Published in the French weekly L’Univers illustré, this wood engraving depicts the funeral service at the Synagogue de Nazareth in Paris for Commandant Léon Franchetti, who died December 6, 1870, during the defense of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. Accounts of Franchetti’s death include praise by fellow soldiers and observers who made note of his heroism, bravery, and the respect his men had for him.
In his Journal of the Siege of Paris (1871), Denis Arthur Bingham described how Franchetti was mortally wounded while leading troops in the Battle of Champigny: “He was carrying an order for General Ducrot when he was struck by a piece of a shell, which, after having ripped up his horse, broke his thigh a little below the hip. He did not fall. With the pride of a wounded lion he bore up against his pain, and remained for sometime on horseback; he even tried to regain the general’s quarters, but on reaching the hollow road near the railway, pale and weak, he was obliged to acknowledge that he could no longer bear up against the torture he was suffering.”
The funeral reflects the pride the Paris Jewish community had in Franchetti’s military service. Officiated by both Chief Rabbi of France Lazare Isidor and Chief Rabbi of Paris Zadoc Kahn, it was attended by military personnel as well as prominent individuals in the community. The Jewish publication L’Univers israélite (1872) noted that Rabbi Isidor’s eulogy moved those in attendance “with a language inspired by the most ardent patriotism.” In his tribute, Kahn noted that Franchetti possessed a “noble heart, and brave and loyal character” and had “devoted himself body and soul to the salvation of his country.” Even more important, Kahn reflected on Franchetti’s love of his Jewish religion; he proved, with his service, that “bravery and patriotism … are the commitment of all religions.” The funeral service and its wide reporting showcased the reality of French Jewish support for the French cause, providing the platform for demonstrating to the larger French citizenry the patriotism of their co-religionists.