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The idea of a united Jewish mass was a bogus premise touted by those who loathed Jews
on 2 November 2014
This is an illuminating insight of the last successful years of European Jewry at its limits before the Second World War.
This is Forthright, studious account and, which takes into account a historical segment by author Wasserstein that looks at many faceted look at the very diverse Jewish society through; philosophy, linguistic, cultural outlook, demographics, and spiritual and dogmatic sects. Ashkenazi Jews looked down on Sephardic Jews. Liberals despised Zionists, who in turn mistrusted Hasidim. Jewish Marxists were ridiculed as defectors to their faith, so much so that Rabbi Jehiel Weinberg of Berlin praised Hitler's attacks on socialism and atheism. The idea of a united Jewish mass was a bogus premise touted by those who loathed Jews. Approximately 9 to 10 million Jews peopled Europe, contained in what the author outlines as quartet of regions appreciating more or less generous status among communities of Gentiles - none the less there was already the feeling of the impacting of the host communities trends that encompassed well established anti-Semitism -- across both Europe and the Russia and its satellite states. In terms of health, Jewish peoples mostly lived longer and have lower threshold rates of inebriation and pre-schooler mortality; while another aspect, showed net migration and marriage outside of the faith. While birth rates were declining within Jewish communities.
The ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism was fuelled by paranoia, nationalism and conspiracy theories such as in France and the Dreyfus affair. In succinct chapters, the author teases out one facet after another of Jewish identity for a surprising big picture: politics, Zionism, life from shtetl (A Yiddish word - Shtetls were small towns with large Jewish population which existed in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust) to the shtot (city).
With the infamy that was Kristallnacht, the event, which illustrated that assimilation, made Jews a defenceless group to the harassments that lay ahead. As the venom of loathing seeped into Nazi-occupied Europe, and seemed at times to be taken up by the occupied peoples with very little persuasion and in some cases enthusiasm. In earnest, there was a program of dehumanisation and murder of Jews, which was also made into a virtue. Never before had a European government planned the annihilation of an entire people with such industrial finesse.
However, with all his meticulous research, the author is wrong to say that Italian Fascism was not initially anti-Semitic. A codified timetable of events illustrated the tension that always occurred between Fascism and Italian Jews. For Mussolini begrudged the assertion that his anti-Jewish statutes of 1938 were merely a copy of Hitler's program. Mussolini's anti-Semitism dated back the 1920s, before Hitler rose to standing. As he said
"I've been a racist since 1921," the dictator told his mistress Clara Petacci in 1938. With Hitler's complicity, Mussolini helped to expatriate more than 67,800 Italian Jews to Auschwitz and other camps within the Greater Reich.
This is a truly wide-ranging study, and a most complete overview of a diverse community, whose presence in mainland Europe was to change forever.