By Jennifer Lipman
November 8, 2010
The New York Times had a lovely piece yesterday about the German army and a memorial event for the 467 German-Jewish soldiers who died fighting for their country in the First World War.
According to the NYT: “It was organised by the Association of Jewish Soldiers, a small but growing group in the German military whose existence testifies to the feeling by at least some Jews that it is possible for them to be patriots again in the nation that once tried to wipe them out.”
Visiting the German First World War cemeteries on a school history trip to Belgium, I remember being struck by how desolate, how bleak they were. The dilapidated sites, visitors few and far between, contrasted immensely with the well-maintained, sparkling white British and French ones.
What impacted on me the most was seeing the name Lippmann inscribed on a memorial to the German troops – my name, albeit with a different spelling. Perhaps a relative, a Jewish soldier fighting for the side I had long thought of as “the enemy”.
On Thursday, there will be the annual two minute silence for the lives lost during what was supposed to be “the war to end all wars”. If some conflicts are black and white, simple cases of good versus evil, it’s worth remembering that not all of them are.