Diversity Essay: The Jewish weekly ‘Jüdische Rundschau’ during the First World War

Stephanie Seul

In March 1915, the Jüdische Rundschau (Jewish Review) reflected on the role of the German-Jewish press in wartime:

It is able to hold the Jewish community together, to inform about the sufferings of our brothers, to awaken the conscience of Jewry and also to tell the non-Jewish public what the fate of the Jews is and what we expect for our future. It tells our brothers who are in the field how we live with them at home, it tells us what our brothers in the field feel and think and what they bring home to the Jewish soul from these difficult days of hardship.[1]

Here, the Jüdische Rundschau emphasized two social functions of the Jewish press: First, it offered a forum for self-reflection on the Jewish war experience; this in turn was transmitted to a broader – Jewish and non-Jewish – audience. Second, the press was perceived as the glue that held together the Jewish community – a community torn apart by the war.

The outbreak of the First World War triggered a lively debate in the German-Jewish press on the war and the current and future position of the Jews within the German nation. The Emperor’s proclamation of the Burgfrieden – a civil truce between the political parties and social groups for the duration of the war – raised hopes that antisemitism and discrimination were overcome. Hence, the Jews responded to the war with patriotic enthusiasm and volunteered in large numbers. Throughout the war more than 100,000 Jewish soldiers served in the German army, and 12,000 lost their lives. Yet, Jewish hopes proved short-lived. The war led to a sharp rise in antisemitism and reinforced ideologies that called for the removal of the Jews from the German national body.[2]

The German-Jewish media landscape

The German-Jewish press consists of periodicals written in German and published by Jews for a pre-dominantly Jewish readership, with a thematic focus on issues of Jewish interest. It documents the activities of the Jewish community at a local, regional, and national level, and it reveals the public discourses on contemporary events and internal affairs.[3] German Jewry took pride in a rich media landscape: Over 1100 periodicals appeared in Germany from the late 17th century until 1943, when the Nazis suspended the last Jewish newspaper, the Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt.[4] Today hundreds of titles are accessible through the online archives Compact Memory and DigiBaeck.[5]

In 1914, the Jewish community counted some 600,000 members, amounting to 1 percent of the German population. It was a heterogeneous society consisting of several groupings that defined themselves along religious and political lines. Each grouping published a vast array of newspapers and periodicals that document its political, social, cultural, religious, and economic life. The majority of assimilated Jews, who mostly adhered to liberal Judaism, were organized in the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith), counting 36,000 members in 1919. Its political orientation was liberal, and it aimed to advance Jewish integration. From 1895 to 1922 it published the monthly magazine Im deutschen Reich (In the German Empire) with an estimated circulation of 37,000 in 1913. The paper reveals a strong longing for the social recognition of the Jews as Germans with equal rights.[6]

The Jüdische Rundschau – organ of the German Zionists

The second largest grouping was the Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland (Zionist Organization for Germany) with 10,000 members in 1914. It held that all Jews belonged to one common nation and not to the national bodies they were living in, and it called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. From 1902 to 1938 it published the weekly Jüdische Rundschau (Jewish Review) with an estimated circulation of 3,000-5,000 copies during the war. The paper, which was edited during the war by Leo Herrmann and Max Mayer, focused on news concerning Jewish life in Germany, Europe, Palestine, and beyond. It assumed a broad global perspective and campaigned openly for Zionism.[7] Each issue contained eight pages in a mid-sized format and bore on its front page the motto of the First Zionist Congress held in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897: “Zionism strives for the creation, under public law, of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine.”[8] Whereas Im deutschen Reich was distributed free of charge among the paying members of the Centralverein, the Jüdische Rundschau was a commercial undertaking.[9]

During the war, the Jüdische Rundschau offered its readers to forward the journal to the front. By December 1914, 1,000 copies of each issue were sent to the front and read there not only by Zionist Jews, but also by non-Zionists and even by non-Jewish Germans.[10] In celebration of Chanukah in December 1914, the Zionist Organization organized gift parcels containing Liebesgaben (“gifts of love”) such as food, drinks, cigarettes, woolen socks, and a special issue of the Jüdische Rundschau. These parcels were sent to 2,000 Jewish soldiers at the front.[11] Another 2,000 gift parcels, together with a special issue of the journal, were sent for Passover in the spring of 1915.[12] In the following years, too, the Jüdische Rundschau printed festive editions that were sent to the front along with gifts of love.[13] With this campaign, the paper aimed to further “the spiritual contact of the Jewish soldiers at the front with Jewish life and literature.”[14]

A transnational medium

During the war, the Jüdische Rundschau was not exclusively addressed to a German-Jewish audience. Rather, it saw itself as a transnational medium of communication aiming to further a communal feeling among German Jews and their co-religionists around the world. Max Mayer, one of the paper’s editors, recalled in 1935:

The “Jüdische Rundschau” was almost the only German-Jewish organ […] distributed far beyond the borders of Germany in the area of the Central Powers. It was read particularly widely and attentively in the eastern territories occupied by the Central Powers, where it was probably the only Jewish newspaper that served both the Jewish soldiers from Germany and the Jewish population of these territories as the main source of information about what was happening in the Jewish world. This news service about the situation of the Jews around the globe was perhaps the most important task of the newspaper at that time.[15]

As the editors wrote, the Jüdische Rundschau was also read in Palestine by Zionists and their sympathizers; even some Jewish soldiers from Great Britain are said to have read the paper.[16]

The Jüdische Rundschau and the war

The Jüdische Rundschau viewed the First World War from a distinctly Zionist perspective. Calling for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the paper focused on the development of the international Zionist movement rather than on the situation of the Jews in wartime Germany. The sharp rise of antisemitism during the war was taken as further proof of the failure of the assimilationist policy of the Centralverein and as verification of the Zionist program.[17]

In November 1918, the Jüdische Rundschau welcomed the establishment of the first German republic in the hope that democracy at last would end discrimination and realize Jewish equality. It praised the revolution as liberating the Jews from a centuries-old political system in which antisemitism could flourish.[18] Because the war had put the “Jewish question” – the question of a Jewish national home in Palestine (keyword “Balfour Declaration”) – on the international political agenda, the Jüdische Rundschau viewed the Jewish future in bright colors.


During the First World War, the Jüdische Rundschau acted not only as a link between the German-Jewish soldiers at the front and their communities in the homeland. It was also addressed to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe under Tsarist rule, and it was even read by Jewish soldiers in Palestine. The weekly focused on topical news concerning Jewish life in Germany as well as abroad, and it campaigned openly for the Zionist project. With its global perspective, the Jüdische Rundschau sought to promote a sense of togetherness between German Jews and Jewish communities around the globe, and through its circulation beyond Germany’s borders and its focus on global Jewry, the paper fostered the emergence of a transnational Jewish public sphere.

About the author: Stephanie Seul is a lecturer in media history in the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Bremen (Germany) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK). Her research focuses on the international history of media and communication in the era of the two World Wars.

Featured image: Jüdische Rundschau XX,2, January 8, 1915, p. 1 (link: https://sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/cm/id/2667331). Digitized by Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main, 2011. Image courtesy of Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main.


[1] “Der Krieg und die Presse”, Jüdische Rundschau XX,12, March 19, 1915, 97 (author’s translation).

[2] On German Jews and the First World War see Tim Grady, A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2017); Sarah Panter, Jüdische Erfahrungen und Loyalitätskonflikte im Ersten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014).

[3] Margaret T. Edelheim-Muehsam, “The Jewish Press in Germany”, Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 1 (1956): 163-176, here 163; Michael Nagel, “Deutsch-jüdische Presse und jüdische Geschichte”, in 400 Jahre Zeitung: Die Entwicklung der Tagespresse im internationalen Kontext, ed. Martin Welke and Jürgen Wilke (Bremen: edition lumière, 2008), 379-94, here 379, 383-86.

[4] Information from Professor Michael Nagel, University of Bremen.

[5] Compact Memory: https://sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/cm/nav/index/title; DigiBaeck: Digital Collections at Leo Baeck Institute, https://www.lbi.org/collections/digibaeck/ (accessed July 16, 2022).

[6] Christhard Hoffmann, “Between integration and rejection: The Jewish community in Germany, 1914-1918”, in State, society and mobilisation in Europe during the First World War, ed. John Horne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 89-104, here 90-91; Michael Brenner, “Central-Verein”, in Enzyklopädie jüdischer Geschichte und Kultur, vol. 1, ed. Dan Diner (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2011), 480-84, here 481; Edelheim-Muehsam; “Jewish Press”, 172-76.

[7] Hoffmann, “Between integration and rejection”, 91-92; Edelheim-Muehsam, “Jewish Press”, 167-68; Barbara Suchy, “Die jüdische Presse im Kaiserreich und in der Weimarer Republik”, in Juden als Träger bürgerlicher Kultur in Deutschland, ed. Julius H. Schoeps (Stuttgart-Bonn: Burg, 1989), 167-191, here 178-79; Michael Nagel, “Jüdische Rundschau”, in Enzyklopädie jüdischer Geschichte und Kultur, vol. 3, ed. Dan Diner (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2012), 253-55.

[8] See featured image (author’s translation).

[9] Herbert A. Strauss, “The Jewish press in Germany, 1918-1939 (1943)”, in The Jewish Press That Was: Accounts, Evaluations and Memories of Jewish Papers in Pre-Holocaust Europe, ed. Arie Bar (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post Press, 1980), 321-54, here 328.

[10] Jüdische Rundschau XIX,52, December 25, 1914, 467, 470; “An unsere Freunde im Felde”, Jüdische Rundschau XX,5, January 29, 1915, 40; Leo Herrmann, “Ein Stück Selbstbiographie”, Jüdische Rundschau XL,31/32, April 17, 1935, 20.

[11] “Unsere Chanukah-Kiste”, Jüdische Rundschau XIX,50, December 11, 1914, 452-53; “Von der Chanukah-Spendensammlung der Zionistischen Vereinigung”, Jüdische Rundschau XIX,48, November 27, 1914, 438; “Eine Peßachspende für unsere Soldaten”, Jüdische Rundschau XX,9, February 26, 1915, 72.

[12] “Eine Peßachspende für unsere Soldaten”; “Die Peßachspende für unsere Freunde im Felde”, Jüdische Rundschau XX,11, March 12, 1915, 88.

[13] Herrmann, “Ein Stück Selbstbiographie”.

[14] Max Mayer, “Die Rundschau im Weltkrieg: Ein Erinnerungsblatt”, Jüdische Rundschau XL,31/32, April 17, 1935, 20 (author’s translation).

[15] Ibid. (author’s translation).

[16] Herrmann, “Ein Stück Selbstbiographie”; Mayer, “Die Rundschau im Weltkrieg”.

[17] Sarah Panter, “Zwischen Selbstreflexion und Projektion: Die Bilder von Ostjuden in zionistischen und orthodoxen deutsch-jüdischen Periodika während des Ersten Weltkriegs”, Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 59, no. 1 (2010): 65-92, here 90-91.

[18] “Revolution”, Jüdische Rundschau, XXIII,57, November 15, 1918, 358; Peter Pulzer, Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 207; Cornelia Hecht, Deutsche Juden und Antisemitismus in der Weimarer Republik (Bonn: Dietz, 2003), 73-74.

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