Ringels of Berlin

German Jews in WWI

The other day I posted information about the military draft in the U.S. for World War I. Our grandfather Walter Ruby registered in the draft, was called up, and fought and was seriously injured in the war. Our German grandfather, Hermann Ringel, also fought in the war on the other side.

I was curious about German Jewry and its response to the war, so I dipped into Amos Elon's "The Pity of It All--A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933" for these excerpts:

"When war actually broke out, five weeks after the assassination, middle- and upper-middle-class urban Jews did not 'go home.' They joined up. By volunteering for war sevice long before being called up they hoped they would finally overcome the remaining informal impediments to full integration in German society....

The common experience of war was generally expected to cement firm new bonds among Germans of all faiths. The term used for that experience was Erlebnis. A young Jewish volunteer, Julius Holz, invoked his Erlebnis on December 7, 1914, his twentieth birthday, in a letter to his father from the front. He vowed to 'fight like a man, as a good German of true Jewish faith and for the greater honor of my family.' ...

In the main urban centers, liberal, leftist, and perhaps even some pacifist Jews were swayed by the prevailing emphasis on Russia. It was easier to endorse a war directed against the last despoitic and openly anti-Semitic regime in Europe....

In a speech he gave on August 4 affirming his government's decisio to go to war, the kaiser solemny assured his audience by proclaiming that differences of religion, political affiliation, class, and ethnic origin no longer counted. He said: 'I no long know any aprties, I know only Germans,' at which point the Reichstag broke into a 'storm of bravos.' ....

Jewish volunteers and conscripts felt very little hostility in the ranks. In the name of the kaiser's 'civic truce,' the military authorities ordered the more radical anti-Semitic periodicals to refrain from anti-Jewish agitation.

The Zionists were still a negligible minority among German Jews. At a conference just sight weeks before the war, they had reaffirmed their conviction that they were aliens in Germany. Once war was declared, though, they joined in with as much--and often more--enthusiasm than others, ready if necessary to shoot at French or Russian Zionists.

The Zionist Judische Rundschau, in its first issue after the outbrak of war, exhorted reader to volunteer unhesitatingly and en mass....

German Zionists already settled in Palestine hurried back to volunteer....

Large parts of the Pale of Settlement in Russia soon came under German military rule. Nearly everywhere, Russian Jews welcomed the German troops as liberators....

[Lots of great detail about Jewish pro-war sentiment, including from Freud and other intellectuals, followed by rising disillusionment as the war dragged on.]

Far from unitying Germans and Jews, the ware seemed only to deepen the gulf between them. As soon as the war turned sour, chauvinism turned inward....

Such feelings were exacerbated by the sudden influx of impoverished Jews from occupied Poland and Russia. Living in abject conditions on the edges of the larger cities, they elicited revulsion....

In October 1916, when almost three thousand Jews had already died on the battlefield and more than seven thousand had been decorated, War Minister Wild von Hohenborn saw fit to sanction the growing prejudices. He ordered a 'Jew census' in the army to determine the actual number of Jews on the front lines as opposed to those serving in the rear....

The Jew census had a devastating effect on German Jews, generating an unprecedented moral crisis among those on the front line....

In 1914, Eranst Simon had fully shared the 'intoxicating joy' of going to war. The Jew census was a 'betrayal:' the dream of community was gone. In one horrendous blow, the census reoped the deep chasm that 'could not be bridged by common language, work, civilizaton, and custom.' ....

Only two years earlier, Nahum Godmann had hailed the gloried of Prussian milarists and their wonder war. Now he wrote that Jews had nothing to do with this war: its origins, its aims, its content were totally alien to them. It was taking place outside their sphere.....

[I'll stop there. This book has lots of great content about Jewish life in Germany until it was obliterated by the Nazis. I'll return later with excerpts about the Zionist movement and also the Jewish reaction to the rise of Hitler. For now here is a photo of Hermann Ringel in uniform as a German soldier during WWI.]

Margot's mother, Rosa Ringel, was a victim too

OMG! Rosa Ringel is in the Names database, too. She is the mother of Ze'ev and Margot and Hermann's sister. She and Margot were both taken in Belgrade, where Rosa's deceased husband David Shattner had come from. I think they were likely living with their Shattner in-laws in Belgrade after fleeing Berlin. As with Margot, there are testimony forms submitted in Israel by Ze'ev and by Artur Hendel, a Shattner cousin. The forms are handwritten in Hebrew and German so I have not deciphered them. This photo was included with the Ze'ev form. 

Margot Shattner in the Yad Vashem victims database

Yesterday, I mentioned searching for Betty Katz in the Yad Vashem Names Database, which is a consolidated collection of all information about Holocaust victims. I did find several entries that were close (a Betty Katz from Berlin with with the right birth year, for example) but they did not match up on other details (our Betty should be Wohlgemuth and the birth location and exact date were wrong). 

Today I reread "Helga's Story" from the Ruby Family History and came upon references to Ze'ev Sharon's younger sister, Margot Shattner, having been killed by the Nazis in Yugoslavia. I looked for her in the Names database and she immediately came up in four records. Two are personal testimony forms, one by Ze'ev and another by a Shattner cousin named Artur Hendel. She is also on the list of Jewish victims from the Memorial book "Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 - 1945" prepared by the German Federal Archives. 

See for yourself by following the link. Click on the gray triangle to the left of each entry to see the detail. Click on the pointer icons to the right for Google maps with Margot's locations shown.

http://yvng.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&s_lastName=Shatner&s_firstName=Margot&s_place=

Joanne's reflections from Berlin

Here I am finally with some quiet time [at our house swap in Berlin], after Lani and Bill have left for Copenhagen and my friend Gina and her daughter have also departed.  I'm still very low from this lousy viral infection that hit me 19 days ago after my second visit to Budapest's most glorious bathhouse (photos to follow).  

This city is amazing.  To feel the history at every turn, and to see and learn about changing neighborhoods, to see the vibrant creative communities, the crazy club scene, talk about old and new immigrant issues, to see the tolerance out there, like graffiti and signs saying, 'immigrants welcome' yesterday in east Kruetzberg.  As I hung out at the Turkish market, swaying to the tunes of a Mayan Hip Hop band, and taking in the stalls, I was reminded of my love of the east Jerusalem markets, and markets in general.   This one ranks:  people from everywhere, and people loving who and what others are and have to offer.  As I meandered, I got the hit that had maybe been coming:  we really, really should rent an apt here for a while and all of us hang. 

Twyla, if your plans come to be, the Max Plank Institute in two years, some of us should be here too.  Dan, I can so see you here.  I think it should be sooner rather than later, as the healthcare is an issue, as I've discovered.  I would have to apply for German national healthcare [to be eligible for benefits even with citizenship].

Meeting Donna was a joy.  She is moving forward with her book, no publisher yet, and would love our contribution.  She sees it as contributing to educating and providing history about how the citizenship law works, and has been changed.  She feels it could help build the argument for a change, i.e. Eliminating the arbitrary date, eliminating split decisions within families.  At the same time she feels this will be a way off, with a new Chancellor.  She sees it and believes it's important as part of the overall changing face of the country, the acceptance and move toward greater diversity.  She confirms that the law was not about reaching out to Jewish community, or reparations or the like.  She has data on number who have reclaimed citizenship under Article 116 since 2000 (when records became public) but did not tell me.  Says the Israeli population is ~15-20K now.

As for individual cases like ours, she suggests that others have hired an attorney.  She offered her attorney, who could see if there might be anything in our case that is compelling and be enough to allow for Dan/Walt to become citizens.  I told her of Twyla's interest, and she said she is happy to introduce her attorney to you, Twyla, if you are coming to Berlin next month.  At the same time, I am meeting all kinds of people who are living, studying, working here, who don't have citizenship.  It is very exciting to think of you here, Twyla.  Feels like a fit.  I encourage you to contact Donna.  So easy going, and informative and involved.

Dan, Walt: I have a few of my own family history questions and is there something you want me to do next two days to shed light on anything? Do we have death record of Betty and Isaak?  Couldn't remember why we believe she died in Auschwitz? Was she deported from Schluterstasse 12?  Or did she sell the house (was Isaak long dead?).  Did we think about doing a Stolpersteine block? I am going inside the house tomorrow morning! I will take what you gave me, Dan, and take photos of course. Any questions outstanding about Herman's grave:  I may go to cemetery on Friday.

Walt, a funny little story that was not funny at the time.  Bill got taken by a sheister outside the currency exchange at Prague train station.  Nice and simple, gave the guy 40 euro for some Check Republic currency.  Handed it to me; it didn't work in the ticket machine; showed it to agent who said, 'not Check money, from Belarus.'  So Walt, on your next visit back to do family history on the Tulbowitz clan, you've got some cash...

Going to take short walk, maybe you will get this, and we can write more before I go to bed in 2-3 hours.  Love from Helga's beautiful Charlottenberg,

Jo

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