Jews in the Great War
July 30, 2015

On July, 30, 2015, at 6.30 pm, the Center for Urban History hosts a lecture on "Jewish Soldiers in the First World War" as part of an exhibition project. A historian Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern will use Galicia as an example to show how military actions and occupation reflected on the lives of local Jews and Jewish soldiers on both sides of the front.

Russian military occupation of East Galicia was the beginning of end for Jewish life in the eastern areas of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Irritated by failure of 1915 campaign, Russian occupation regime was quick who to find fault with – the Jews. Unlike Russian empire citizens, Galician Jews were emancipated middle class representatives who mostly spoke Yiddish, while the interim government treated it as German. Therefore, Russian military authorities accused Jews of a collective treason and started numerous ambush to capture thousands of Jews and send them to central Russian provinces in the role of ‘official’ hostages. The researcher suggests we look at the problem of Galicia of 1915 from two points of view. On the one hand, the situation can be viewed from the position of local citizens and occupational government, while on the other hand, we could listen to the voices of subalterns, the Jews who were part of the armies of two states at variance.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern is a professor of Jewish history and Jewish studies at the Department of History at Northwestern University, Chicago. He teaches early modern and modern Jewish history, introduction to Judaism, Jewish mysticism, and Jewish themes in world literature. Petrovsky-Shtern has taught at various institutions, including the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, University of Jerusalem, and Harvard. He is the author of more than a hundred academic papers and six books.