Bernheim, Louis (A Jewish Belgian general in WWI)

Louis Bernheim

General Louis Bernheim was born Sept 1, 1861 in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. By the age of 19, he had become a second lieutenant in the grenadier guards. Before he was 30, he was appointed to the chairs of military history and geography in the Royal military academy.

He wanted to be in active service, not teaching, and so in 1901 he left teaching and went back to active service. In 1904 he was promoted to major.

When WWI broke out in 1914, he was a colonel, and commanded the 4th infantry regiment based in Antwerp. In Nov 1914 he was appointed as commander of the third brigade group.

He commanded on the frontline, which was unusual in WWI, since most leaders stayed in the rear.

He and his entire units were so distinguished in those battles that the king awarded both to him and to the regiment the Leopold order.

In one of the trenches he was terribly wounded by shrapnel which exploded near him, a splinter of which penetrated his back near his spine. He was so eager to serve that 2 months after this he returned to active service.

This led to his being appointed to general and commander of the Belgian first army.

He helped the allied attack breaking through the forest of Houthulst, which until those days was considered impassible.

When Louis died, the cortege was followed by King Albert, his son Leopold, and all the ministers of the country as well as the elites of the country.

The final speech at his grave was by Count de Brockeville, the minister of war who said “his service to the fatherland, and his high abilities will survive for all eternity.”


Posted on August 18, 2011, in Military and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. He died in 1931 and wanted to be cremated. At the time this was not legal in Belgium, so he was cremated in France.
    The act led fierce debates and to a change in the law. Cremation became legal in Belgium in 1932.

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