Reviews

Rallying Round the Flags


Jews and the Military: A History

by Derek J. Penslar

Princeton University Press, 376 pp., $29.95

“Never before in history,” Derek Penslar observes, “had so many Jews been mobilized for battle” as in World War I. There were “over one million in the Allied forces and some 450,000 among the armies of the Central Powers.”

Inevitably, large numbers of Jews wearing the uniform of one country ended up killing large numbers of fellow Jews wearing the uniform of another. In his account of Jewish suffering in the battleground areas of the Pale of Settlement, the Jewish writer S. An-sky reports of a Jew “who had bayoneted a soldier, who, just before expiring, gasped the Sh’ma. His killer, so the story went, went mad.” 

This oft-retold tale is much older than World War I, Penslar informs us. He traces its origins to a speech delivered in 1857 by Esdra Pontremoli, an Italian rabbi and educator:

This article is locked

Subscribe now for immediate and unlimited access to Web + Print + App + Archive
  • Already a subscriber? Log in to continue reading.
  • Not quite ready to subscribe? Register now for your choice of 3 FREE articles per quarter.
  • Already a registered user? Log in here.

About the Author

Allan Arkush is professor of Judaic studies and history at Binghamton University and senior contributing editor of the Jewish Review of Books.

Comments

No comments yet.


Want to post a comment? Please register or log in.

Most Read

What Jesus Wasn’t: Zealot

When Fox News' Lauren Green asked Reza. . .

Conservative Judaism: A Requiem

In 1971, 41 percent of American Jews. . .

Editors' Picks

Paradox or Pluralism?

Walzer’s paradox of liberation, if. . .

Lucky Grossman

Vasily Grossman was one of the principal. . .

The Future Past Perfect

Treasure and tragedy in the letters of. . .

In The Next JRB

  • Matti Friedman on Sons and Soldiers
  • Rachel Biale on We Were the Future
  • Bernard Wasserstein on Mark Mazower What You Did Not Tell
  • And more...
Copyright © 2017 Jewish Review of Books. All Rights Reserved. | Site by W&B