In the various books they write decrying antisemitism, which I have been forcing myself to read recently, it is common to hear Jews address this point with generalities like "Jews fought loyally for all sides in the First World War". Of course, this is trivially true in the sense there must have been some Jews on each side who fought loyally for their countries of residence. It fails to answer the question of whether Jews as a whole exhibited the same degree of loyalty as the rest of the population.
The Jewish Chronicle, in Britain, has been publishing articles recently about the Jewish contribution to the British war effort in WW1. It has this to say about the number of Jews killed and wounded:
No fewer than 60,000 British Jews served in the war, coming from all communities and backgrounds - 3,500 were killed and a further 9,000 were injured. Of the surviving veterans, 1,700 were decorated for their efforts.Source
If we assume these figures are accurate and compare the number killed, 3500, to the number participating, 60,000, this yields a fatality rate of 5.833%.
The British empire mobilised a total of 8,904,476 fighting men in WW1. Of those, 908,371 died. This gives us a fatality rate of 10.2%.
Comparing the two figures, it is clear that the Jewish fatality rate was indeed abnormally low. This lends support to the claims that Jews consciously avoided putting themselves at risk.
The figure of 3500 Jewish dead may even be on the high side. Another article in the Jewish Chronicle today, by the historian David Cesarini, gives a figure of only 2000 Jewish dead. This yields a fatality rate of only 3.333% using the original figure of 60,000 Jewish participants. Cesarini claims there were only 41,500 Jewish participants, however. This gives a fatality rate of only 4.8%.
Whichever set of figures we use, the Jewish fatality rate was clearly way below that of British and imperial troops as a whole.
It might be suggested that, because of higher average intelligence, a disproportionate number of Jews became officers, and that officers were generally safer than men. The Jewish Chronicle does indeed seem to confirm that a disproportionate number of Jews became officers, at least in the initial batch of those who volunteered for service, before conscription was introduced.
According to the historian V D Lipman, by the time conscription was introduced in May 1916, 10,000 Jews were serving voluntarily. They provided 1,800 officers, twice the average for the rest of the population and reflected the advanced education and professional skills of the community.Source
However, the death rate for officers in WW1 is known to have been even higher than than for ordinary soldiers, so that fails to explain the unusually low Jewish fatality rate.
Although I don't rule out the possibility that there is some innocent explanation for the low death rate, the data does certainly seem to be consistent with the claim that Jews went out of their way to avoid dangerous duty in the war.
The Cesarini article also acknowledges a number of significant truths:
- Jews were unenthusiastic about the war because they were favourably disposed towards Germany and unfavourably disposed towards Russia, Britain's ally.
- Unlike the rest of the population, Jews benefited economically from the war.
- Jews were perceived as shirkers by the British people at the time, provoking anti-Jewish riots in Leeds and London.
- "Frantic efforts to enlist Russian Jews provoked opposition among the immigrants which appeared to substantiate claims that Jews lacked patriotism."
- In an effort to increase Jewish enlistment, Britain eventually had to introduce all-Jewish units so the Jewish servicemen wouldn't have to serve alongside goyim.
Of course, it being an article in the Jewish Chronicle, all of these truths are treated sympathetically, and appropriate excuses are duly provided.