Hebrew Writ­ing of the First World War

Glen­da Abramson
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
More than a mil­lion Jews fought in the Great War, serv­ing on both sides of the con­flict between 1914 – 1918. Some of those who expressed the bar­barism and chaos of that expe­ri­ence went on to become icon­ic fig­ures in Hebrew lit­er­a­ture: Agnon, Bren­ner, and Tch­er­ni­chowsky (who served as a physi­cian in the Tsar’s army). Oth­ers are less well-known, but Glen­da Abramson’s well-researched Hebrew Writ­ing of the First World War brings them to light. 

While the Mid­dle East was one of the most expan­sive the­aters of the war, direct­ly impact­ing the Jews of Pales­tine, Jews served in all armies in the war. To give but one poignant exam­ple: Abram­son paints for the read­er the pic­ture of Uri Zevi Green­berg in an Aus­tro- Hun­gar­i­an uni­form vis­it­ing Sha­betai Zevi’s grave in Alba­nia; and traces the effects that expe­ri­ence had on Greenberg’s lat­er works. 

Writ­ers of this peri­od, both those who served in uni­form and those who observed from a dis­tance, ush­ered in a new, mod­ern lit­er­ary era in Hebrew let­ters. Like Agnon trac­ing the war’s effects from his van­tage point in Berlin, or the Sephar­di Yehu­da Burla record­ing his obser­va­tions from Jerusalem, writ­ers of this peri­od broke the bound­aries of Hebrew fic­tion.” Bib­li­og­ra­phy, glos­sary, and index. 
Joseph A. Kanof­sky holds a Ph.D. in lit­er­a­ture, and rab­binic ordi­na­tion. He is an edu­ca­tion­al con­sul­tant to the UJA-Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Toronto.

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