In the multinational Austrian army there were, of course, Jewish soldiers. They fought on all fronts of the First World War and were killed with their comrades in arms of other nationalities and regions; but if identified as Jews they were buried separately. All other soldiers, regardless of religion, were buried in common cemeteries or common graves, according to a law derived from Emperor Joseph’s 1784 regulations on burying the dead. Of the dead in all 400 cemeteries, Jews make up 3.72%, which is close to the percentage of Jews in the Austrian army—though among the Jews buried were also some Jewish soldiers from the Russian army. It is also the case, however, that all unidentified corpses were buried in non-Jewish graves, so a number of Jewish dead were buried in common graves at non-Jewish cemeteries.
When my brother and I were growing up in Germany my father would sometimes tell us about his military service. He had been born and raised in Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1913, he was drafted into a Polish-speaking unit of the Austrian Army and, during the first World War, fought on the Italian front. In 1917 he became an Italian prisoner of war along with tens of thousands of his comrades. In late 1918 he was recruited into Haller’s Army as an adjutant and sent first to France for training and then to newly independent Poland to fight against Ukrainians and the Red Army. About a year or two ago, having reached an impasse in tracing my parents’ family lineages, I decided to look into that part of my father’s life and began to research Haller’s Army.
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