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.

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

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror