Prayer for victory

In 1935, when Stalin sarcastically inquired of Pierre Laval how many divisions the Pope had, he apparently did not much estimate “those legions”, as Churchill puts it in his coverage of the event, “who are not always visible on parade”. True, in 1941 he revised his position, when, after the German offensive, he made an alliance with the hitherto oppressed Russian Orthodox Church, in the hope of using the divisions it mobilized.

Nicholas II, however, from the outset had a wider horizon than the Red Tsar, and he knew well that the world war is fought not only on land, on water and in the air, but also on a transcendental level. It is therefore not surprising, that – as Pesti Napló reported exactly a hundred years ago, on 20 September 1914 – he considered it necessary to monopolize for the purposes of the Russian army the metaphysical resources of occupied Galicia:


“The oppressed Russian Jews, afflicted with so many pogroms, are today quite courted in the Tsar’s country. The government embraces the beloved Russian Jews. As to how sincere this hug is, is demonstrated by the Russian decree sent from Petrograd to the Russian governorships before the great Jewish feasts. The ukase strictly instructed the governorships to control the prayers of the Jews in the synagogues. The governorship authorities send functionaries to each Jewish temple and prayer house, and they pay careful attention that on the two major holidays the believers pray for the Tsar and the victory of the Russian army. The governorships already ordered the prayer books of the Jewish subjects to be presented for revision, and the Jewish communities made sure that the representatives of the authority will receive prestigious seats in the temples.

The two major holidays, Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year”, that is, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, fell on 20 and 29 September in 1914. It is reassuring to know, that on these days the functionaries and representatives of the Russian authorities certainly fulfilled their religious obligations, if they were Jews, and if not, then spent the holy days in the best place, which hopefully had a good effect on the growth of their personal piety.

However, war is war, and military movements require rapid responses. On the same day the Tolnai világlapja published a short report, which demonstrates not only with mere words, but also with an objective and irrefutable photographic recording, that the Galician Jews unambiguously pray for the victory of our weapons.


“They, who pray for our victory. Nobody desires more the downfall of the Russian army than the Galician Jews. They know well the fate that would await them if they fell under the yoke of Russian despotism and religious bigotry. In every community of Galicia, the religious Jews fast and daily call upon God to help the Hungarian-Austrian and German weapons to victory. These religious Jews counterbalance the nefarious machinations of the spies bought with Russian money, and also in all other respects they favored our valiant army.”


“Your co-religionists have suffered a great deal because of their patriotism under Russian rule. The Jewish population is very patriotic. We will never forget it. Speech of Charles IV in Czernowitz.” Visual commentary of the Kötődések / The Ties research project to our post.

However, the Lord of Hosts is unbiased, and His intentions are unfathomable. The land of the shtetls was reoccupied in the following spring from the Russians by the Austrians, then by the Ukrainian Republic, then by the Red Cavalry, then by the Poles, the Soviets, the Wehrmacht, Bander, and the Red Army. So that one thing became sure, exactly the one which was sworn by the Lord of Hosts to the ears of Isaiah:

“These houses will collapse,
all will be desolate,
the palaces will remain without inhabitant.”

As we see to this day in Galicia.