The first Jewish cantor in Germany, 1944

The first Jewish cantor in Germany, 1944


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2018

Lieutenant Max Fuchs, a US Army officer who led the first Jewish service on German soil after the conquest of Aachen in October 1944, has died at the age of 96.

Max, a trained chazan, lost many of soldiers of his unit and most of his family in Poland. He volunteered to lead Friday-night prayers and a memorial incantation for the fallen. Mark the date on these images: October 1944. Hitler is still alive and millions are being murdered at Auschwitz, day and night.

The service was broadcast on NBC and echoed around the world.


  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    so moving…thank you for posting.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    “The emotion was tremendous,” Mr. Fuchs recalled in an interview for the American Jewish Committee in 2009. “The soldiers had heard of all the atrocities. Most of them had families that perished in the Holocaust. We had so many of my family.”

  • william osborne says:

    Though not comparable to the massive battles on the Eastern Front, Aachen was one of the worst battles for the Allies in the West. The Americans had over 5,000 casualties. The Germans also lost about 5,000 casualties and had 5,600 taken prisoner. All over about a two week period. (For perspective, about 2 million people died in the Battle of Stalingrad.)

    The saddest part is that the German general Gerhard von Schwerin wanted to surrender the city without a fight but his letter to the Americans fell into Hitler’s hands. In addition to the deaths, the city was all but flattened even though it was one of Germany’s most historic. It was the seat of Charlemagne’s Kingdom and had countless monuments.

    There’s no doubt that Max Fuch’s prayers were much needed by all.

    • Heath says:

      William Osborne, you German-lover, “The saddest part..” you say…For you this was the saddest part, that Nazis died, and that parts of Aachen were destroyed. After watching such a moving video. Yes, surely, this was “the saddest part.”

  • Sharon says:

    Many bloggers might not know that right now Judaism is in a three week mourning period over tragic events in our ancient history .

    Most Jews believe that the theology behind this mourning period does not apply to the WWII genocide (further discussion of this is beyond the scope of this blog).

    However, thoughts turn to the WWII holocaust during this season since Jews read the biblical book of Lamentations which gives graphic descriptions of the deaths of civilians by starvation in a Jerusalem under military siege.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Heath says:

      Actually, Sharon, that is untrue. Most Jews do believe that the Holocaust and WWII belong to the theology of this period. The Jews who you refer to make up less than 10% of world Jewry.