Doomsday – Jewish Life and Death in World War I

World War I with the social changes that it produced is regarded as a turning point of global historical significance and the real start of the 20th century and Modernist era. The map of Europe was redrawn, the Habsburg empire was shattered after 600 years of rule, Tsarist Russia became the Soviet Union, and the USA established itself for the first time as a global player. The demise of the old order also had grave consequences for the Jews of Austria-Hungary. They were the most loyal subjects of Emperor Franz Joseph I, who guaranteed them legal security and detested anti-Semitism.
Some 300,000 Jewish soldiers served in World War I. Field rabbis looked after their religious needs and those of captured soldiers. The front overran and devastated the largest Jewish settlement area in Galicia. Around 80,000 Jewish refugees arrived in Vienna, changing the structure of the community. It hampered the assimilation of the young generation, who became supporters of Zionism. The exhibition shows the lives of soldiers, politicians, rabbis, artists, revolutionaries, and pacifists – including many women. The front in Jerusalem, pacifism, and the unrest in 1918/19 are also dealt with. Historical objects such as letters by the Jewish community assuring loyalty to the emperor, paintings of prominent figures, memorabilia of Jewish soldiers, and Judaica from Galicia and Vienna will also be shown. Digitally mastered black and white photos from Vienna, Galicia, and Jerusalem, and journalistic sources in showcases round off the exhibition.
Curator: Marcus G. Patka