A Jewish soldier who fought for Germany during the First World War has had the cross on his war grave replaced with a Star of David, writes Matei Clej.
Max Regensburger was one of 12,000 German Jews who died fighting for the Kaiser. He was killed in January 1916.
His great-niece, Lizzie Regensburger, told how, some 10 years ago, she came into the possession of a letter and postcards Max had written from the front. Written in old script, they could only be translated after Lizzie’s sister found a German scholar who could read it.
Lizzie’s son found out Max was buried in the German war cemetery in St. Mihiel, near Verdun in France and in April, she and her sister went to visit his grave.
They discovered he had been buried with two other soldiers in the same plot, under a steel cross bearing the name of the three men.
Lizzie, who is not Jewish, said: “The cross troubled us because he was Jewish. At the time, we decided to accept it as we were grateful to have a marked grave of any kind.” “We had some Jewish prayers with us – the ones to be recited at the tombs of relatives. I could not recite them all as I was too upset. It was heartbreaking standing in that cemetery where several thousand young men are buried.” Encouraged by her cousin Ronald, Lizzie petitioned the German War Graves Commission to allow a Jewish grave for Max.
Her request was approved and this August, she received an email showing the new Jewish headstone just to the left of the cross. For Lizzie, her great-uncle’s tale shows the change in fortune for German Jews of his time.
She said: “I have the chilling thought that if he hadn’t been killed fighting for his country, he would doubtless have been murdered by the Nazis.”