”.

But it’s not just the Haggadah at the Seder.  There is also the meal!  Alas! delectable dishes of Pesach, are you?  However we are not entirely free, thanks to the foresight of our families and works, and we can settle upon Rabban Gamliel, if our stomachs allow!  Here, next to the cache of wine of Maison Hanoui-Lachkar, Algiers, here is the bread of misery, maça, the thick Algerian wafer, which competes with war biscuits or friable Parisian crepes, sent by the Consistoire.  Here is the maror, of dandelions picked this afternoon in a field among the “marmite”.  We could join, as in the manner of Hillel, this kind of harocet: the mud of the trenches.  We have better: we have bricks, represented by the chocolate Easter bars, a delicious gift of the “fraternal help to soldiers.”

Tout en le dégustant, nous faisons la lecture du Numéro de Pâque dé l’Univers israélite, qui n’est pas moins apprécié, je vous assure.  Toute la Hagada y est paraphrasée, depuis là Ha lahma jusqu’au Vaamartem zébah Pésah, et toute la légende pascale, depuis la dixième plaie tournée en vers jusqu’à la dernière actualité transformée en conte.

While enjoying them, we read the Passover number of The Jewish World, which is no less appreciated, I assure you.  The entire Haggadah is paraphrased from Ha lahma until Vaamartem zebah Pesah, and all the pascal story from the tenth plague to the journey until the last news has turned into a story.

La soirée s’achèver par les psaumes, les prières et les poésies de la deuxième partie de la Hagada.  Les allusions au présent leur donnent de l’attrait et il n’est pas jusqu’à l’appel nostalgique de la fin à quoi l’expédition d’Orient ne donne un regain d’actualite: “L’année prochaine à Jérusalem!” Le plus “sioniste” ne peut s’empêcher d’ajouter: “Cette année-ci dans nos foyers!”

The evening will end with psalms, prayers and poems of the second part of the Hagadah.  Allusions to this give them the attraction and this does not measure up to the recent nostalgic appeal that the expedition to the Orient has actually renewed: “Next year in Jerusalem!  The most “Zionist” “cannot help adding: “This year in our homes!”

UN AUMÔNIER ISRAÉLITE
A JEWISH CHAPLAIN

– Transcribed and Translated by Michael G. Moskow, 2016

Reference

Jewish Holiday Festivals in 1915 (at JewishGen), at http://data.jewishgen.org/wconnect/wc.dll?jg~jgsys~josfest.

 

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in l’Univers Israélite (The Jewish World) – Le lieutenant Jacques Lévy (Lieutenant Jacques Lévy), February 12, 1915

Only a week about presenting the stories of Lieutenants Aboucaya and Oulman, l’Univers Israélite continued its coverage of Jewish military casualties in the French Army with an article about Sous Lieutenant Jacques Lévy.

A member of the 31st Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant Levy was killed at the Plateau de Bolante, in the Argonne, on January 8, 1915.  Awarded the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honour (the latter posthumously), he was the husband of Esther (Zadoc Khan) Levy, and the son of Camille and Blanche (Blum) Levy.  He was born on February 17, 1884, in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris.

As per the (prior) post covering Lieutenants Aboucaya and Oulman, I’ve included the “Partie à Remplir Par le Corps” cards from the “Mémoire des hommes” website.  Lieutenant Levy’s name appears on page 55 of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Francaise.

The article in l’Univers Israélite is not a biographical profile as such. 

Or even, at all. 

Rather, it’s presentation of a speech given on Sunday, February 7, 1915, in the chapel of rue de la Victoire, by Chief Rabbi J.H. Dreyfuss.  Certainly sincerely meant, it is – perhaps inevitably – far more hagiographical than biographical, giving the reader insight into questions of patriotism within theology; theology with patriotism.

Throughout a war that would last four more long and terrible years, both the l’Univers Israélite and The Jewish Chronicle would be forced by circumstance to present many further stories, often – at least early in the war – in the same tone and manner.   

A PDF of the article is available here

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Le lieutenant Jacques Lévy

Lieutenant Jacques Lévy

l’Univers Israélite
February 12, 1915

The Jewish World
February 12, 1915

Chaque jour s’allonge la liste de nos jeunes héros, fauchés à l’aurore de leur carrière et dont la mémoire est déjà entourée de la triple auréole de la vertu, de la vaillance et du martyre.  Nous avons, l’autre jour, cité le lieutenant Aboucaya, le lieutenant Oulman.  Parlerons-nous du lieutenant Jacques Lévy? Les souvenirs qui s’attachent maintenant à lui sont si poignants que nous aurions hésité à y toucher, même d’une plume discrète, si au service qui a été célébré, à sa mémoire, dimanche dernier, dans l’oratoire de la rue de la Victoire, M. le grand-rabbin J.-H. Dreyfuss n’avait retracé sa carrière et évoqué ses vertus.

Every day lengthens the list of our young heroes, broken in the dawn of their careers and whose memory is already surrounded by the triple halo of virtue, bravery and martyrdom.  We, the other day, cited Lieutant Aboucaya, Lieutenant Oulman.  We speak of Lieutenant Jacques Lévy?  The memories that are now attached to him are so poignant that we would hesitate to touch, even a discreet pen, if the service which was celebrated in his memory on Sunday, in the chapel of rue de la Victorie, the Chief Rabbi J.H. Dreyfuss had traced his career and mentioned his virtues.

Voici quelques passages de la touchante allocution de M. le grand-rabbin de Paris.

Here are some passages of the touching speech by the Chief Rabbi of Paris.

“Notre regretté frère Jacques Lévy avait appris de bonne heure à connaître le côté sérieux de l’existence; son adolescence fut mûrie par l’épreuve, et une épreuve cruelle: la perte de son bien-aimé et respecté père.  Il se considéra aussitôt comme appelé par la Providence au plus noble et au plus difficile des devoirs, d’autant plus difficile pour lui qu’il était tout jeune encore: celui d’assumer, en faveur des siens, la responsabilité du chef de famille.  Ce fut là l’idée directrice de toute sa jeunesse: il n’en dévia pas un instant.  Et ici, mes frères, admirez la force peu commune de ce caractère dé jeune homme.  Tous ses goûts le portaient vers les choses intellectuelles; affamé de culture, particulièrement attiré vers les sciences spéculatives, ce qui ne l’empêchait pas, d’ailleurs, de posséder le sentiment exquis de l’art et surtout de la peinture, mais préoccupé, d’autre part comme nous l’avons dit, de ses devoirs de famille, de l’obligation, de compter avec les réalités pratiques de la vie, il eut le courage et la ténacité de mener de front ses études et les soins de son emploi.  Il fut licencié en philosophie en méme temps qu’il achevait son apprentissage commercial.  Comment un caractère d’une telle trempe ne devait-il pas refuser?  Et il réussit en effet.” [réu-sir is probably an error]

“Our late brother Jacques Levy had learned early to know the serious side of life; his adolescence was matured by a test, and a cruel test: the loss of his beloved and respected father.  He immediately looked as called by Providence to the noblest and most difficult of duties, all the more difficult for him as he was still young: to assume, on behalf of his family, the householder’s responsibility.  This was the thrust of his youth: he did not swerve a moment.  And here, my brothers, admire the unusual strength of character this young man.  All tastes were to intellectual things; a hunger for culture, particularly attracted to the speculative sciences, which did not prevent him, however, from possessing an exquisite sense of art and especially painting, but concerned about the other part, as we said his family duties, the obligation, to reckon with the practical realities of life; he had the courage and tenacity to juggle his studies and the care of his employment.  He graduated in philosophy in the same time he completed a commercial apprenticeship.  He graduated in philosophy in same time he completed a commercial apprenticeship.  How should he not refuse a character of such calibre?  And he indeed succeeded.”

L’orateur rappelle avec émotion le marriage qui, il y a moins d’un an, avait uni le défunt à la fille “d’un pasteur qui est cher à nos coreligionnaires, non seulement par son mérite personnel, par son talent, par sa science, par son dévouement à toute épreuve, mais encore parce qu’il est l’époux de la fille du grand pasteur que fut l’inoubliable Zadoc Khan – je dis inoubliable dans le réelle acception du mot, car plus les années s’écoulent, plus son souvenir revit et revivra sans cesse dans toutes les circonstances de la vie de notre communauté.”

He recalled with emotion the marriage, of less than a year, that had united the deceased to the daughter “of a pastor who is dear to our fellow believers, not only by his personal merit, by his talent, by his science, his foolproof dedication, but because he is married to the daughter of that great shepherd who was the unforgettable Zadoc Khan – I say memorable in the real sense of the word, because the more years flow, I remember him and saw live again and again in all circumstances of life in our community.”

“Mais hélas ! sur cette maison à peine édifiée, si pleinement heureuse, a passé également le souffle de la tempête qui a déjà dévasté tant de foyers.

“But unfortunately ! this house built only if completely happy, has also experienced the breath of the storm that has already destroyed so many homes.

“Du même élan irrésistible qui, a l’appel de la patrie, a jeté à nos frontières tous les enfants de la France, le sergent Jacques Lévy quitte sa jeune femme et sa famille, va résolument prendre sa place a coté de ses frères d’armes.  Pour que rien ne manquât a cette nature d’élite, un patriotisme vibrant s’alliait en lui à une haute conscience.  Il prend part aux glorieux exploits de la Marne, se bat comme un brave, de sergent passe adjudant, d’adjudant sous-lieutenant, est cité à l’ordre du jour, et suprême récompense, proposé pour l’etoile de l’honneur.  Mais il tombe blessé et rest ramené du front.  Il aurait assez fait maintenant pour donner la mesure de sa vaillance; mais il veut faire plus que son devoir; il est heureux d’ailleurs et fier des lauriers glorieux qu’il a déjà cueillis…  Apres un court repos qui lui est imposé par sa convalescence, il demande à son colonel de le renvoyer au front.  Ce fut dans l’Argonne; a peine arrivé, il tombe une seconde fois, et helas ! pour ne plus se relever.

“At the same irresistible force, that has the call of his country, threw all the children of France upon our borders, Sergeant Jacques Lévy leaves his young wife and family, and will definitely take his place next to his brothers in arms.  That nothing might be wanting in this elite nature of vibrant patriotism was combined in him to a higher consciousness.  He took part in glorious exploits on the Marne, fights like a brave sergeant is promoted adjutant, and adjutant lieutenant, is quoted on the order of the day, and receives the star of honor for a supreme reward.  But he falls wounded and is brought back from the front to rest.  He would have done enough now to give the measure of his valor; but he wants to do more than his duty; he is also happy and proud of the glorious laurels he has already selected…  After a short rest imposed on him by his convalescence, he asked his colonel to return to the front.  It was in the Argonne; he has just arrived, he falls a second time, and alas! to rise no more. 

…La consolation!  Vous la trouverez dans le souvenir attendri, dans le souvenir béni de celui que n’est plus, vous la trouverez dans ces paroles écrites par lui, pour les siens, avant de retourner au front.  Dans cette page admirable, que j’ai lue et qui m’a remué profondément; l’homme se révèle tout entier.  C’est la page d’un philosophe et d’un croyant tout à la fois, d’un époux tendre, heureux et reconnaissant, d’un fils respectueux et pieux, d’un parent dévoue; c’est aussi la page d’un patriote, la page d’un soldat.  Dans quelques mots brefs, il parle de tout et de tous, de sa foi en l’idéal, éternellement beau et bon, de son culte de la vérité, de la loyauté, du devoir, de Dieu à qui il croit et à qui il rend grâces pour le bonheur des jours passés…  de tous les êtres chers qu’il confie à sa femme, de sa joie à repartir, ne laissant, comme il dit, aucune dette matérielle ni morale, de son amour de la France, de sa ferme confiance dans la victoire.  La dernière parole est une parole de touchante humanité en même temps qu’une parole de consolation.  “Si Dieu, le maître de ma vie, la prend, que tous les êtres chéris que je vais quitter à nouveau gardent, s’ils le peuvent, mon souvenir; mais qu’ils se consolent très vite de ma mort”.

The consolation!  You find it in the tender memory, in the memory of blessed one is not, you will find in these words written by him, for his family before returning to the front.  In this admirable page, I read and it stirred me deeply; man is proven whole.  This is the page of a philosopher and a believer at the same time, a tender husband, happy and grateful, a respectful son and pious, devoted parent; it is also a page of a patriot, a page of a soldier.  In a few brief words, he talks about everything and everybody, his faith in the ideal, eternally beautiful and good, worship of truth, of loyalty, duty, God whom he believes and to which he gives thanks for the good of bygone days…of all the loving things that he told his wife, his joy at leaving, leaving, as he says, no material or moral debt of his love of France, his firm confidence in victory.  The last word is a word of touching humanity along with a word of consolation.  “God, the master of my life, takes all the loved ones that I’ll leave and keep, if they can, my memory; but let them console themselves quickly of my death.”

– Transcribed and Translated by Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in l’Univers Israélite (The Jewish World) – DEUX HÉROS (Two Heroes – Aboucaya and Oulman), February 5, 1915

The following article, from l’Univers Israélite, is the first such item in that periodical that covered – in detail – the lives and military service of Jewish soldiers who died while fighting for France. 

Alas, many more such items would appear l’Univers Israélite prior to November 11, 1918.

The article covers two Jewish officers:  Lieutenant Maurice Simon Oulman, and, Sous Lieutenant David Robert Aboucaya. 

Lieutenant Oulman, who served in the 246th Infantry Regiment, was killed at Crouy (Aisne), on January 12, 1915.  Born on May 12, 1893, he resided at the 3rd Arrondissement, in Paris.  His name appears on page 67 of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Francaise.

Sous Lieutenant Aboucaya, a member of the 136th Infantry Regiment, was killed near Reims on September 14, 1914.  Born on October 15, 1892, he also resided in Paris; in the 19th Arrondissement.  He received the Legion of Honor (posthumously), and, the Croix de Guerre.  His name appears on page 1 of Les Israelites dans l’Armée Francaise, and, page 184 of Le Livre d’Or du Judaisme Algérien (1914-1918).

A PDF version of this article is available here.

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Along with the text of the article, I’ve included the “Partie à Remplir Par le Corps” cards for both men (from which the above information was obtained) which were found at the French Government’s “Mémoire des hommes” (Memories of the Men) website. 

Very strongly akin to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database, Mémoire des hommes provides biographical records covering French military deaths incurred during World War One and the Second World War, as well as French military action in Indochina, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.  Coverage of the First War World is particularly detailed, encompassing, “more than 1.3 million individuals deceased during the Great War”, 74,000 records concerning men who served in the French Air Force, as well as records for the 1,009 soldiers and civilains who were – as the website says – “…sentenced to death and shot in accordance with military judiciary decision or summarily executed.”  (Think: Paths of Glory).  The website also allows users to search for information about military casualties interred in French military cemeteries.  

The digital records covering both men were obtained as part of a (slightly…somewhat?…much!) larger project involving identifying the names of all Jewish soldiers who were killed while serving in the French military during WW I.  The results of this research have resulted in the identification of nearly 4,600 men.

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DEUX HÉROS
TWO HEROES

l’Univers Israélite
February 5, 1915

The Jewish World
February 5, 1915

Combien sont-ils déjà, les officiers dont une mort héroïque a couronné une carrière courte, mais glorieuse?  Le plus souvent, nous apprenons leur mort par un avis laconique.  Quelquefois nous pouvons connaître des détails qui, en avivant nos regrets, augmentent aussi notre admiration pour ces braves qui unissent la bonté à la vaillance et la douceur à l’héroïsme.

How many are there already, officers whose heroic death capped a short, but glorious, career?  Most often, we learn of their deaths by a terse notice.  Sometimes we can know details which, heightening our regrets, also increase our admiration for these braves uniting kindness the valor and heroism sweetness.

Nous voulons en citer pour aujourd’hui deux exemples, qui nous sont fournis par le lieutenant Aboucaya et le lieutenant Oulman.

We want today to name two examples, which are provided to us by Lieutenant Aboucaya and Lieutenant Oulman.

Le lieutenant Aboucaya
Lieutenant Aboucaya

Nous avons déjà signalé la mort au champ d’honneur du sous-lieutenant de réserve Aboucaya, du 136e d’infanterie, fils de M. Léon Aboucaya, l’industriel connu, membre du Consistoire central.

We have already reported the death in battle of Reserve Second Lieutenant Aboucaya, 136th Infantry, son of Leon Aboucaya, known industrialist, member of the Central Consistory.

Nous avons pu avoir communication d’une bien belle lettre écrite au père du jeune officier par son chef direct, le capitaine Fournier, lui-même grièvement blessé d’une balle à la tête.

We have had communication via a beautiful letter written to the father of the young officer by his immediate superior, Captain Fournier, himself seriously wounded by a bullet to the head.

Le capitaine dit d’abord “toute l’estime que le caractère et le courage” du jeune sous-lieutenant, à l’ “allure décidée et franche”, lui avaient gagnée auprès de ses supérieurs et de ses égaux et qui s’était vite changée en une bonne amitié quand ils avaient reconnu le côté affectueux de sa nature et la cordialité de ses sentiments de famille.

The captain initially said “all the esteem that the character and courage” of the young lieutenant, to the “determined and frank look,” had won him over to his superiors and his equals and that had quickly turned into a good friendship when they recognized the affectionate side of his nature and the warmth of his family feelings.

L’officier était digne de l’homme. “Pendant toute la période des marches en France et en Belgique, malgré la grande chaleur, les étapes très longues, le lieutenant Aboucaya avait tenu à donner l’exemple à ses hommes. Il avait, sac au dos et malgré son peu d’entraînement, supporté ces grandes fatigues du début et donné ainsi la mesure s’un caractère énergique, qui faisait bien augurer de lui pour le combat. Promesse tenue, car à F. ., à St-S… R… (combat de Guise), à Ch…, à S…, enfin, son attitude a été celle d’un chef imposant la confiance à ses homes”.  [Probably error in original a “u’un”.]

The officer was worthy of man.  “Throughout the period of marches in France and Belgium, despite the great heat, the very long intervals, Lieutenant Aboucaya had wanted to set an example to his men.  His backpacking, despite his lack of training, supported these with great fatigue early and given so far as an energetic character, which augured well for him for the fight.  The promise was kept, because at F., at St. S… R… (combat at Guise), at Ch…, at S…, finally, his attitude was that of a leader imbuing confidence in his men.”

A F.., notamment, la section Aboucaya tint vigoureusement une hauteur, de 4 heures du matin à midi, sous un feu infernal d’infanterie et d’artillerie, répondant coup pour coup et fort habilement à l’attaque de l’ennemi. Le lendemain soir, à O…, au moment où le régiment allait faiblir dans une charge à lâ baïonnette, le lieutenant Aboucaya, aux cris de en avant ! en avant ! réussit à arrêter la panique grâce à son attitude énergique.  “Le chef de bataillon et le colonel le félicitèrent d’ailleurs chaudement à la suite de cet acte de courage, qui valait une citation à l’ordre du jour”.

At F…, including Aboucaya’s section vigorously held a height from 4 A.M. to noon under a hellish fire of infantry and artillery, responding blow for blow and very skillfully attacking the enemy.  The next evening at O…, when the regiment’s bayonet charge was weak ing, Lieutenant Aboucaya, chanting forward! forward! managed to avert panic through his energetic attitude.  “The Battalion Commander and Colonel also warmly congratulated him after this act of courage, worthy of an Order of the Day.”

A Ch…, le lieutenant Aboucaya se distingua encore par sa “vaillante attitude pendant les heures de lutte émouvante qui eurent pour théâtre le village en flames”. C’est à S…, qu’à la tête de sa section, soumise à un feu terrible d’artillerie, il tomba, au premier rang, “la où depuis le debut il avait eu à cœur de sa tenir toujours”.

At Ch… Lieutenant Aboucaya was still distinguished for his “courageous attitude during the emotional struggle that took hours to the village theater in flames”.  This is at S…, where at the head of his section, subject to a terrible artillery fire, he fell in the front line, the “where from the beginning he was to keep his heart always.”

J’ai perdu, conclut le capitaine, “un officier ardent et courageux, sur lequel je savais pouvoir compter. Je garderai fidèlement son souvenir; son nom et son image seront encore évoqués souvent dans nos tranchées; plus d’une fois encore, les soldats qui restent de sa section parleront de lui avec le regret du chef qu’ils aimaient pour sa bonté et son entrain”.

I lost, concludes the captain, “an ardent and courageous officer, on whom I knew I could count.  I faithfully keep his memory; his name and image still come up in our trenches; more than once again, the soldiers who remain in his section will discuss him with the head of regret that they loved for his kindness and enthusiasm.”

Cette lettre, si noble et si émouvante que nous aurions voulu la citer tout entière, est un titre de gloire pour celui qui en est l’objet, elle fait honneur aussi à celui qui l’a écrite.

This letter, so noble and so moving that we wanted the whole quote is a claim to fame for the one who is the object, it also does honor to the one who wrote it.

Le lieutenant Oulman
Lieutenant Oulman

Le lieutenant Maurice Oulmàn, dont nous avons annoncé la semaine dernière la mort au champ d’honneur, avait été promu à ce grade le 6 septembre 1914, à la bataille de la Marne, pour son courage, son sang-froid, son énergie, pour l’enthousiasme qu’il avait su inspirer à tous ses soldats, lorsque, ce jour-là, ses chefs, le capitaine et le lieutenant en premier, avaient été frappés mortellement.

Lieutenant Maurice Oulman, whose death in battle we announced last week, had been promoted to the grade on 6 September 1914, at the Battle of the Marne, for his courage, his composure, his energy, for the enthusiasm that had inspired all his soldiers, when on that day, the leaders, the captain and first lieutenant, had been mortally wounded.

Son colonel l’aurait nommé capitaine si Oulman n’avait été trop jeune pour ce grade: il n’avait que vingt-et-un ans.  Malgré sa jeunesse, tous les hommes qu’il avait sous ses ordres l’adoraient comme un père. De fait, il remplissait les fonctions de commandant de compagnie.

His colonel would have appointed him captain but Oulman had been too young for this degree: he was only twenty-one years.  Despite his youth, all the men he had under him loved him like a father.  In fact, he acted as the company commander.

Lorsqu’à la terrible bataille de l’Aisne, son sous-lieutenant tomba, frappé d’une balle au ventre, il s’elança sous le feu meurtrier. En vain, un sergent, blessé à côté de lui, le supplie de ne pas s’exposer; malgré une plaie au pied qui gêne sa marche, il va de l’avant, jusqu’à ce que la mitraille l’abatte. Trois des combattants vont ramasser le corps, pour l’enterrer au cimetière de C…; deux tombent à leur tour.

When at the terrible Battle of the Aisne, his lieutenant fell, struck by a bullet in the stomach, he darted under the murderous fire.  In vain, a sergeant, wounded beside him, begs him not to expose himself; despite a sore foot bothering his walk, he goes ahead until the landslide of shrapnel.  Three fighters will pick up the body, burying him in the cemetery of C…; Both fall in turn.

Il aura l’honneur posthume d’être inscrit à l’ordre du jour, ainsi que, dans sa lettre de condoléances à la famille, le colonel du régiment l’écrit.

He will have the posthumous honor to be included on the Order of the Day and, in his letter of condolences to the family, the colonel of the regiment wrote.

Voici en quels termes émus M. T…, un collègue du défunt, fait son éloge dans une lettre adressée aux parents de la victime:

Here is how Monsieur T… moving words…a deceased colleague, praising him in a letter to the victim’s parents:

“…Je voudrais tant que ma premiere lettre fut pleine de l’affection admiration que j’avais pour votre cher fils dont la mort m’a déchiré.

“… I want as my first letter to be full of the affection and admiration I had for your dear son whose death tore me.

“Nous étions au repos à St-P… quand est venu l’ordre, le 13, vers dix heures du matin, de se porter rapidement à C…, ou les Allemands attaquaient.  Maurice était étendu sur son lit, depuis 8 jours il souffrait un peu du pied gauche…  Mais dés que l’ordre d’alerte et de départ lui parvint, il se leva; se fit refaire par un infirmier un pansement réduit pour pouvoir marcher. “Vous feriez mieux de rester au repos, mon lieutenant”, lui dit l’infirmier. Il ne répondit pas. Avec ce courage calme et réfléchi qui a toujours forcé notre admiration et qui était le secret de son ascendant sur ses 250 hommes, des gens de 30 à 35 et 40 ans, parfois, qui lui obéissaient aveuglément, il prit la tête de la compagnie.

“We were standing at St. P… when came the order, the 13th, about ten in the morning, to stand fast in C… or the Germans would attack.  Maurice was lying on his bed for 8 days suffering a little in his left foot…  But as soon as the order for alert and departure reached him, he stood up; a nurse came by again with a small dressing to walk.  “You better stay at rest, sir,” said the nurse.  He did not answer.  With this calm and thoughtful spirit that has always forced our admiration and that was the secret of his ascendancy over his 250 men, people from 30 to 35 and 40 years, sometimes, who obeyed him blindly, he led the company.

“Il arrive à C…, appuyé sur canne, ayant traversé sans perdre un homme le terrain nu balayé par les feux de l’éperon 132. Là il reçut l’ordre de monter rapidement sur le plateau de P… occuper les tranchées de repli pour soutenir le régiment que les Allemands bousculaient en première ligne. Il fait le cheminement habituel, mais, hélas ! les Allemands tenaient déjà les positions même qu’il allait occuper.

“We arrived at C…, pressed the sticks, passed through without losing a man on the bare ground swept by the fires of spur 132.  There he was ordered to quickly climb the Plateau of P… to occupy the fallback trenches to support the regiment’s as Germans were jostling the frontline.  He made the usual path, but alas! The Germans already held the same position he would occupy.

“Un sous-lieutenant tombe près du lieutenant Oulman. Celui-ci s’avance vers lui, lorsqu’un sergent le prend par le bras: “Mon lieutenant, ne vous montrez pas, nous avons besoin de quelqu’un pour nous commander” … Mais lui se dégage avec fermeté et dit: “Laissez-moi, ne vous occupez pas de cela”. Il n’avait pas fait trois pas qu’il tombait en arrière, sans un cri; une balle lui avait traversé la téte. Toute la compagnie s’arrête, figée par l’atroce nouvelle qui court de rang en rang.

“A second lieutenant dies near Lieutenant Oulman.  He advances towards him, when a sergeant takes him by the arm: “Lieutenant, do not show yourself, we need someone to lead us”…  But he emerges firmly and said, “Leave me, do not mind that.”  He had not taken three steps when he fell back, without a cry; a bullet had passed through his head.  The whole company stopped, frozen by the terrible news that runs from rank to rank.

“Si vous saviez comme ils l’aimaient, leur jeune chef si simple, si brave, si énergique et si pur! Pour les officiers, c’est un peu la Jeanne d’Arc de cette guerre. Et j’ai vu le lendemain encore des hommes pleurer en me contant tout cela. Au reste leur opinion est faite: “Ce petit-là, on l’aurait suivi partout, oh! nous perdons gros! Et personne ne saura nous conduire comme lui”.

“If you knew how they loved, their young leader so simple, so brave, so strong and so pure!  For officers, he’s a little Joan of Arc of the war.  And I saw it again with next men crying telling me all this.  Besides, their opinion is made: “This little one, we would have followed him everywhere, oh! we lose big!  And no one will take us like him.”

“Ils disaient vrai, nul d’entre nous n’a ce sang-froid que rien ne troublait, cette énergie méthodique qui n’était pas de son âge”.

“They were right, none of us has the coolness that nothing disturbed, this methodical energy that was not of his age.”

Le lieutenant Oulman avait 21 ans.

Lieutenant Oulman was 21.

– Transcribed and Translated by Michael G. Moskow

References

Le Livre d’Or du Judaisme Algérien (1914-1918) (Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive, Paris, 2000) [Avec la collaboration de Georges Teboul et de Jean-Pierre Bernard]

Les Israelites dans l’Armée Francaise, Angers, 1921 (Réédité par le Cercle de Généalogie juive, Paris, 2006)

Mémoire des Hommes, at http://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/en/

Soldiers who Died for France in the First World War, at http://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/fr/arkotheque/client/mdh/base_morts_pour_la_france_premiere_guerre/index.php?

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in The Jewish Chronicle – “The Chief Rabbi of France and The Troops at The Front”, October 2, 1914

Throughout the war, both The Jewish Chronicle and l’Univers Israélite, carried articles about religious services conducted by and held for Jewish soldiers, often describing such services in great detail, and in a larger sense, presenting many essays and thought pieces – from highly varied viewpoints, let alone a diversity of writers – about religion in the context of war. 

l’Univers Israélite, in particular, published several lengthy, detailed, and moving items about Jewish religious services – held in or near front-line positions – within 1915.  (I hope to post those items in the future…)

The item below covers a request presented to M. Alfred Levy, Chief Rabbi of France, to arrange religious services for British Jewish soldiers, with and among French Jewish troops.

Rabbi Levy’s reply states, “We have had the misfortune to lose one of them, the Chief Rabbi of Lyons, who fell on the field of battle, shot by an enemy’s bullet.”  Rabbi Levy is almost certainly referring to Aumonier Militaire Abraham Bloch, born in Paris in 1859, who was killed while serving with the “14eme Section d’Infirmieres Militaires; Groupe de Brancardiers Divisionnaire” on August 29, 1914, at Anozel, in the Vosges area. 

Rabbi Bloch posthumously received the Medaille militaire.  The story of his death (as opposed to how he actually died) – as reported and portrayed by the press – had great symbolic impact, and would be covered in l’Univers Israélite on November 27, 1914, and May 21, 1915

Information is readily available concerning Rabbi Bloch.  I particularly refer readers to the book Les Juifs de France et la Grande Guerre, by Philippe-E. Landau (CNRS Editions, Paris, 1999), which devotes a full chapter to this story. 

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THE CHIEF RABBI OF FRANCE AND THE TROOPS AT THE FRONT

The Jewish Chronicle
October 2, 1914

The Chaplain recently wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France, M. Alfred Levy, asking him to endeavour to arrange for the English Jewish soldiers to join the French troops at any religious services during the campaign.  He has now received the following reply –

M. Place St. Georges, Paris
18th September, 1914.

DEAR COLLEAGUE – In reply to your letter, I beg to inform you that nearly all the members of the French Rabbinate are serving their country, either as chaplains, or as soldiers.  We have had the misfortune to lose one of them, the Chief Rabbi of Lyons, who fell on the field of battle, shot by an enemy’s bullet.

I gave instructions to all to hold divine service in the field if they can collect a [minyan].  I am unable to see the Minister of War at present, as he is absent from Paris, but I am sure that our chaplains will know how to fulfill their duty, and that the generals to whom they apply will grant the necessary permission, so far as the exigencies of the military service will permit.

With best wishes for _____

Yours very sincerely,

Rev. Michael Adler, B.A., London                                     A. LEVY, Chief Rabbi

– Transcribed by Michael G. Moskow

Soldiers of The Great War: Jewish Military Service in WW I, as Reported in l’Univers Israélite (The Jewish World) – Les soldats juifs dans l’armée russe (Jewish Soldiers in the Russian Army), January 15, 1915

Oddly, despite the enormous losses thus far incurred by the French armed forces, the first detailed account of Jewish military service carried by l’Univers Israélite did not cover French Jewish soldiers.  Instead, it concerned the military services of Jews in the army of Imperial Russia, and paralleled The Jewish Chronicle’s coverage of military service of this topic.

This item – published on January 15, 1915 – appears below.

The article is different from similar items in the Chronicle, in that the source of the information is revealed – J. Antokolsky – but no further information about him is presented.  Given the details in the article, perhaps Mr. Antokolsky was a Russian citizen, and therefore had direct access to the Russian media, as well as newspapers issued by the Jewish press – details from which were forwarded to l’Univers Israélite.  Or, perhaps he was living in France and maintained contact with news sources in Russia, or, subscribed to Russian news publications.

In any event, even considering any embellishment to these stories, they do suggest the level of assimilation, acculturation – and ultimately, patriotism – present among the Jews of Russia at this time.

As for the image at the head of this post – from The Jewish World of September 9, 1914? 

Perhaps this man is the “Miller” referred to in the concluding paragraph, who is said to have become an assistant sergeant in the Cossacks…

A PDF version of this item is available here

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  Les soldats juifs dans l’armée russe

Jewish Soldiers in the Russian Army

l’Univers Israélite
January 15, 1915

The Jewish World
January 15, 1915

Les préoccupations que nous avons ici ne doivent pas nous empêcher de suivre avec une attention vigilante ce qui se passe en Russie, où le sort de sept millions de juifs se joue en ce moment. Nous nous proposons de revenir, et de revenir sans cesse, sur la question juive en Russie et sut le rôle des juifs dans la guerre actuelle. Nous publierons prochainement une étude statistique sur le nombre des juifs dans l’armée russe. Pour amorcer ce sujet, voici quelques renseignements qu’a bien voulu nous communiquer un de nos lecteurs, M. J. Antokolsky.

The concerns we have here should not prevent us from following with careful attention what is happening in Russia, where the fate of seven million Jews is being played right now.  We intend to come back, and come back constantly, on the Jewish question in Russia and know the role of Jews in the present war.  We will soon publish a statistical study on the number of Jews in the Russian army.  To initiate this, here is some information kindly sent us by one of our readers, Mr. J. Antokolsky.

J’applaudis de tout cœur à votre idée de publier dans le journal que vous dirigez avec tant d’habileté les faits d’armes extraordinaires accomplis par nos frères sur les champs de bataille. Il n’est pas douteux que vos lecteurs ne soient heureux d’apprendre que nos coreligionnaires russes se montrent dignes de leurs camarades en France. Vous me permettrez donc de vous signaler quelques actions d’éclat dont les héros sont nos coreligionnaires russes et dont les journaux russes ont parle avec admiration.

I applaud with whole heart your idea of publishing in the newspaper that you lead so skillfully extraordinary feats performed by our brothers on the battlefield.  There is no doubt that your readers will be pleased to know that our fellow Russians show themselves worthy of their comrades in France.  So allow me to point out some brilliant actions of our heroic fellow Russian coreligionists of whom Russian newspapers speak with admiration.

Aïsik Goutman, en reconnaissance à la tête d’un peloton de cavalerie, a fait preuve d’une grande intelligence et bravoure. Blessé aux deux mains, il continue à diriger le mouvement en avant. Ayant eu son cheval tué sous lui et ne pouvant se relever, il continue à donner des ordres à son peloton et lui indique le chemin à suivre pour éviter l’ennemi. Fait prisonnier et questionné par l’ennemi sur l’emplacement et l’importance de sa troupe, il donne des renseignements volontairement erronés. Profitant du sommeil de son gardien, il s’évade dans la nuit, se cache tout le jour dans les bois, et rejoint son régiment, d’où il est aussitôt transporté à l’Hôpital de Wilna. Il y reçoit la visite de son chef de corps, qui lui apporte deux croix de Saint-Georgés — la plus haute récompense en temps de guerre — et lui dit textuellement “Mon petit frère, toute ma vie je me souviendrai de toi et de ta bravoure, et je te propose pour la troisième croix.”

Aïsik Goutman in reconnaissance at the head of a squad of cavalry, has shown great intelligence and bravery.  Wounded in both hands, he continues to lead the movement forward.  Having had his horse shot out under him and being unable to get up, he continued to give orders to his platoon and shows them the path to follow to avoid the enemy.  Captured and questioned by the enemy on the location and extent of his troop, he gave deliberately misleading information. Taking advantage of his sleeping guard, he escaped into the night, hiding all day in the woods, and joined his regiment, where he was immediately taken to the Hospital of Wilna.  He is visited by his commanding officer, who brings him two Crosses of St. George – the highest award in wartime – and told him verbatim “My little brother, all my life I will remember you and your bravery, and I propose for you the third cross.”

Oswald, jeune soldat de 20 ans, arrache à l’ennemi le premier drapeau, décoré de la croix de Saint-Georges, soigné à l’Hôpital de Wilna.

Oswald, a young soldier of 20 years, snatches the enemy’s first flag, decorated with the Cross of St. George, treated at the Hospital of Vilna.

Elie Archin, pointeur dans une batterie. Toujours à son poste de combat, a pris part à six grandes batailles; décoré de la croix de Saint-Georges pour sa bravoure hors ligne et sa grande intelligence. Son commandant écrit personnellement une lettre au père Archin pour lui marquer combien il est heureux d’avoir sous ses ordres un soldat d’une si grande valeur.

Elie Archin, aimer in a battery.  Always at his post, took part in six major battles; decorated with the Cross of St. George for bravery offline and great intelligence.  His commander personally wrote a letter to Mr. Archin to mark him how happy he is to have under him a soldier of such great value.

Katz, promu au grade de sous-lieutenant sur le champ de bataille (fait tout à fait rare en Russie) pour faits d’armes tout-à-fait exceptionnels. Le journal russe qui rapporte ce fait avec enthousiasme ajoute qu’il est heureux d’annoncer que Katz, en reconnaissance de son grade, a embrassé la religion orthodoxe.  Mais notre héros riposte immédiatement par une lettre au même journal: “Je suis né juif, je reste et mourrai juif.”

Katz, promoted to sub-lieutenant on the battlefield (in fact quite rare in Russia) for feats made entirely exceptional.  The Russian newspaper reported this fact with enthusiasm adding that he was pleased to announce that Katz, in recognition of his rank, embraced the Orthodox religion.  But our hero responded immediately by a letter to the same newspaper: “I was born Jewish, I am and will die a Jew.”

Un jeune écolier de quinze ans et derni quitte la maison sans prévenir ses parents, suit un régiment et combat sur le front héroïquement.  Blessé et fait prisonnier, il est torturé par les Autrichiens, qui veulent obtenir des renseignements sur son regiment; mais le jeune héros ne répond rien.  Il est jeté dans un hangar froid où il reste plusieurs jours sans nourriture; il s’évade et rentre dans son regiment.  Nommé sergent malgré son jeune àge.

A young schoolboy of fifteen and a half leaves home without telling his parents, following a regiment and fighting at the front heroically.  Wounded and taken prisoner, he is tortured by the Austrians, who want to obtain information about his regiment; but the young hero does not answer.  He is thrown into a cold shed where he remained many days without food; he escaped and returned to his regiment.  Named sergeant despite his young age.

Je ne vous parle pas du jeune cosaque Miller (vingt ans), nommé sergent-adjoint, décoré trois fois sur le champ de bataille, car tous les journeaux de Paris et de province ont publié des articles élogieux en son honneur.

I’m not talking about the young Cossack Miller (twenty years), appointed assistant sergeant, decorated three times on the battlefield, because all the newspapers of Paris and the provinces have published favorable articles in his honor.

– Transcribed and Translated by Michael G. Moskow