Jewish military volunteering in 1914
On July 25th, 1914 Jaurès declared in Lyon : « Never since forty years was Europe in a more threatening and more tragic situation» The socialist leader will be assassinated five days later. And that very day, on July 30st, the foreigners living in France call their fellow citizen to volunteer into the French Army. Out of the first seventeen enrolled, twelve were Jewish. The three first national groups to answer the appeal were Italians, Greeks and Jews. These ones distribute immediately this declaration in their neighborhood:
France, country of the Liberty, Equality and fraternity, France who liberates humanity, France who was the first of all the nations, to recognize to us the Jews, the Human and Citizen rights, France where we have been with our families for many years, a refuge and a helter, France is in danger!
Any minute, France may be in state of war. We, immigrated Jews what shall we do ? Shall we, while the whole French people rise like one man to defend the homeland, shall we cross our arms?
No, because if we aren’t yet French by right, we are by heart and by soul, and our sacred duty is to place ourselves at the service of this great and noble nation, in order to take part to it’s defense.
Brothers! It’s the time to pay our tribute of gratitude to the country where we found moral emancipation and material well been.
Immigrated Jews, do your duty, and long life to France! »
How many volunteered? Between ten and thirty thousand among the fourty thousand foreigners of 52 nationalities who joined the ranks of the French Army; those Jews were from central Europe, Turkey, Alsace who was under German rule.
Extract from « Juifs révolutionnaire » by: Simon Cukier/ Dominique Decez / David Diamant: Michel Grojnowski. Messidor , Édition Social
Verdun Jewish War Memorial 1914-1918
Near Douaumont ossuary, which is erected on top of four hundred thousand deaths of Verdun, stands for over twenty years, a large wall that contains the two tables of the Act on which the Ten Commandments are engraved. On a pedestal, a band of stone bears the inscription: To the French, Allies and Foreign Volunteers who died for France, 1914-1918.
The monument erected on the initiative of a committee which brought together members of the Central Consistory and alumni associations of Jewish volunteer fighters was inaugurated June 19, 1938 by Mr. Campinchi Minister of the Navy, on behalf of the government. The following year, during their annual pilgrimage, Jewish volunteers veterans went to visit Bishop Gininisty, the Bishop of Verdun, and asked him to watch over the monument as he watched over the ossuary. The response of the late prelate was: "I agree with all my heart and I want to tell you that your approach honors me as you honor it." Under WW2 occupation, the Germans decided to destroy the wall and the Decalogue which “Jew-rode” the most famous landmark of French military glory, and only the violent opposition of civil and religious authorities of the immortal city and county who succeeded to confine their Aryan vandalism into hiding them through a fence, at the sight of Fritz and Nazi "tourists".
Only after the Liberation it was discovered that they had damaged the monument, in particular by pouring cement into the hollow of the Hebrew letters and the dedication.
The consistory has undertaken the rehabilitation of the monument, and, in conjunction with the Grand Rabbi of France, Jacob Kaplan, it launched an appeal to which respondents affiliated associations.
Signed by our alumna President Maurice Vanikoff, and President of the « Fédération des Anciens Combattants Juifs des deux guerres » - Published in « Notre Volonté N° 184 » October-November 1984 at the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Marne battle.