In the First World War, an estimated 100,000 German Jews served in their country’s army, of whom 12,000 were killed in action. The Iron Cross was awarded to 18,000 German Jews during the war. Some two decades later, the Nazi regime drove millions of Jews — including German Jews — into concentration camp gas chambers. All of which makes the recent appointment of Rabbi Zsolt Balla as Chief Rabbi of today’s German armed forces truly remarkable.
Quote: “Now, as the country begins to open up, [Rabbi Balla] is taking on a previously unimaginable job as the German military’s chief rabbi — its first in almost 90 years, since Adolf Hitler expelled Jews from the armed forces in the 1930s. All this and he didn’t even know he was Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor until he was nine. A rabbi proudly joining the German army eight decades after the Nazis orchestrated the Holocaust is a hugely symbolic moment for the Jewish community.”
Sources: Wikipedia (introduction), CNN (quotation)
Learn more about the Jews who served in the German Army in World War I. ►
Read “German army appoints first rabbi as religious counsellor in 100 years” ►
Read “This rabbi is joining the German army, 90 years after Hitler expelled Jewish soldiers” ►
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