Posted on August 1st, 2014 by Rachel
Here in Baltimore no one has any doubt what war we are commemorating. As summer slips into fall one celebration after another will remind us of the events two hundred years ago that gave us our anthem, our pride and our continued independence. As most of you know, JMM is a part of these festivities, honoring our own favorite Ft. McHenry defender, Mendes Cohen.
However, in much of the world the war being remembered this year is a century later. On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, the first in a series of domino triggers that will take the world into its first global maelstrom. Within a month of the outbreak, futurist H.G. Wells had already published an article declaring that this would be “The War that Will End War”(it’s ok, we also don’t have time travel yet…or a Martian invasion).
The war would be twice tragic for the Jewish people. First in the loss of life of soldiers drawn to patriotic duty at the early stages of the conflict and second in the inflammation of prejudice as pundits and politicians throughout Europe looked for a scapegoat for their ill-fortune in the fight.
When I was at the Jewish Museum of London this spring, I had a chance to see the exhibit “For King and Country?: The Jewish Experience of the First World War”. As the “?” in the title implies there were a lot of ambiguities in the Jewish response to the conflict. After all, many English Jews of the period were recent refugees of lands controlled by Russia and they did not necessarily favor a victory for the Czar, even if he was allied with Great Britain. Moreover, reflecting the relative size of Jewish populations, more than twice the number of Jews fought for the Central Powers (Germany and Austria) as for the UK and France. In our collection at JMM we have several medals acquired by Jewish soldiers in the service of the German army, carried with them when they were forced to escape on the eve of WWII.
Cross-shaped WWI medal earned by Hugo Bessinger, 2011.4.1
In fact, quickly browsing our collection, it becomes obvious that Baltimore Jews played important roles in the war. Even before the doughboys went to Europe, the British Royal Fusiliers had begun recruiting American volunteers. In particular they sought out Jewish young men who wanted to be sent to the front to face the Ottoman Empire in Palestine.
This cap pin, belonging to Simon Soibel, still bears the initials RF, even though the Royal Fusiliers units, the 39th and 40th battalions, were already referred to as the “Jewish Legion.” 1992.154.057
We have just one WWI uniform in our collection, but it unites two prominent Baltimore families. This coat belonged to Lester Levy, hat maker and civic leader. Levy, who had ambitions to fight in France, had been turned down by the Army for his poor eyesight. Although he eventually got a waiver from the US Attorney General’s office, he was assigned to ordnance and never actually went overseas. And the other prominent Baltimore family? Well, the coat was manufactured by Henry Sonneborn & Co.
The collection also contains quite a few photos from the war effort.
three Red Cross nurses, named Levin, Fuxman and Ribakow, 1990.44.2
As Jennifer Vess wrote in this blog several years ago, the role of women in WWI including not only the nurses but other participants in the combat support effort is particularly well documented in our holdings.
Members of the Jewish Welfare Board in Paris, France; Rose Lutzky, 3rd from right, 1993.173.12
Barbara Tuchman, author of the most famous treatise on WWI, The Guns of August, once wrote “Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”* I would add just one thought to her cogent analysis – “without records and artifacts there are no books.”
*Bulletin of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, #2, 1980 (pp. 16-32)
A blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.
Posted on February 23rd, 2012 by Jennifer
Some of you may remember an exhibition we had on loan from the Museumof Jewish Heritage called Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War.? Because of that exhibition we received a large number of donations of photographs, uniforms, dog tags, books, and papers related to the military service of Jewish Marylanders in World War II.? The following finding aid is one of those donations.
?David O. Feldman (b. 1920)
World War II Military Papers, n.d, 1942-1953
?The Jewish Museum of Maryland
Accession and Provenance
The David O. Feldman World War II Military Papers were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by David O. Feldman as accession 2008.003.? Jennifer Vess processed the collection with the help of Bernie Raynor and Alan Blumberg in 2011.
Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.? Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.? Papers may be copied in accordance with the library?s usual procedures.
David O. Feldmann standing outside in the Yukon, 2008.3.1.
David O. Feldman was born May 16, 1920 in Baltimoreto Benno Feldman and Sarah Frank Feldman.? Feldman graduated from North Carolina State University.? In May 1942, after graduating college, he entered the US Army through ROTC and was initially commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant.? Feldman was stationed at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and remained there from June 1942 through April 1946.? Feldman remained in the Army Reserves until being discharged in 1953.? By that point he had attained the rank of Captain.? Feldman married in 1948 and had three children.
Clock showing the "midnight sun" in Whitehorse Yukon Territory, June 21. 2008.3.4.
Scope and Content
This collection contains official records related to David O. Feldman?s military career during World War II, including discharge papers, shipping receipts, orders, rosters, etc.? The materials are divided into folders according the subjects designated by the donor, and the folders are organized in a roughly chronological order.
David O. Feldmann during World War II. 2008.3.3.