German Treatment of Jews During World War I
Prelude to the Holocaust
One hundred years ago, in August of 1914, Germany declared war on Russia and thereby launched the first and second world wars. Although Germany lost that war, the German army in East Prussia succeeded in defeating the Russians at the battle of Tannenberg under the command of General von Hindenburg, who later became President of Germany. It was Hindenburg who appointed Hitler chancellor on January 30, 1933. Otherwise Hitler would never have become prime minister or dictator, as he lost every election he entered.
The defeat of the Russians was only temporary, as the Russian army invaded East Prussia again, only to be once more defeated by the Germans in a bloody back and forth war. Finally, the Germans succeeded in occupying Warsaw in 1915 and all of eastern Poland in 1916.
The commander of the German occupation forces was General Erich Ludendorff. Ludendorff instituted a reign of terror in the area he controlled. These atrocities were directed mainly at the large Jewish population living in eastern Poland. Jews were forced to work in road construction and other menial jobs, but were paid nothing or next to nothing by the German army. Synagogues were seized by the German army and used as garages or horse barns. On Yom Kippur, the Germans forced Jews to eat, even as other Jews were beaten and assaulted for the amusement of German troops. Jews were driven out of their homes and their businesses destroyed by the German army. Of course, the Christian Polish population enthusiastically participated in these crimes.
Meanwhile, the German army lost the war on the western front, mainly because America entered the war in 1917, thereby breaking the stalemate in the trenches of France.
The Germans lost also because they did not have the resources to continue the war after 1918. The British navy had blockaded Germany, which was running our of food, gasoline, and everything else needed to continue.
Therefore the German government capitulated to the Allies in November of 1918. Unwilling to admit that the German army had been beaten, Ludendorff and other generals claimed that “the Jews” had stabbed the German army in the back and that otherwise the Germans would have won. This lie was repeated over and over again by the German high command and government, and became a major slogan in the Nazi effort to gain power and persecute the German Jews. Ludendorff later joined the Nazi party and became a close friend and supported of Hitler.
During the First World War, 100,000 Jews served in the German army, a number far in excess of their percentage of the German population. Twelve thousand Jews died for the “Vaterland” at the front. Nevertheless, the German government instituted a census of Jews in the army and at the front on grounds that Jews were shirkers. When it was discovered that Jews were overrepresented, the German government refused to publish the results.
The German army included clergy. The Christian clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, held military ranks and were paid by the government. The Jewish clergy, the rabbis who went to war with the Jewish soldiers, were not paid by the German government nor asked to enlist. Therefore the front line rabbis had to be paid by the Jewish community.
The Russians, equally willing to persecute Jews in their midst, deported 600,000 Jews into the interior on the grounds that the Jews were spies for Germany. Thus, the European Jews were already targets for hate before Hitler was known and there were still Jewish soldiers in the German army.
In more recent years, the present government of Germany has named some army bases and some buildings for Jews who died for Germany in past wars. Yet, the atrocities which Jews endured in the First World War were a prelude of things to come, but were never expected by the Jews, who sought to be regarded as more loyal to Germany than any number of others.
Today the German government claims to be the best friend Israel has. Germany is building a new submarine for Israel, having already delivered three. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, was in Israel at the end of February to find means of assisting Israel in its effort to accommodate the Arab terrorists in their demand for a terrorist state within Israel's border.
Germans in general still view all Jews with hostility, as discovered by a recent public opinion poll.