The G.I.‘s Rab­bi: World War II Let­ters of David Max Eichhorn

Greg Palmer; Mark Zaid, eds.
  • Review
By – August 27, 2012

In peace­time, the rab­bi per­forms the every­day duties asso­ci­at­ed with his con­gre­ga­tion­al needs: con­duct­ing syn­a­gogue ser­vices, deliv­er­ing ser­mons, offer­ing advice and com­fort to indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies in good times and bad, offi­ci­at­ing at wed­dings and funer­als, etc. 

But in the wartime army as a chap­lain, if he is assigned to a bat­tle-active unit his duties, unfor­tu­nate­ly, include dan­ger­ous, even life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions. He must com­fort the injured in the field and in the hos­pi­tal. He bentch­es Goymel’ — makes the bless­ing of grat­i­tude for sur­viv­ing a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion — over the injured. He recites the El Maleh Rachamim’ over new­ly deceased Jew­ish solid­ers. He must write let­ters of con­do­lence to par­ents, wives and chil­dren — a most dif­fi­cult chore. 

The above is the sub­stance of Chap­lain Rab­bi David Max Eichhorn’s dai­ly activ­i­ties dur­ing World War II as his XV Corps fights its way through France and Ger­many. He has the sad duty of view­ing the new­ly lib­er­at­ed death camp at Dachau, per­son­al­ly wit­ness­ing the hor­rors of the Holo­caust per­pe­trat­ed against Jews by the Nazis. 

He must also keep his wife and chil­dren informed of his activ­i­ties and assure them that he is well, despite every­thing he has seen. 

This book’s title, The G.I.’s Rab­bi, stands for Gov­ern­ment Issue Rab­bi. But here, one can add that it also stands for God’s Issue Rabbi”! 

Rab­bi Eich­horn is an out­stand­ing rab­bi, sol­dier, fam­i­ly man and mentsch’. Read this book. It’ll do your Yid­dishe heart good.

Mo Alter was a retired edu­ca­tor with degrees from Brook­lyn Col­lege and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mia­mi. He served in the Pacif­ic The­atre dur­ing World War II. He passed away in ear­ly May, 2006, at 91 years of age.

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