The public understanding of Jews and other minorities in the Great War

Submitting Institution

University of Chester

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: History and Philosophy of Specific Fields

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Summary of the impact

Speaking in 2012, David Cameron declared proudly that the Great War is `a fundamental part of our national consciousness'. But what is acknowledged far less is the role of minority groups in the conflict. Jews, national minorities and colonial troops all fought and died at the front. Tim Grady has helped to push this knowledge to the centre of the public's understanding. His talks, magazine articles, podcasts and consultancy work have raised awareness of the diverse range of voices involved in the First World War, highlighting the impact of other combatants, as well as the involvement of the Jewish community.

Underpinning research

Over the last decade, Grady has undertaken a large body of research on German Jews' experience and commemoration of the First World War. This work originally began as a PhD project at the University of Southampton (2003-2006). Then from 2008, following his appointment as Lecturer in History at the University of Chester and from 2010 as Senior Lecturer, Grady has deepened insight into the subject still further. He conducted archival research in Britain, Germany and Israel, while at the same time adding to his core case studies with work on the Jewish communities in Munich and Dresden.

During his time at Chester, Grady has published a series of important articles on German-Jewish history and, most recently, the highly acclaimed book, The German-Jewish Soldiers of the First World War in History and Memory. This is the first major study to consider how the German-Jewish communities were involved both in the conflict itself as well as in shaping Germany's post-war memory culture.

In particular, Grady's work in this field has examined how Jews and other Germans remembered some 100,000 Jewish soldiers who fought in the German army. One of the most significant aspects of this approach has been the temporal breadth of historical study. His work has investigated this group of soldiers not just during the Great War itself but also across three subsequent eras of German history: the Weimar Republic, National Socialist Germany and the post-war Federal Republic.

The picture that emerges from this historical investigation is of a group of soldiers who were active participants in Germany's memory culture both during and immediately after the war. With the decline of the Weimar Republic, the public commemoration of the Jewish soldiers faded, as Germany's Jewish communities were systematically destroyed by the Nazi regime. It was only very gradually after the Second World War that both Jews and other Germans began to rediscover and to re-remember this largely neglected group.

Grady's research, therefore, reveals how contested memories of the First World War fed into Nazism and genocide, and how, since 1945, Germans have attempted to move beyond these dangerous legacies. Each of these deeply debated themes has great significance for understanding the contours of twentieth century European history.

Placed together, they also demonstrate how German Jews played an active role in shaping modern German history not just as victims but also as participants. As a consequence, it is clear that Grady's research is not only of academic importance, but is also of considerable relevance to the wider public on both a national and an international level.

References to the research

1. The German-Jewish Soldiers of the First World War in History and Memory (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011).


2. `Creating Difference: The Racialisation of Germany's Jewish Soldiers after the First World War', Patterns of Prejudice, 46 (3-4) (2012), pp. 318-338.


3. `Fighting a Lost Battle: The Reichsbund jüdischer Frontsoldaten and the Rise of National Socialism', German History, 28 (1) (2010), pp. 1-20.


4. `"They died for Germany": Jewish Soldiers, the German Army and Conservative Debates about the Nazi Past in the 1960s', European History Quarterly, 39 (1) (2009), pp. 27-46.


5. `A Common Experience of Death: Commemorating the German-Jewish Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-1923', in Alon Confino, Dirk Schumann and Paul Betts (eds), Between Mass Death and Individual Loss: The Place of the Dead in Twentieth-Century Germany (New York / Oxford: Berghahn, 2008), pp. 179-96.


All five publications listed above appear in high quality journals and/or books. As a marker of esteem, Grady's monograph has received highly positive reviews in The American Historical Review, Central European History, English Historical Review, Historische Zeitschrift, Vingtième Siècle: Revue d'histoire and on H-Net. The book was also awarded proxime accessit for the Gladstone Prize of the Royal Historical Society in 2012. The three journal articles have been published in leading, peer reviewed, journals in the field of European history. The chapter (number 5 above) appears in a volume edited by three leading scholars of German history. As a sign of its quality, the volume as a whole has also received warm praise in international journal reviews.

References 1, 3, 4 and 5 have been submitted in REF2, item 2 can be supplied if requested.

Details of the impact

As the centenary of the First World War approaches, the remembrance of the conflict has taken on a new poignancy. Equally important, though, is the type of remembering that is undertaken. As Hew Strachan recently argued, the challenge of commemoration today is to ensure that the public looks beyond `the mud of the Western Front' to remember the contribution of Commonwealth countries and other minority groups (Daily Telegraph, 11.01.2013). Grady's work goes to the heart of this agenda. He has utilised his impressive range of academic research to make the wider public aware of the role of other combatants, while at the same time helping ensure the Jewish contribution to the war is not forgotten.

Grady first brought the history of minority participation in the First World War to a wider audience through a number of popular publications. Most significantly, in 2011 he authored a feature for the magazine History Today on West Germany and its Jewish soldiers. He also contributed a shorter piece to the popular French magazine, Books. To reach an even larger section of the public, Grady followed up these publications with a podcast on Jews in the Great War on the History Today website. Together these different forms of media helped to foster a debate over how the German- Jewish soldiers should be commemorated which played out in History Today's letters page.

Alongside this published work, Grady has also sought to reach a non-academic audience through an extensive programme of public lectures across the North West of England. Over the last four years, he has spoken about wartime minorities to audiences as diverse as the Rotary Club and the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. As a representative of the Grosvenor Museum commented, these talks made a `distinctive and important contribution [...] to the museum's public programmes'.

The second strand of his impact activity has seen Grady working with military history and veterans' organisations. As these groups are now the primary holders of the war's memory, it is crucial that they place greater emphasis on the role of minorities in the conflict. To this end, Grady has organised a series of lectures with the Western Front Association - a non-academic organisation dedicated to understanding the war. To date, he has spoken to several of the group's branches on German Jews and the Great War: North Wales, 03.09.2011 (audience 30); Merseyside, 06.09.2012 (audience 25); Lancashire and Chester, 14.12.2012 (audience 45). At the same time, Grady has also been heavily involved in a series of remembrance workshops at the National Memorial Arboretum which brought together academics with members of the British Legion and the British armed forces. In May 2011, he spoke to these collected groups about Jews in the First World War (25 participants). Taken together, this activity has helped to embed narratives of the wartime experience of minorities into a wider memory culture.

A third strand of Grady's efforts has led him to engage with Jewish community groups. This process began when he launched his monograph at the Wiener Library in London on 16.02.2012 (audience 30). The Library is not only an internationally recognised centre for Holocaust research, but is also an important hub for first and second generation Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide. By choosing this forum, Grady was able to reach individuals who had a direct connection to the Great War and to help many of those in the audience piece together aspects of their own personal histories. For example, local media coverage of the event led a daughter of a German-Jewish war veteran to recount her own memories of the war in a lengthy letter. She even gifted Grady a copy of her father's own 1920 memorial book for the Jewish war dead of Nuremberg. By giving the Jewish soldiers of the Great War public recognition, therefore, Grady has provided surviving family members with a means to remember their own loved ones. A series of letters in the Association of Jewish Refugees' newsletter, written in response to Grady's work confirmed this analysis, as a number of respondents recalled their own family's role in the First World War.

Over the next year, with plans for the war's centenary already in motion, the influence of Grady's work will continue. Indeed, in November 2011 he advised museum professionals in the Association of European Jewish Museums as to how they could best exhibit the Jewish war experience in 2014 (audience 20). This event highlighted the crucial significance of his research for furthering popular understanding, as well as its direct impact on the wider heritage sector.

Sources to corroborate the impact

1. Corroborating information in paragraph two on Grady's work to reach a wider audience:

2. Information to corroborate public lectures in paragraph three:

  • Copies of emails of appreciation from the Grosvenor Museum, Chester are held on file by the University.

3. Sources for paragraph four on Grady's collaboration with military groups:

4. Corroborating information for paragraph five on engagement with Jewish community groups:

5. Heritage links, as outlined in paragraph six: