Antisemitism is rooted in Christian scripture in and theology. I am not, by this, stating that Christianity was immediately responsible for the Holocaust: the Shoah was a purely secular undertaking. But even the term used to describe its intent, the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem, reveals a long presence in evolution of Western society, beginning in the first century.
But neither were Jewish communities unaware of the danger at their doorstep. During the Crusades messengers traveled from France to Germany to warn of the massacres as they were occurring. But what were the options to Jews in the eleventh century: not permitted to carry arms; serfs to Christian princes and bishops; lack of transportation and safe haven…
I recently posted what is likely the final installment of my blog, Antisemitism and Jewish Survival, American “exceptionality” and the Jewish Problem. As the title indicates I do not accept the existence of any “Diaspora” residence for Jews, “exceptional.” The danger is not the political description or ideology, legal guarantees for protection. As happened in Germany it takes but a single charismatic leader in a time of severe social challenge to discard all such.
Did German-Jewry not have evidence in advance; could they not have acted better to save themselves?
A reader pointed of this weeks blog pointed out that there is much evidence today of return to the period between the wars, before the ascendancy of Hitler. Are we, today, understanding that evidence?
I introduced my article with a very inciteful quote by Israeli historian Alex Bein:
almost all periods of great violence, at least since the Middle Ages, have caught the Jews by surprise and found them unprepared… the persecutions began with particular severity and intensity especially when the Jews position was so secure and their relationship to their environment well ordered that there was no thought of attacks and major violence—at least not in their country, their house.” (Alex Bein, 1990, The Jewish Question, pps. 95-6)
Response to Elis: I (nor did Dr. Bein) ever say that there were not abundant signs of the coming danger, Elizabeth. Just the opposite. Hitler certainly made his intentions known many times in print and speeches for a decade at least before entering the chancellery. And Diaspora Jewry today (and Israel) already have the precedent of the recent Shoah, the resurgence of political antisemitism in Europe. The fact that 12% of Americans responded to the 2011 ADL survey on antisemitism as “intensely antisemitic (while more than a third said that “the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death”) are public knowledge. The fact that antisemitism even remains an issue, that surveys tracking its ups and downs in the 21st century are even needed already speaks volumes for the danger. So its not a matter of whether “evidence” of the danger surrounds us, Elizabeth, but whether we choose to understand its relevance. My writings from the start are intended precisely to address this issue: Jewish Holocaust Denial. From my Introduction to this chapter: As the quote above by Dr. Bein describes Jews almost never anticipate the catastrophe on the horizon. It’s only in retrospect that its inevitability makes sense. Which is the issue I have addressed over the past few years on-line at the Jerusalem Post, and now in manuscript form almost ready to find a publisher. German Jewry never saw it coming until Hitler made it absolutely clear three years after his party won the 1932 election in freely and democratically. German Jewry in the early years of his chancellorship dismissed American boycotts responding to the unfolding persecution as unwanted and unhelpful. German Jewry were, after all, Germans, and Germany their “exceptional” fatherland! And quickly dispensing with Germany’s Constitution assuring all citizens equal protection under the law Hitler embarked on what was to be the “final” solution the that two-thousand year Jewish Problem that had haunted the West. Is American Jewry better prepared now that that which was unthinkable before it happened, the effort to exterminate all Jews everywhere and back to a single Jewish grandparent? That the Final Solution failed was the result not of effort, but accident. World War II ended before the War Against the Jews was completed. And the Jewish Problem remains yet unsolved.