Members of the Jewish community at the synagogue in Bordeaux, southwestern France. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite significant declines in Europe’s Jewish population during the course of the 20th century, nearly as many Jews live in France today as did prior to the Holocaust, according to the Pew Research Center.
While the Jewish population of Europe, which stood at 9.5 million in 1939, had declined to 1.4 million by 2010, the number of Jews in France is almost the same as it was 70 years ago, Pew’s Michael Lipka wrote. England also maintains a major Jewish population, albeit reduced from its pre-war peak of 349,000 by 65,000.
Throughout the rest of the continent, however, population figures are a shadow of what they used to be.
Citing population figures compiled by Israeli demographer Sergio DellaPergola, Lipka stated that “there were 3.4 million Jews in the European portions of the Soviet Union as of 1939” but that today, only a “tiny fraction of the former Soviet republics’ population – an estimated 310,000 people – are Jews.”
Moreover, he added, similar trends can be seen in eastern European countries that were outside Soviet control prior to the war, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and others.
“Collectively, they were home to about 4.7 million Jews in 1939, but now there are probably fewer than 100,000 Jews in all these countries combined,” he said.
While the number of Jews dropped due to the Holocaust and mass emigration that occurred in the years following the war, “the Jewish population in Europe has continued to decline,” he wrote.
While there were 3.2 million Jews in Europe in 1960, that number fell to 2 million by 1991, dropping to its present level during the decades since the end of the Cold War.
While much of the decline can be attributed to emigration to Israel, Pew believes that “there are other possible factors in the decline of European Jewry, including intermarriage and cultural assimilation.”
Aliya from France has risen significantly over the past several years due to increased anti-Semitic activity there.