Monday, May 25, 2009

Jewish War Memorials

Venice, Italy. New Jewish Cemetery on the Lido, Memorial to Jewish soldiers killed in WW I.
Photos: Samuel D. Gruber, 2006.

Malady Boleslav, Czech Republic. Monument in Jewish cemetery to Jewish soldiers who died in WW I.
Photo: Samuel D. Gruber, 2009.

Gyongyos, Hungary. World War I Memorial in Jewish Cemetery.
Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005.

Jewish War Memorials
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It's a holiday that began after the Civil War as Decoration Day to commemorate those who died - on both sides of the conflict - during that long and bloody confrontation. Jews, too, died for the North and South. And there were Jewish civilian casualties as well. I'm thinking of a little girl's grave I once saw in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She was a casualty of the Union shelling of the Confederate town. I have a slide of that somewhere, but it is not digitized, so its posting will have to await another time. I know there are memorials to American Jewish soldiers in synagogues and cemeteries across the country, but I have not made a point of collecting these.

I recall with sadness seeing almost 20 years ago the marble memorial plaques left behind by a congregation on Coney Island when they abandoned their old synagogue - and let it fall into ruin. At that time I couldn't find any musuem or archive interested in rescuing these heavy marble plaques. I assume they were later destroyed with the building. I'm going to keep my eyes open now for other examples, and I encourage my readers to send me examples they know.

Meanwhile, I'm posting some Jewish war memorials in Europe I have visited recently - since the advent of digital photography. Here are examples of monuments to Jewish soldiers who died in the First World War from cemeteries in just three countries - Italy, the Czech Republic and Hungary. There remains a common misconception that Jews were frequent draft-dodgers from this conflict. These monuments tell a different story. I know many more such monuments exist throughout Europe and I think it important to inventory and document these. Besides being an act of rescuing a little remembered history, and of remembering the fallen themselves, this collection is an interesting and valuable reminder of an already begun process of artistically distinctive commemorative monuments made by Jews in the years
before the Holocaust. This is a tradition that was then revived immediately after the Holocaust by survivors, and then again on a large scale in more recent decades.

Happily, all three of these monuments are in cemeteries that are now well cared for. The great one of the noble lion pierced by spears is from the Hungarian town of Gyongyos, where the cemetery was restored since this photo was taken (it was part of a reconnaissance project prior to finding a donor). There is also a large and impressive Holocaust memorial on the site.


Ruth Gruber has posted more examples of Jewish War Monuments on her blog. Click here.


supersghisc said...

There is an impressive WWI memorial in the Jewish Cemetery in Berlin, in the former east part of the city. Well worth a visit, a most impressive cemetery in a beautiful park

poyklr said...

Hmmm....should we be remembering Judah Benjamin, Attorney General, Sec'y of War, and Sec'y of State for the CSA?

Thoufeek Zakriya said...

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Mark David said...

I really love how your blog looks. I just reading this blog nice very nice. This is a great and interesting post. Really I had very little knowledge about jewish war memorials, but now after reading this I can make out the things properly. Thanks for such a lovely write-up that can drag any person under the sun.

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richard vandenbrul said...

I belong to the Western Front Association U.S. Branch and have made several trips to France to tour the WWI battlefields.

My grandparents came from Galicia in Austria-Hungary. They emmigrated to the USA in 1910.
However, my grandmother's brother was wounded fighting for Austria-Hungary. I googled WWI Eastern Front monuments and memorials and found yours.

Thank You

Dick VandenBrul