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An Austrian Jewish Soldier’s World War I Diary

In February 1917, a Viennese Jewish accountant named Karl Klein was conscripted into the Hapsburg army and fought on the Italian front, stationed high in the Alps. The following November, he participated in the Battle of Caporetto—famously depicted by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms. Klein also recorded his experiences in a diary, which has now found its way to Israel’s National Library. An excerpt:

Today is the eve of Rosh Hashanah. I think glumly about this joyous festival, in the forsaken corner with the destroyed houses. I have not even received any news from home. I sadly ponder my future destiny. In an hour’s time we will take our positions and spend the night there—as usual—almost sleeplessly in a dank and cold cave. God! When will you put an end to this miserable life? This terrifying question does not leave my thoughts. Will I ever again live a regular life as a civilian?

The archivist Stefan Litt writes:

The weeks and months passed with oscillations of the front, training, and attempts to improve the daily diet—until mid-November 1917. During the massive Austrian attack on the Italian front, Karl Klein’s battle hour arrived as well. Klein describes the events of November 11 and 12, the days in which he was personally involved in the fighting, in great detail. From the description of these days in his memoirs we can feel the level of fear Klein felt during the battles. Several of his comrades from the unit fell, and others were injured.

From a military perspective, these were successful days for the Austro-Hungarian army’s war effort. In the fall of 1917 the soldiers managed to capture more areas in Italy, a fact Klein does not expressly mention.

Two decades later, Klein fled Nazi Austria for England and in World War II enlisted in the British army to fight against Germany and Austria.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Austria-Hungary, Austrian Jewry, History & Ideas, Jews in the military, World War I

The Palestinian Authority Should Be Held Responsible for Palestinian Refugees

April 25 2018

For aid and assistance with resettlement, most of the world’s displaced persons look to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Only Palestinian refugees and their descendants are consigned to the bloated, corrupt, and terrorist-infiltrated UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which aims to keep its wards in a permanent state of refugeehood. Alex Joffe argues that UNRWA should be abolished, and its responsibilities handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA):

The PA [should] be responsible for the Palestinians within its own territories as well as those who reside in other Arab states. It would [thus] be forced to act like a state and defend the rights and interests of its own citizens. Externally, foreign aid to a state can also—in theory—be subject to more rigorous donor oversight. Unlike UNRWA’s internal assessments, which rarely find problems except in the allegedly inadequate scale of aid and programs, external review by donor countries would examine metrics and efficiencies, spot corruption, determine the success or failure of programs, and assess the overall level of need. External review is designed to encourage self-sufficiency, not dependency. . . .

UNRWA is an iconic and sacrosanct entity. Without it, aid to the Palestinians would no longer be a sacralized demonstration of support for their narratives of displacement and return, or of support for the international system itself and for the UN. The Palestinian issue would be put into proportion while other needs and issues, like the genuine refugee crises in Syria and Yemen, would receive proper attention and resources.

Finally, by transferring responsibility, two cultural-political requirements would be addressed. First, a final-status issue would be at least partially taken off the table [of Israel-Palestinian negotiations]: that of who bears responsibilities for Palestinian “refugees.” It is the PA. Even without formally repudiating the “right of return,” which UNRWA supports and the PA cannot at this point conceivably abandon, the issue would be incrementally quashed in theoretical and practical terms.

The PA’s taking responsibility, and the end of UNRWA, would also go a long way toward forcing Palestinians to give up the centrality of refugee-ness in their own culture. They are not refugees, much less internationally supported ones. They are a people with their own nascent state.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian refugees, UNRWA