There is a curious idea floating around, that World War One commenced on the 9th day of the month of Av. (For example, here, and here, and here.)

I call it curious, since it takes a fairly creative reading of history to see the war as having begun on a single date in particular, and specifically on the 1st of August, 1914. Already on the 28th of July, Austria had declared war on Serbia, and the first shots of the war were fired on the 29th. Those two dates correspond to the 5th and the 6th of Av, respectively. It was on the 9th of Av (already after Russia had fully mobilised) that Germany invaded Luxembourg and declared war on Russia, but I am not aware of there being a single historian who thinks that was "the beginning" of the war. (For more information on these events, see here).

I would like to know, when did people first start suggesting that the war began on the 9th of Av? Was it during the war (1914-1918) itself? Was it during the interwar period? Or was it specifically during or after the Holocaust?

Note: There is a long tradition of relating the 9th of Av to specific tragedies that have occurred to the Jewish people - a tradition that has its origins in the Mishna, Taanit 4:6. I'm not querying why people would want to fit the first world war into this model, but only when people first started doing so.

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    I think that it is the idea that the German invasion of Luxemborg turned what was a regional war into a World War that caused the complete chaos that followed. Many people think that the two world wars were two parts of a single war. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:35
  • By the way, July 4th fell on the 17th of Tammuz, so ... Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 1:19

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The historian Ismar Elbogen in his "Century of Jewish Life", which he wrote before he passed away in 1943 and was published posthumously, places the beginning of the war on Tisha B'Av of 1914.

But I think that Jewish people thought of the war as having begun on Tisha B'Av even from the start of the war itself. We can see this from their memoirs. Let me cite a couple that I've come across.

Here is an excerpt from "Megillat Puraniyot", written by Avraham Asher Finshtein about the effects of the war in Pinsk, and published in 1929 (available here):

חדש מנחם־אב תרע"ד. שמועות מבהילות התחילו באות בעתונים. האויר התעבה. הרגש מחנק קשה. הבינונו, כי מאורעות נוראים מתרגשים ובאים. עננים שחורים נצברו בקצה האופק והד רעמים נשמע מרחוק. אירופא התחילה מתניסת. היום אוסטריה, מחר רוסיה ומחרתים גרמניה וצרפת. בנשימה עצורה חכו הכל לתוצאות ההתרנזות, שתקפה את עמי אירופא. בבקר בבקר היו משכימים לרוץ אל הדואר לקבל את העתונים, למען דעת מה ילד יום אתמול. העצבים נמתחו עד כדי להפקע והלב דפק בחזקה. והנה הרעים הרעם. טלגרמה קצרה, שנתקבלה בעיר בצום החמישי, הודיעה כי גרמניה הכריזה מלחמה על צרפת ועל רוסיה, אוסטריה מצדה קראה גם היא מלחמה על שתי הממלכות האלה, ורוסיה וצרפת ענו גם הן בקריאת מלחמה. ופתאום והנה נם יפוניה מתערבת בתוך המערבולת. ריח דם ודמעות התחיל נודף באויר, המון שדי בלהות הגיחו מעמקי תחתיות לבלע את כל היקום. לא היו ימים מועטים וגם בריטניה השליכה את עצמה אל תוך הקלחת הרותחת

As he describes it (I don't have the time now to translate the passage), the buildup of tension in Europe was happening in the days preceding Tisha B'Av. They probably even knew about the war declared on Serbia by Austria-Hungary, but, as you will find in many a history book, people in Europe did not necessarily think that the small local war would spark a world war. Only when the major powers got involved, Germany and Russia, did people think of the real war as starting. And that they heard about only on Tisha B'Av itself.

Another memoir with a similar sentiment comes from R' David Essrig who grew up in Tzfat (later of Utica, NY). He published autobiographical essays together with his seforim. The following comes from his first one, published in 1952 (available here):

בשנת תרע״ד בט' באב שחל באותה שנה במוש״ק,‏ ישבנו על הארץ בצפת בביה״כ אר״י החדש וקראנו מגילת איכה,‏ אבל כמה צער וכאב הרגשנו יותר משנה אחרת,‏ יגון וקדרות כיסה את כל פנים,‏ וביחוד אני לבי נשבר בקרבי ובכיתי מאין הפוגות!‏ ‏(ראה מגילה ג.‏ ״אע״ג דהוא לא חזי מזלי׳ חזי״)‏ למחר התפשטה כבר שמועה הנוראה כי נכרזה מלחמה בין אוסטריא וסרביא,‏ ולאט לאט נשתלשלה מלחמה עולמית שהביאה חורבן עולמי,‏ וביחוד חורבן עמנו וארצנו הק'.‏

He too remembers the beginnings of war as connected with the Tisha B'Av experience. He recalls hearing about the war starting (even just the declaration of war on Serbia; the news may have reached Palestine a few days late, or it may have only been considered relevant once it sparked a bigger war) on Tisha B'Av itself.


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