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First World War centenary: The Newbury Park rabbi whose relatives fought for kaiser not king

Isak Halberstadt (right) with an unknown soldier. Isak survived the war. [Picture: Rabbi David Hulbert] Isak Halberstadt (right) with an unknown soldier. Isak survived the war. [Picture: Rabbi David Hulbert]

Sunday, June 1, 2014
12:00 PM

Two men pose proudly in their new uniforms, ready to do their duty for their country in the First World War.

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Josef Rothschild, who fought for Germany during the First World War. He was killed in 1914. [Picture: Rabbi David Hulbert]Josef Rothschild, who fought for Germany during the First World War. He was killed in 1914. [Picture: Rabbi David Hulbert]

But these soldiers were not to fight for King George V – their allegiance was to the other side.

Rabbi David Hulbert’s grandfather Isak Halberstadt and his brother-in-law, Josef Rothschild, served for Germany during the conflict.

They were among many Jewish people who served during the war, only to be turned upon when the Nazis came to power in 1933.

Rabbi Hulbert said: “They fought on the wrong side, for kaiser not for king, and were ready to give up their lives for the Fatherland.

“People were very proud of their country in those days, they went absolutely crazy for war; which people tried to forget on both sides.”

Josef fought on the Western Front, but Isak took on a different role because of his age.

Rabbi Hulbert, from Bet Tikvah Synagogue in Newbury Park, said: “Josef was a much younger man. My grandfather did kitchen duties – he did his bit for his country but he was much older, he must have been in his 40s.”

Josef was killed in action in 1914 and buried in the German military cemetery at La Bassee. Isak lived through the conflict and died in Germany in 1939.

Rabbi Hulbert added: “I just wish I had met them; I didn’t even know my grandfather as he died before I was born. All I have are the photographs.

“The only thing my father told me was when he was a little boy he remembered at the end [of the war] when all the Germans starved because the Royal Navy stopped all the food coming in.

“Britain starved Germany into submission and they were surprised they lost the war so suddenly.”

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