Rabbi Marcus Crystal, Staff Scholar, Cincinnati Community Kollel
On the 14th of October, 1945, a memorial was erected at Covedale Cemeteries, dedicated to the Jewish casualties of World War II that were unable to be brought home for burial. The monument listed 61 names of Jewish Cincinnati’s own.
Approximately 550,000 Jewish men and women served in the United States armed forces during WWII, which totaled 4.23 percent of all service members in the U.S. armed forces. Amazingly, this was higher than the Jewish percentage of the total U.S. population at that time, which was 3.3 percent. The 61 soldiers from Cincinnati were among the 7,000 Jewish combat deaths. The Jewish contribution to the battlefield was noted by personalities none other than President Roosevelt and General Douglas McArthur. Indeed, 26,000 Jewish soldiers were recognized with awards for valor in combat, with three awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Cincinnati area threw itself into the war effort, most significantly sending off almost 100,000 people to the armed forces. Cincinnati contributed in other ways, as well. Hamilton County alone raised over a billion and a half dollars for the war effort through the sale of War Bonds. Many Cincinnati businesses applied their manufacturing abilities toward the war effort. Fashion Frocks, which was a Jewish-owned business, stopped making dresses and began making parachutes; Crosley radio began producing military model radio transmitters; and manufacturing giant Procter & Gamble began loading and packing artillery shells.
The Covedale Cemeteries monument was very likely the first monument to Cincinnati’s fallen who fought in the second World War. Covedale Cemeteries serviced many of the Orthodox congregations of Cincinnati, including the still functioning Golf Manor Synagogue and Knesseth Israel (now Congregation Zichron Eliezer). The project was spearheaded by the B’nai Brith chapter of Greater Cincinnati, forming the War Memorial Committee, and chaired by Louis Weiland. The Covedale Cemeteries Association and all its associated synagogues took part as well. B’nai Brith has continued to honor the memories of the fallen with a service held every year at the memorial, which is now part of the Robert S. Kraft memorial garden.
To this day, the memorial in the Covedale Cemeteries, part of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, remains a prominent tribute to Cincinnati’s fallen soldiers.