In honor of the High Holidays, IDF and Defense Establishment Archive has revealed a rare aspect in the life of Jewish fighters who served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I (1914-1918).
At the time, of 2,250,000 of the kingdom's Jews loyal to Emperor Franz Joseph who fought for "the new Europe" – 320,000 joined his army. At the time Jews enjoyed full civilian rights in the constitutional monarchic union of central Europe.
The Jewish soldiers in the emperor's army did not forget their identity, and the army authorities provided them with religious services. The number of rabbis reached 76 during the army, and they were all granted the officer's rank of captain.
In the Austro-Hungarian Army, Jewish soldiers were given the opportunity to mark the High Holidays in mass prayers held in the battlefield and with postcards sent to their relatives on the home front.
Some of these rare postcards have been kept in the IDF and Defense Establishment Archive and are being presented here for the first time. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed at the end of World War I. Some 40,000 of its Jewish soldiers were killed in battle.
Here's a peek into some of the postcards sent by the Jewish soldiers at the time:
In the first photo on the right, "Victory and glory for our arms! A year of happiness! 1914." Allies Austro-Hungary and Germany – soldiers from both armies pray together in the battlefield.
prayer in the battlefield. An image of Moses can be seen above the prayer stand, with two beams of light coming out of his head
German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers attend Yom Kippur
prayer in a synagogue in occupied Brussels, 1915
Shana Tova greeting. Soldiers praying in synagogue
Three military rabbis, Vienna, March 28, 1916. From left to right: Dr. Parda, Dr. Frankfurter and Dr. Deutch.
Shana Tova postcard, reading: "God, have mercy upon us… and save us from evil!"
Shana Tova greeting. In the drawing – soldiers praying in synagogue.
In this postcard, a Jewish father blesses his two sons: "May God be with You! Be brave and strong. Fight until your dying breath for the just cause of the state's father and our dear homeland."
A picture of Emperor Franz Joseph hangs in the background, and a concerned mother stands beside the father.
Photos courtesy of the IDF and Defense Establishment Archive – "Collection of the Jewish Fighter in Armed Forces and Underground Worldwide."
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