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Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018
Tim Grady is reader in modern history, University of Chester, and author of The German Jewish Soldiers of the First World War in History and Memory. He lives in Merseyside, UK.
On A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War:
Researching the history of German Jews in the First World War has taken me to archives in Germany, the United States, Israel and Britain. It has been an incredible privilege to piece together the traces of individual lives and to discover their wartime hopes and aspirations. It is these stories that are at the very core of this book. Yet, at no stage could I have ever imagined that the finished book would be shortlisted for such a prestigious history prize. It is a tremendous personal honour to be named on the shortlist for the Wolfson History Prize, but also fantastic that this type of history has been recognised in this way.
In writing this book, I wanted to highlight some of the complexities of Germany’s First World War. Although not always recognised, German Jews played a significant role in the conflict both at home and at the front. Indeed, almost 12,000 Jewish soldiers died fighting in the German army. My aim from the start was to reinsert Jews into the war’s broader history, showing that Jews were not just objects of policy, but were also fighters, propagandists, pacifists, workers and war widows. In short, Germany’s war was their war too.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018 With compelling clarity Tim Grady demonstrates how “Germany’s path through the First World War not only destabilised German politics and society; it also opened people’s minds to the power of violence and destruction”, which – ultimately - created the conditions that led to the rise of National Socialism and the genocide of 6 million Jews. This pioneering work shows that since German Jews stood together with non-Jews in defending their country, they contributed to creating these conditions. They were “joint protagonists”, with some 100,000 Jewish soldiers serving in the German military, and many being passionate patriots, particularly supportive of Germany’s desire to colonise the East, for example. But, at the same time, and fuelled by the emerging “nonchalant attitude towards mass death” and a poisonous fear of “the other”, Jewish citizens found themselves on the wrong side of a unifying Imperialist ‘them and us’ division, and the stab-in-the-back myth began to thrive. Drawing on a breadth of fascinating sources, this is an engrossing and important study - rigorously researched, and written with vigour. ~ Joanne Owen
The First World War saw almost 100,000 German Jews wear the uniform of the Imperial army; some 12,000 of these soldiers lost their lives in battle. Over the last century, public memory of their sacrifice has been very gradually subsumed into the much greater catastrophe of the Holocaust. This book focuses on the multifaceted ways in which these Jewish soldiers have variously been remembered and forgotten from 1914 through until the late 1970s. During and immediately after the conflict, Germany's Jewish population were active participants in a memory culture that honoured the war dead as national heroes. With the decline of the Weimar Republic and the National Socialists' rise to power, however, the public commemoration of the Jewish soldiers gradually faded, as Germany's Jewish communities were systematically destroyed by the Nazi regime. It was only in the late 1950s that both Jews and other Germans began to rediscover and to re-remember this largely neglected group. By examining Germany's complex and continually evolving memory culture, this book opens up a new approach to the study of both German and German-Jewish history. In doing so, it draws out a narrative of entangled and overlapping relations between Jews and non-Jews during the short twentieth century. The Jewish / non-Jewish relationship, the book argues, did not end on the battlefields of the First World War, but ran much deeper to extend through into the era of the Cold War.