This blog represents the first in what may continue as a series in development of a book I have tentatively titled, Antisemitism and Jewish Survival. It is first of all a call for a renewed focus on Zionism. Since Ben-Gurion declared statehood three years after the ovens of Auschwitz cooled the meaning and purpose of Zionism has focused on developing the state of the Jews. And this was inevitable: one-third of all Jews had been murdered for being Jews, and Israel was the symbol of our defiance, our rise from the ashes. Then followed decades of threat, provocation and war against Israel, and a people recently emerged from the death camps seemed on the verge of yet another Holocaust. Decades of threat against the state of the Jews shifted attention away from the now quiescent but continuing threat to the Diaspora; and Zionism, long focused on the creation of a refuge for the Diaspora was now fixed on the survival of Israel. And the Jews of the Western Diaspora, of the United States and those who returned to live in Germany and Europe, continued life as if the Holocaust was but a moment in a fast receding history.
My project, should it achieve completion and emerge as a published book, will argue that the Holocaust, far from being just another tragedy to befall the Jewish people in our Diaspora, is but the most recent, most nearly successful effort by one religious tradition to eradicate another. I will demonstrate by examples from 2,000 years of history a pattern of behavior based on a consistent development of theology born in the most revered documents of Christianity, embedded in the very sinews of western history and culture. Theological anti-Judaism passed easily from religious autocracy to secular democracy with the social revolution represented by Voltaire and the Enlightenment.
The Holocaust is not just another tragedy in the long and tragic history of the Jewish dispersion in Christendom. Neither is it an event too mysterious to comprehend: the Holocaust is but the most recent and nearly successful effort by the West to resolve its Jewish Problem. Hitler, as its most recent advocate and instrument, nearly achieved the goal of “exterminating each and every Jew the Reich could lay hands on” because of modern technology.
As the technologies of computing and military hardware have continued to develop exponentially so, I suggest, have the instruments available to a future project aimed at solving this millennial and as yet unsolved Western Jewish Problem. Far from having achieved its goal, impressive as Israel is, in a state of the Jews, Zionism has lost none of its immediacy and urgency as first expressed by young Jews in late 19th century Russia, and defined by Herzl in early 20th Switzerland. Both felt impending disaster “in their bones” but could not have imagined the form it would take. We alive today have witnessed what for Herzl was unimaginable.
I encourage and look forward to comments and will respond whenever possible, and as time allows.
The Holocaust is usually understood as referring to the six million Jews murdered between 1940 and1945 in death camps created specifically for that purpose. But as horrendous and frightening as that is, Hitler’s blueprint encompassed far more than the destruction of Europe’s Jews. In Mein Kampf, begun in 1923, Hitler clearly stated that his goal was not just the extermination of Europe’s Jews, but of all Jews, wherever the Reich could get its hands on them. Hitler intended a full and final solution to the West’s Jewish Problem. It was only by chance, Germany’s defeat in a war that even the allies were unsure they would win in its final year. It takes little imagination to appreciate that, had Germany emerged victorious that few Jews would have survived. And they not, in what for two thousand years had been Jewry’s home in the West.
But what is the “Jewish Problem,” how would Hitler have come by the idea that the Jews were not just a threat, but a threat so severe as to demand its full and final eradication? The Jewish Problem and its solution are not a creation of the 20thcentury, nor even of the nineteenth. In fact “the problem” came into existence in the first century, in the earliest documents which were eventually collected by the Church as its “New Testament.” From that seed would sprout 2000 years of theological development and expansion at the hands of some of west’s most famous thinkers, from Augustine in the 4th century to Luther in the 15th; and absorbed seamlessly into secular scientific thought by the Enlightenment, by Voltaire and the Philosophes in the 18th; and political philosophy from the 19th century to the present.
It is not my purpose to critique all relevant historical documents since scriptural anti-Judaism is the common early thread and focus of the present chapter. Instead I will provide examples I consider typical and representative of what, for Christianity represents a barrier to that religion’s self-representation as “loving” and “forgiving;” but for Jews was and remains a matter of life and death for person and people.