The Jewish Major General
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Jewish Treats presents a mini-biography of Major General Julius Klein (1901-1984), who served his country in both World Wars.
Born in Chicago, Klein was the descendant of Prussian and Hungarian Jews. (His maternal grandfather was a Torah scholar known as the Maharam Shick.) Having spent part of his childhood in Germany, Klein served as a spy during the first World War, although little is recorded about his particular activities.
Klein’s life during the interwar years reads like an epic novel. He was a criminal reporter for the Herald Tribune, ran for both Congress and the Senate, arranged for the first German language radio programming in the U.S., worked in the movie industry and joined the Illinois National Guard.
By the beginning of World War II, Klein was a Lieutenant Colonel. He served in the South Pacific and was noted for his heroic actions during an explosion on New Caledonia. Klein’s major war contribution was the creation of the “Combat Public Relations” plan, which incorporated the elements of both propaganda and psychological warfare into overall military strategy.
Klein attained the rank of Major General after the war. In 1947, he was elected the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. The next year he led JWVUS members in a Fifth Avenue parade in support of the establishment of the State of Israel.
Klein’s career after World War II drew much criticism from the Jewish community. His public relations clients included West German politicians and companies that wished to whitewash their war histories. However, he also worked with the West German government on matters of financial settlements and reparations for Holocaust victims.
For all the criticism Klein received, his commitment to the Jewish people remained strong. He was a constant supporter of the State of Israel and a good friend of David Ben-Gurion. Julius Klein passed away in April 1984.
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