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Contesting Jewish Loyalties: The First World War and Beyond

International Conference

The question of Jewish loyalties is central in the contemplation of the First World War as a turning point in Jewish history. Both during the war and in the postwar period, Jews throughout Europe were often caught between the fronts – their loyalties were questioned and redefined with respect to religion, ethnicity, nationality and citizenship.

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W. M. Blumenthal Academy,
Klaus Mangold Auditorium
Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin (Opposite the Museum)

Just decades after intense persecution and the struggle for recognition that marked the second half of the 19th century, Jews found themselves at an unprecedented social and political crossroads. The frenzied military, social and cultural mobilization of European societies from 1914 onwards, along with the outbreak of revolution in Russia and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East had a profound impact on Jewish communities worldwide. From the outset, the First World War was seen as a watershed in Jewish history.

One of the most fascinating findings to emerge from seeing the Great War as a turning point in Jewish history is the question of Jewish loyalties. The nature of Jewish allegiance was not only questioned from the outside, but was an omnipresent problem for Jewish individuals, families and communities that struggled to reconcile what appeared to be divided loyalties. At the end of the war these dilemmas continued to trouble Jews in Europe and elsewhere. Self-determination was now perceived to be a guiding principle for redrawing European and world maps – providing new hope for a more ‘just’ world order and an enduring peace. This intensified the struggle over Jewish self-definition in a rapidly changing world.

This conference will explore the multifaceted question of Jewish loyalties. Papers consider the degree to which individual Jews and Jewish communities engaged with the question of loyalty before, during and after the First World War, in a broad interdisciplinary and transnational context. In bringing together scholars from a range of different disciplines, the conference aims to provide the setting for in-depth discussion on the place and multifaceted meanings of a crucial question for modern societies that will significantly improve our understanding of the Jewish experience in modern times.

In Cooperation with

  • Centre for German-Jewish Studies, University of Sussex
  • Wissenschaftliche Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Leo Baeck Instituts in Deutschland
  • The Institute for the History of the German Jews, Hamburg
  • The Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London


Thursday, 15 December 2016

12.30 pm Gathering
1 pm Welcome and Introduction from the Organizers
1.15–2.45 pm
Session 1: Thinking Loyalties

Chair: Aubrey Pomerance

Mirjam Zadoff (Bloomington), “Our Beloved Germany”: On the Loyalty of the Revolutionary

Carsten Schapkow (Oklahoma), Debating Jewish Loyalties in an Anarchist Framework: Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam

Zohar Maor (Ramat Gan), Hugo Bergmann in the Great War: The Tangle of Austrian, German and Jewish Loyalties

3–4.30 pm
Session 2: Dilemmas of Loyalty

Chair: Oliver Glatz

Mohsen Hamli (Tunisia), The Jewish Promoters of a Judeo-Arab Alliance in Tunisia, 1919–1921

Oleksii Chebotarov (St. Gallen), Who were the Tsarist Jews? Questions on Loyalties of Russian Jews in Habsburg Galicia

Mirjam Rajner (Ramat Gan), To Be Sephardic, Zionist and Yugoslav: The Threefold Loyalty of Sarajevo Artist Daniel Kabiljo

4.30–5 pm Tea and Coffee Break
5–6.30 pm
Session 3: From Kaiserreich to Weimar Republic

Chair: David Jünger

Gavin J. Wiens (Toronto), A Mixed Bag of Loyalties: Confessional, Ethnic and Regional Minorities in the Imperial German Army, 1914–1918

Alexandra Esche (Berlin/London), Between Class, Faith and Fatherland: Jewish Bourgeois Identities and the “Berliner Westzug”, 1890–1918

Knut Bergbauer (Wuppertal), “Hedad!” und “Hurra!”: Junge jüdische Wanderer in Krieg und Nachkrieg

7–8 pm
Keynote Address

Chair: Stefanie Schüler-Springorum

Ulrich Wyrwa (Berlin), The Dialectic of Expectations and Experiences: Jews in Europe during the First World War

8 pm Reception

Friday, 16 December 2016

9.30–10.45 am
Session 4: From Empire to Nation States I: Eastern Europe

Chair: Kim Wünschmann

Yulia Minutina-Lobanova (St Petersburg), “And probably later, after the storm is over...”: The First World War as a Chance for Jewish Emancipation

Katalin Fenyves (Budapest), Conflicting Loyalties of Hungarian-born Jews in the Interwar Period

10.45–11.15 am Tea and Coffee Break
11.15 am –12.30 pm
Session 5: From Empire to Nation States II: Austro-Hungary and Successor States

Chair: Gideon Reuveni

Tim Corbett (Vienna), Once “the Only True Austrians”: Mobilising Jewish Memory of the First World War for Belonging in the New Austrian Nation

Gerald Lamprecht (Graz), Austrian Jewish Discourses in the Pivotal Years 1917 to 1920

12.30–2 pm Lunch Break
2–3.30 pm
Session 6: Balkans and South-Eastern Europe

Chair: Ulrich Wyrwa

Ljiljana Dobrovšak (Zagreb), “Long live the king, the king is dead”

Irina Lyubomirova Ognyanova (Sofia), Jewry-related Discourse in Bulgaria in the Interwar Period

Željka Oparnica (Budapest), The Man and the Networks: Rabbi Isaac Alkalay and His Action During the Wars in Serbia, 1912-1918

3.30–4 pm Tea and Coffee Break
4–5.15 pm
Session 7: The Zionist Movement and the World War

Chair: Christoph Kreutzmüller

Avital Ginat (Tel Aviv), Ottoman, German or English? The Zionist Movement and the Yishuv’s Expectations Regarding Palestine’s Future After the First World War

Ehud Manor (Oranim), Contesting Jewish Loyalties: Socialist-Zionism and Minority Rights

5.15–6 pm Ulrich Wyrwa and Jeffrey Grossman with Ljiljana Dobrovšak, Gerald Lamprecht and Carsten Schapkow,
The Great War: Reflections, Experiences and Memories of German and Habsburg Jews (1914–1918).
Presentation of the newly published special issue of Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History
7 pm Dinner for Conference Delegates

Saturday, 17 December 2016

9.30–11 am
Session 8: Between the Old and the New Worlds

Chair: Gerhard Wolf

Thomas Irmer (Berlin), Loyalties of the “King of New York”: Otto Hermann Kahn and World War I

Christoph Jahr (Berlin), Two “Ministers of Foreign Affairs” of Their Respective Community? Paul Nathan, Lucien Wolf and the Question of Jewish Loyalty Before, During and After World War I

11–11.30 am Tea and Coffee Break
11.30 am –1 pm
Session 9: The “Jewish Question” and the Loyalty Challenge

Chair: Miriam Rürup

Richard E. Frankel (Louisiana), The “International Jewish Traitor?” Antisemitism, Globalization and the Question of National Belonging in Germany and the United States

Jakob Stürmann (Potsdam), Franz Kursky and Rafael Abramovi in Berlin between 1919/1920 and 1933: Members of the General Jewish Labour Bund

Poster; design Lou Mayer, 1917, Boston, Public Library


PDF / 0.49 MB / english / not accessible


Was, wann, wo?

  • When 15 - 17 December 2016, Thurs 1–8 pm; Fri, 9 am–5 pm; Sat, 10 am–2 pm
  • Where W. M. Blumenthal Academy, Klaus Mangold Auditorium

    Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin
    (Opposite the Museum)

    See location on map