Michael Geheran is author of Comrades Betrayed: Jewish World War I Veterans under Hitler. He is Assistant Professor of History and Deputy Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
At the end of 1941, six weeks after the mass deportations of Jews from Nazi Germany had begun, Gestapo offices across the Reich received an urgent telex from Adolf Eichmann, decreeing that all war-wounded and decorated Jewish veterans of World War I be exempted from upcoming "evacuations." Why this was so, and how Jewish veterans at least initially were able to avoid the fate of ordinary Jews under the Nazis, is the subject of Comrades Betrayed.
Michael Geheran deftly illuminates how the same values that compelled Jewish soldiers to demonstrate bravery in the front lines in World War I made it impossible for them to accept passively, let alone comprehend, persecution under Hitler. After all, they upheld the ideal of the German fighting man, embraced the fatherland, and cherished the bonds that had developed in military service. Through their diaries and private letters, as well as interviews with eyewitnesses and surviving family members and records from the police, Gestapo, and military, Michael Geheran presents a major challenge to the prevailing view that Jewish veterans were left isolated, neighborless, and having suffered a social death by 1938.
Tracing the path from the trenches of the Great War to the extermination camps of the Third Reich, Geheran exposes a painful dichotomy: while many Jewish former combatants believed that Germany would never betray them, the Holocaust was nonetheless a horrific reality. In chronicling Jewish veterans' appeal to older, traditional notions of comradeship and national belonging, Comrades Betrayed forces reflection on how this group made use of scant opportunities to defy Nazi persecution and, for some, to evade becoming victims of the Final Solution.
The National Museum of American Jewish Military History and the Shapell Manuscript Foundation invite you to join us as we explore the progenitor of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. - the Hebrew Union Veterans Association, in the context of the Shapell Roster of Jewish Service in the American Civil War.
We will discuss the origins of the organization, talk in detail about the lives of some of their members, and explain how the Shapell Roster research team has discovered the service history for several of the soldiers. Have your questions and comments ready for the Q&A at the end!
Chartered by an act of Congress in 1958, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, under the auspices of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., documents and preserves the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the United States, educates the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, and works to combat anti-Semitism.
Since 2009, Shapell Manuscript Foundation researchers have unearthed a treasure trove of information on Union and Confederate Jews during the Civil War era, bringing to light a buried record of the Jewish-immigrant experience and American patriotism. The records include detailed military history, photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, diaries, and more. The body of research is amassed from hundreds of primary and secondary sources, along with contributions from descendants, historians, and genealogists. The result is the first-ever comprehensive data archive on this topic and, once released, will impact the scholarship on Jews in America in the 19th Century.
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