A new exhibition looks at the contribution of German- Jewish soldiers who fought in the First World War. By Francine Wolfisz, features editor, Jewish News  finds out more

Experiences of German Jewish soldiers, such Philipp Manes, inset, are brought to life through prints and postcards

Experiences of German Jewish soldiers, such Philipp Manes, inset, are brought to life through prints and postcards

With a strong sense of loyalty, a staggering 100,000 German Jews proudly fought alongside their fellow countrymen during the First World War and were rewarded with the highest accolades. Some 12,000 made the ultimate sacrifice and died on the battlefront.

But just two decades later, that patriotism and commitment was swept aside as the Nazis rose to power, forcing many to flee their beloved country – or face deportation to the death camps.

Coinciding with 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, a new exhibition highlighting the contribution of German-Jewish soldiers has launched at The Wiener Library.

The Kaiser’s Jewish Soldiers: Loyalty, Identity, Betrayal, runs until October and explores the lives and legacies of these soldiers through a selection of striking photographs, postcards, prints and books.

Among the stories featured is that of Ludwig Jacoby, who worked with trained dogs to search for wounded soldiers in the Ardennes. Jacoby was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for bravery. Following the war, he moved with his family from Prenzlau to Berlin.

A reproduction of a painting showing the work of a German army medic in the First World War

A reproduction of a painting showing the work of a German army medic in the First World War

By 1938, he had lost his job working for a fabric company and although he was able to help his elder son Henry escape to Britain, he, his wife Dorothea and younger son Hans-Bernd were deported to Auschwitz in March 1943.

Likewise, established fur dealer Phillip Manes was nearly 40-years-old when the First World War broke out. He was drafted into the army and served on the Russian front as a sergeant.

Group of German army medics with their dogs during the First Wor

A group of German army medics photographed with their dogs during the First World War.

In addition to military assignments, Manes was given the responsibility of running a number of bookshops behind the front, supplying reading material to soldiers. Once a war hero and committed German soldier, Manes and his wife were later imprisoned at Theresienstadt.

Despite the appalling conditions, Manes organised evening lectures and cultural activities to offer a sense of dignity to others sharing his plight. He was deported with his wife to Auschwitz in October 1944.

Philipp Manes, 13 January 1917

Experiences of German-Jewish soldiers such as Philipp Manes, pictured here, are brought to life in paintings and postcards.

There were some however who managed to escape Nazi deportation and death. Distinguished gynaecologist Alfred Loeser, who performed emergency treatments on the battlefield and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, later felt a deep sense of betrayal after he was forced to emigrate to Britain in 1939.

Dr Toby Simpson, exhibition curator, said: “The commitment of German Jews topatriotic ideals during and after the First World War is particularly striking as we look back on this moment in history at a distance of 100 years.

“The later attempts of the Nazis to distort, and even obliterate the contribution of Jewish soldiers to the First World War make the survival and   richness of these collections all the more poignant.”

The Kaiser’s Jewish Soldiers: Loyalty, Identity, Betrayal runs at The Wiener Library, Russell Square, until 8 October. Details: 020 7636 7247 or www.wienerlibrary.co.uk