U.S. Troops in Germany Hold Yom Kippur Services on Reich Soil As Battle Rages Nearby
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U.S. Troops in Germany Hold Yom Kippur Services on Reich Soil As Battle Rages Nearby

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Yom Kippur was observed on German soil this year by American Jewish troops at what were probably the first free Yom Kippur services held in Germany since, at least, the outbreak of the war.

As the sun went down Tuesday evening, services were opened with Kol Nidre recited by Chaplain Frank in a large tent filled with troops of the Fourth Division. Officers and men sat on benches placed in the mud repeating the services after the rabbi, while outside stretcher bearers passed bearing American and German wounded.

Where the military situation allowed, Jewish soldiers from all branches of the service paused to recite the traditional prayers for forgiveness on the Day of Atonement. On a hillside outside of Stolberg, largest German town held by the Allies, Chaplain Sidney Lefkowitz of Richmond led the services for several hundred men early in the day. Later he conducted services for other units in the rear of a large ware house, at a medical station, and in a small copse near a prisoners enclosure. Other services were conducted by Chaplain Morris Fox of Chattanooga.

Troops at front-line posts could not pause to participate in the services and their observances were restricted to wishing each other a “gut yomtov.” Isidore Silverbrandt of Chicago, who had just returned from delivering mail to front-line positions under constant fire told the JTA correspondent that one haggard G. I., whose same he did not know, had stopped him and asked, “You’re a Hebe, aren’t you.” “What of it?” replied Silverbrandt. “Nothing,” the other soldier continued, “but today’s Yom Kippur and I just wanted to say ‘Good Yomtov.”

Most of the Jewish soldiers did not fast as the chaplains advised that the traditional fasting was not obligatory in view of the necessity for the troops to keep themselves fit.

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