Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thanking God for Prussian Victories

To continue our earlier topic of Jews taking a positive attitude towards German rulers, here is the title page for an address of Thanksgiving for a Prussian victory in the Third Silesian War (1756-63).

(See A. S. W. Rosenbach, An American Jewish Bibliography pg. 49.)

The Third Silesian War was part of the Seven Years War, known to American audiences as the French and Indian War. The Seven Years War was essentially a struggle between England and France for control over the North American continent and other colonial possessions around the world. This war is important for American history as it brought the area of Pittsburgh under British control (I went to a middle school in Pittsburgh so the teacher made a big deal about this in American history), gave George Washington his military experience and Britain's later attempt to pay for this war by taxing the colonies eventually helped bring about the American Revolution. Non-Quebecian Canadians can be grateful for this war as it stopped all of you from having to speak French.  

While England and France were fighting overseas, over on the European continent Austria attempted to take back the region of Silesia in what is today the western part of Poland from Prussia. (It gives you a sense how badly off Poland was at this point as it essentially played no major role in this regional struggle largely over its territory.) To do this Austria switched its alliance from England to the Hapsburg's traditional opponent, Bourbon France. (This alliance would have long term consequences in the bringing Marie Antoinette to France.)  Russian and Sweden also joined in against Prussia. Despite being heavily outnumbered Prussia, led by Frederick the Great, managed to fight off the combined forces of Austria, France, Russia and Sweden to a standstill, earning Frederick the Great the reputation as being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

The battle referred to here is the Battle of Leuthen where Frederick the Great annihilated a much larger Austrian force. Naturally the Jewish community in Berlin took a positive view of this victory. What is interesting is that the sermon preached by Rabbi David Herschel Franckel was translated and printed in London and then in New York. England was allied with Prussia against France. It is good to remember that there was a time in American history when it was good and patriotic to say "God Bless the King of England and the King of Prussia."          


S. said...

Rabbi David Fraenkl is the author of Korban Ha-edah on Yerushalmi. He was also Mendelssohn's teacher and, in fact, it was Mendelssohn who translated this sermon into English and, it is supposed, who wrote it for Rabbi Frankel in the first place.

Adam Zur said...

Is not the Jewish love of Germany ancient? It probably would have continued if not for the Holocaust.

Izgad said...


It is funny that you mentioned Mendelssohn, because as soon as I posted it hit me as to who this Frankel was. Mendelssohn wrote and translated the sermon. Could you send me some evidence of that? Is it in Altmann?

Yes Jews did have a strong love for Germany that in retrospect is quite scary. It is something that most Jews wish to ignore today. Abraham Heschel had a great essay about this soon after the Holocaust talking about how much Polish Jews loved German culture and how could it be that this same culture turned around and killed them.

Adam Zur said...

Personally I trace the fall of Germany to Hegel. I don't mean the at he was some type of bad guy but his idealization of the state translated to fascism. But this the same ideology that many Jewish people still have. Religious Zionism is just straightforward Hegel translated into a Jewish state instead of the Actualization of the Divine Mind on Earth of Hegel. And Jewish people in general still love big government. The tremendous popularity of Hegel in Germany during the 1800's I believe led to this.

Izgad said...

My views of Hegel go along the lines of Karl Popper's the Open Society and its Enemies where Hegel is the "new tribalism."

Adam Zur said...

I am glad you saw through the maze of nonsense of Hegel. But it is still impossible to dismiss him totally. He is a power thinker and has many points which are impossible to dismiss out of hand. In fact i don't even mind Rav Kook borrowing from him. I just wish he had said from where he was getting his ideas about the Jewish state being the actualization of the divine on earth.
It might have helped a little if people had realized he was getting it from Hegel.

S. said...

Izgad, yes, Altmann deals with it. I'm afraid I don't have it handy, but I should be able to check it later. I don't think he had overwhelming evidence, but was more along the lines of "Who else in Berlin that had a connection with him could have written a sermon in perfect German" (as it was first printed). It's a bit more likely that Mendelssohn was at least the translator, as he was into English, and again, had a close connection with R. David.