French Rabbis and the 'Sacred Unity' During the First World War

in European Judaism

Like their German colleagues the French rabbis enthusiastically supported the war effort. They even seemed to move away from the French style of patriotism, concerned with reason and universalism, to associate themselves with the prevalent nationalism by acknowledging in their sermons the tones of Maurice Barrès, the apostle of anti-Semitism, who, for the first time, included the Jews amongst the great French families. Contrary to the 'barbarians' from across the Rhine, who made obeisance to their new Pharaoh, the French Jews found themselves summoned to sacrifice themselves for the fatherland. The death of Rabbi Abraham Bloch, the report of which affirms that he was killed while bringing a crucifix to a dying Catholic soldier, symbolizes this now supposedly permanent unity of the religions.