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PALESTINE – WWI: Mit der Türkischen Armee in Palästina [With the Turks in Palestine].


The rare first German edition of a first-hand contemporary report on Palestine during WWI, by one of the major figures in the Zionist movement and spy in the Ottoman Army for the British, Alexander Aaronsohn, was published in Switzerland during WWI.

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This is a first-hand account on the WWI situation in Palestine by a Jewish soldier in the Ottoman army, Alexander Aaronsohn. Aaronsohn also describes the treatment of the Palestine population, including his family, by the Turks.


Alexander Aaronsohn – author, activist, soldier, spy


Alexander Aaronsohn (1888–1948) was born in Romania, but mover to Palestine, then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, with his parents, who were among the founders of Zikhron Ya’akov, one of the pioneer Jewish agricultural settlements. After 1910 he established connections with the United States and United Kingdom, where he wanted to spread the Zionist propaganda.

1915, in the beginning of WWI, he was forced to join the Turkish army, which at the time controlled Palestine. Resenting the Turkish dominancy, Alexander Aaronsohn became one of the founders of NILI, a Jewish espionage network for United Kingdom in its fight against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine, during World War I, between 1915-1917. 

The other founders were his sisters Sarah, Rivka, Rivka’s fiance Avshalom Feinberg and his brother Aaron Aaaronsohn. Sarah committed suicide in 1917 after being discovered as a spy and tortured by the Ottomans.

In 1916 Alexander Aaronsohn published a report on his serving in the Turkish army in English under the title With the Turks in Palestine. The following year the work was translated to German and published in politically neutral Switzerland. The second edition was published a year later.


References: Shmuel Katz, The Aaronsohn Saga, 2007; Ronald Florence, Lawrence and Aaronsohn: T. E. Lawrence, Aaron Aaronsohn, and the Seeds of Arab-Israeli conflict, 2007. 

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Place and Year