Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust 9780804773461

The Nazi Holocaust is often said to dominate the study of modern Jewish history. Engel demonstrates that, to the contrar

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Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust

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H i s t o r i a n s o f t h e Je w s and the Holocaust

Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture edi ted by

Aron Rodrigue and Steven J. Zipperstein

Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust David Engel

s t a n for d u n i v er si t y pr e s s s t a n for d, c a l i for n i a

Stanford University Press Stanford, California ©2010 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust was originally published in Hebrew under the title Mul har haGa’ash: Hokrei toledot yisra’el lenochah haSho’ah © Zalman Shazar Center. Published with the assistance of the Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, New York University. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of Stanford University Press. Printed in the United States of America on acid-free, archivalquality paper Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Engel, David Joshua, 1951– Historians of the Jews and the Holocaust / David Engel. p. cm.—(Stanford studies in Jewish history and culture) “Originally published in Hebrew under the title Mul har haGa’ash.” Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8047-5951-9 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945)—Historiography. 2. Jews— Europe—Historiography. 3. Historiography—Europe—History— 20th century. 4. Jewish historians. I. Title. II. Series: Stanford studies in Jewish history and culture. D804.348.E55 2010 940.53'18072—dc22 2009024652 Typeset by Westchester Book Services in 10.5/14 Galliard

In Memory of Amos Funkenstein


Preface Introduction

ix 1


Negating Lachrymosity



Rehabilitating Exile



“The Jewish People Murdered Itself ”



“What Is More Central Than the Holocaust?”


A Final Word


Notes Bibliography Index

233 283 307


This book is the product of three incidents. In 1991 I transferred the center of my academic activity from Tel Aviv to New York. Several months later I ran into a former colleague who had made a similar move a year earlier. When I told him I had been invited to occupy a chair in modern Jewish history at New York University, he responded with surprise. “But you don’t do Jewish history!” he exclaimed. “You study the Holocaust.” His reaction epitomized a phenomenon whose extent and significance I had yet to appreciate—the tendency of historians of the Holocaust on one hand and historians of the Jews, especially of the modern period, on the other to construct their fields as two separate realms, each with its own rules and practices, whose border is not readily crossed. The phenomenon is counterintuitive: at first glance it seems self-evident that the mass murder of European Jews during the 1940s was connected in some way with the history of the Jews in modern times. Indeed, for publishers and booksellers, whose interests intersect closely with those of the academy, the two subjects are commonly treated as overlapping.* Still, my colleague, himself an outstanding historian of This version of the book has been somewhat pared from the original, mainly in the footnotes. Readers seeking additional supporting or explanatory material should consult the Hebrew. * Major booksellers routinely shelve books about the Holocaust in the Judaica section, along with volumes of hasidic tales, Chagall paintings, and recipes for gefi lte fish. Evidently they presume that readers looking for books of “Jewish” content will fi nd interest in books about how Jews died at Nazi hands. No doubt they also suppose the opposite—that people who read about the Holocaust will



Nazi Germany, had no doubt that the history of the Holocaust and the history of the Jews defined two distinct specialties, and he wondered how someone like me—thoroughly rooted, he thought, in one of them— would suddenly trespass a clearly designated professional boundary. Needless to say, I saw things differently. My academic training as a historian had given me expertise precisely in the history of the Jews in modern Europe. True, at the time of my encounter with my colleague the greater part of my publications (although by no means all) had focused on the years 1939–1945, but I regarded my occupation with that particular chronological interval largely as an expression of a broad interest in a historical problem of paramount importance for Jews (and other minority populations) over the previous three hundred years: How did the international system that crystallized gradually between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries—that is, the system of territorially contiguous sovereign nation-states whose internal affairs are beyond the control of any overarching power—affect the ways in which Jews pursued their physical safety and material well-being, and their efforts’ relative success or failure, in the various countries in which they lived? My two books about the relations between the Polish governmentin-exile and various Jewish organizations and representatives during the Second World War—the initial source, it seems, of my reputation as a scholar of the Holocaust—were informed largely by a desire to examine the political resources that that system placed at the Jews’ disposal also want to learn about other aspects of Jewish experience. In May 2006, as this text’s fi nal draft was being prepared, the eight best-selling books (and nineteen of the top twenty-five) listed by the American internet retailer Amazon.com under the category “Religion and Spirituality—Judaism—History” concerned the Holocaust. The situation was similar in Germany, where at Amazon.de the top five sellers in the same division dealt with the same subject. Comparison with France was not possible, because there books about the history of the Jews (as opposed to books about the history of the Jewish religion) are grouped together with books about other aspects of the history of par ticu lar countries, regions, or periods. American best sellers in this division included Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide (in twelfth place) and Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (in sixteenth). They joined a long list of works making little mention of Jews that became “Jewish” on the way to the bookstore. For additional examples see Engel, On Studying Jewish History, 2.


at the height of its development and the ways in which Jews deployed them at a time of grave collective existential danger. It was obvious to me that such an examination demanded detailed exploration of the many exogenous factors that influenced the situation of the Jews, the extent of their resources, and the use they made of them during the interval in question. As a result I studied the histories of Nazi Jewish policies, Polish-Jewish relations, the Second Polish Republic, the PolishSoviet conflict, international efforts to protect minorities, and Allied diplomacy during the Second World War. Along the way I took part in discussions of interest primarily to historians of Nazi Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, the Second World War, European minorities, twentieth-century international relations, and modern genocide, without reference to the specific questions about Jews that initially catalyzed my research. But as far as I was concerned, I was reaching into these other areas, including the Holocaust, mainly in order to help me understand what had happened specifically to Jews during the modern era, in much the same way that other participants in the same discussions came to them out of a particular interest in Germans, Poles, Armenians, communists, or liberal internationalists. Acquiring expertise in the history of the Holocaust thus hardly seemed a departure from what I had thought of as my original professional trajectory. Nor did I think that being appointed to a chair in modern Jewish history required me to cease being involved in Holocaust studies. I was changing my geographic center, not my intellectual one. Not that I wasn’t aware of an inclination to divide the two fields. On the contrary, I knew that historians of my generation who studied the Holocaust were increasingly being trained in the history of Europe (especially Germany), not of the Jews. Those historians were interested primarily in the people who killed the Jews or assisted the murder campaign. They regarded Jews largely as passive victims; if they assigned them any role in the broad narrative of the Holocaust that emerged from their studies, it was as images in their murderers’ minds, not as cognizant or sentient actors struggling to cope with an increasingly desperate situation. I also knew that hardly any of my contemporaries who studied the history of the Jews in modern times assigned the Holocaust a significant place on their intellectual agendas. In 1986 a




former president of the Association for Jewish Studies, the principal learned society of Judaicists in North America, had even complained publicly that there were too few trained historians of the Jews capable of teaching the history of the Holocaust in American universities (Band, “Editorial.”). Nevertheless, at the time I thought the situation a temporary coincidence. After all, academic interest in the Holocaust was growing, along with interest among the larger public. I believed that such mounting curiosity would attract historians of the Jews to the subject, just as they and their colleagues from other fields of history are routinely drawn to topics that excite the broader academy and its surrounding society from time to time. Only after encountering my colleague did I understand that the situation was not a passing one, born of momentary circumstance, but the product of a principled position deeply rooted in the professional discourse of Holocaust scholars and historians of the Jews alike. Since then I have heard that position articulated many times. I doubt, however, that I would have undertaken to think systematically about its foundations or to search for its roots were it not for two additional occurrences. The first took place in 2000, when senior academic officers at New York University asked me to move from the chair in modern Jewish history to a new chair in the history of the Holocaust, to be established in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. University and museum officials agreed that the occupant of the chair should be a historian of the Jews, precisely in order to balance the dominance in Holocaust studies of research about perpetrators and bystanders. At first I hesitated over the implications of what colleagues might (and in some cases did) interpret as a second transgression of a professional boundary, this time in the opposite direction from the first. That prospect compelled me to look carefully at the intellectual grounds for separating the two fields. When I examined the arguments routinely put forth by those who endorsed the separation, I discovered a set of logical fallacies and empirical misconceptions. That finding made me see the proposed move as a chance to open a discussion, in the hope that professional discourse concerning the nexus between the two fields might eventually be placed upon a sounder intellectual footing.


Around the same time my longtime friend and colleague Avraham (Patchi) Shapiro, professor of modern Jewish intellectual history at Tel Aviv University, offered me a platform from which discussion could begin. In one of our conversations he spoke of a new book series he was editing featuring studies of central problems in modern Jewish thought. Agreeing that the Holocaust’s imprint upon the ways in which the modern history of the Jews has been narrated and conceptualized is a subject worth investigating, he invited me to write about it for the series. As a result the book was written and initially published in Hebrew (although ultimately not in the series for which it was originally prepared). Also, it was decided that the book should concentrate upon historians of the Jews and their thinking about the Holocaust’s place among their professional concerns instead of upon scholars of the Holocaust and their approaches to the history of the Jews. Investigating the interrelations between the two fields from the perspective of Holocaust studies would no doubt add much to the picture presented below. So too would comparing the situation among historians of the Jews with the impact of the Holocaust and the Nazi period in general upon the historiography of Germany, or studying how the Holocaust has influenced representations of the Jewish past in the countries formerly under Nazi occupation. However, practical considerations have made it necessary to limit the scope of what follows to discourse among academic historians of the Jews about the Holocaust’s proper role in conceptualizing and representing earlier eras in that history, primarily as that discourse has developed in the two primary centers of Jewish studies following the Second World War—North America and the State of Israel. I am thus deeply grateful to Patchi for the many ways in which he has helped shape this work. Of course he bears no responsibility for anything that I have written. On the other hand, if the book has any merit, much of the credit belongs to him. ✻

The limits of the book require further emphasis at the outset, so that readers will not misapprehend its intent. To begin with, this is not a book about the Holocaust or Holocaust studies strictly speaking. It is concerned instead with the approaches to the Holocaust most commonly




demonstrated by academic historians of the Jews whose chief interest lies in earlier periods of Jewish history and not in the years of the Holocaust proper. Hence its principal focus is not the many efforts of historians and academicians from other disciplines to explain the Holocaust but the ways in which the growing body of academic research about the Holocaust has (or has not) influenced how historians of the Jews describe and analyze the eras and issues that most interest them. In other words, the book inquires initially after the extent to which historians of the Jews have employed the work of scholars of the Holocaust as a source of data or insights that might inform their own studies. It finds that in practice the historians in question have for the most part not regarded Holocaust studies as especially relevant to their concerns. They have adopted this attitude, however, not because they have made a systematic effort to locate such data or insights and come up empty but because they have dismissed a priori any possibility of locating them and thus rejected all efforts to do so out of hand. The major portion of the book searches for the roots of that rejection. It locates them first of all in the academic discourse concerning the history of the Jews as it has evolved since the 1920s. As a result, the book rests upon two layers. At its core is an exposition of the development of the historiography of the Jews during the past eight decades in which the attitudes of prominent historians toward the Holocaust offer a new critical lens for rereading familiar texts and reconstructing the history of the Jewish historiographical enterprise. Wrapped around this core, as it were, is an essay urging extended scholarly consideration, such as has yet to take place, of how study of the Holocaust might contribute most productively to the study of the Jewish past. The essay calls for discussion, but it does not suggest what its outcome ought to be. Thus it does not preclude the conclusion that the Holocaust reveals nothing of value about the lives its victims lived before disaster struck. It notes only that at present most leading academic historians of the Jews affirm that conclusion as a matter of faith and have not submitted it to critical scholarly examination. Against such faith the book suggests that only after extended consideration informed by both detailed empirical studies and broad scholarly syntheses of data from the Holocaust period will it be possible to assess intelligently how scholarship on the Holocaust


might contribute to illuminating other eras and themes in the history of the Jews. Similarly, the book does not pretend to list and describe all possible points of intersection between the Holocaust and Jewish history or to put forth a positive proposal for reformulating the latter in light of the former. Instead it confines itself to demonstrating that various positive proposals for reformulation have been raised over the years, only to be dismissed by most historians of modern Jewry for reasons stemming less from serious intellectual engagement than from a process of historical conditioning that began a decade and a half before the Holocaust itself. The major part of the book traces that process and the imprint it has left on contemporary academic Jewish historiographical practice. In presenting its argument the book offers critical comment on the writings of several leading historians, including accomplished and valued colleagues from whom I have learned much and whose contributions to the study of Jewish history are inestimable. Let it thus be underscored: the book treats only the work of scholars of the first rank, and whatever dissent it expresses from one or another argument they have raised should be taken only as a sign of the esteem in which I hold them. I can only hope that my colleagues will note the seriousness and respect with which I regard their views and will afford what follows the same consideration. ✻

Many people have helped me prepare this book, and I note their contributions with gratitude. Gulie Ne’eman Arad, Israel Bartal, Daniel Blatman, Robert Chazan, and Yael Feldman read all or part of the manuscript and offered valuable comments. Paula Hyman, Antony Polonsky, and Steven Zipperstein accepted my invitation to participate in a roundtable discussion of the book’s theme when the project was still in its preparatory phase. This event, which took place at the annual meeting of the Association for Jewish Studies in December 2001, contributed much to sharpening my perception of the subject’s dimensions. Paul Shapiro encouraged me to begin putting my thoughts into writing, first when he suggested that I lecture on the topic at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, later when he invited me to lead a series of




workshops on the links between the Holocaust and Jewish studies, and finally when he arranged for the museum to cosponsor publication of the original Hebrew edition. At those workshops I was joined by coleaders Berel Lang and Alvin Rosenfeld, who helped me understand the impact of the Holocaust upon their fields—philosophy and literature. Dan Michman and Boaz Cohen permitted me to examine important pieces they had written prior to publication. Israel Gutman and Guy Miron drew my attention to pertinent sources. Michal Engel helped locate materials for research. Some of these people may contest much of what the book has to say; some may even disavow their contribution altogether. I offer them my apologies in advance. Mentioning their names does not associate them in any way with any of the book’s opinions and certainly not with its defects. Responsibility for all that appears below is mine alone. The book is dedicated to the memory of my teacher Amos Funkenstein, who nearly four decades ago introduced me to most of the writings whose analysis provides the nucleus of the discussion that follows. There is no way to calculate the intellectual, professional, and personal debt I owe him. He has left the corporeal world, but his spirit continues to inspire. The greatest debt of all I owe my wife, Ronit, for her sacrifice and support throughout the years. It is an obligation that is beyond repayment. ✻

It has become customary to conclude the preface to a scholarly book with an indication of the place where it was written. The custom presumes that every such book necessarily reflects a geocultural perspective about which readers ought to be informed. Because this book is the product of thinking about boundaries and their transgression, it is perhaps fitting that it was written in more than one location. Most of the first draft was prepared during my tenure as the Louis and Bessie Stein Fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania. Special thanks are due the center’s director, David Ruderman, and his staff for the gracious hospitality and outstanding working conditions they provided. Additional pieces were written in Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, New York, and Washington, DC as well as


during travel between these and other points. Indeed, the Hebrew text of this preface was composed in an airport transit lounge en route between the United States and Israel while I was awaiting a delayed departure. Readers are invited to determine for themselves if those facts are significant in any way. Terminal 4, Heathrow, London 26 May 2006


H i s t o r i a n s o f t h e Je w s and the Holocaust


In 1945, with the Second World War drawing to a close, Gershom Scholem—professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a scholar of international renown, famous as both a pathbreaking humanist and an unrelenting questioner of his generation’s conventional wisdom— published a provocative essay with a deceptively bland title: “Thinking about Jewish Studies.”1 Sixty years after its initial publication the article continues to invite vigorous responses, much as it did upon first appearance. With undisguised mockery Scholem excoriated “the grotesque face” that modern academic scholarship on Jews and Judaism had assumed, to his mind, from its early nineteenth-century origins to his own day. Most grotesque, he thought, was the way in which the field’s pioneers had “exaggerated the theological and spiritual” dimensions of the Jewish people’s historical experience, “falsified the past by obscuring the subversive elements in [Jewish] history,” and “diminished the imprint of phenomena that do not comport with the doctrine of progress . . . to the point of obscuring them altogether.” 2 Even the Zionist-sponsored creation of a center for academic Jewish studies in Palestine and the replacement of German with Hebrew as the primary language of Jewish research had not sufficed, to his mind, to make the crooked straight: “We came in the spirit of rebellion,” he declared, “but in the end we perpetuated” what went before.3 Nor did he see improvement in the immediate offing—a situation he attributed in no small measure to the catastrophe that had just befallen the Jews of Europe: Who knows if we shall still manage to complete our task. We hoped for healing, and what befell us was horror. With the total destruction



of our people in Europe, most of the fresh reinforcements we hoped would carry on our project were destroyed as well. We may not even realize just how alone . . . we are in our work. Is the surviving remnant strong enough to rebuild us? 4

Fourteen years later Scholem returned to the same theme, in a lecture entitled “The Science of Judaism—Then and Now.”5 This time his tone was more optimistic and his assessment of the Nazi impact upon Jewish studies more even-keeled. True, he noted, the recent calamity had “sawed off the branch we were sitting on . . . [:] the great reservoir of strength, the rising generation, the hope of an enthusiastic youth which would . . . turn its attention to a new Jewish historiography . . . died at Auschwitz.” 6 On the other hand, he declared, “the holocaust has finally and irrevocably removed a view which was possible only until then,” one that had made it difficult for the founders of academic Jewish studies “to regard Jewish history . . . as the continuity of a social whole, which certainly struggled under the inspiration of great ideas, but was never completely ruled or directed by them.”7 Scholem thus anticipated a fundamental shift in future conceptions and representations of the Jewish past, with the Holocaust serving as a primary catalyst.8 He did not see the shift happening any time soon, however: We have suffered a loss of blood which has indeterminable consequences for our spiritual and scholarly creativity. We ourselves . . . have as yet scarcely been able to rationalize and understand in a scholarly manner the meaning of what we ourselves have lived and suffered through. It is simply not possible to draw the consequences this soon. The great catastrophe of the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492 provides a historical precedent. This community was one of the largest and most flourishing . . . branches of the living tree of Judaism. When it suddenly was broken off the Jewish people needed a very long time before it could render itself account and come to grips with what had happened. Two generations passed until it reached that point. . . . The situation today is not very different. I do not believe that we, the generation that experienced this event . . . , can be in a position to draw the consequences as yet. However, the meaning of the holocaust must remain of overwhelming significance for . . . the Science of Judaism and, in my opinion, cannot be assessed too highly.9


In referring to “the great catastrophe . . . of 1492” Scholem hinted at the nature of the change he anticipated.10 His construction of Jewish history depicted the Spanish expulsion as the catalyst for an intellectual revolution in Jewish life, one that laid the groundwork for the entire modern Jewish experience. In his view, the “meaning” of that earlier cataclysm was “of overwhelming significance” first of all to an elite of mystics, who, impelled by the expulsion to take a fresh look at sacred texts and traditions, abandoned their earlier preoccupation with theosophy and cosmology, taking up instead the messianic implications of esoteric Jewish lore. Scholem saw the turn to messianism as the decisive step that transformed mysticism into the dominant mode of thought among the Jewish people as a whole, channeling popular longing for cosmic redemption into positive action aimed at removing the sting from exile. Such activism, he claimed, was the leitmotiv of the modern period in Jewish history.11 Scholem anticipated an intellectual revolution of similar proportions in response to the great catastrophe of 1942. He expected such a revolution to become evident two generations after the catastrophe had passed. Indeed, he asserted, the first buds of change after the Spanish expulsion appeared only in the middle of the sixteenth century precisely because of the complex character of that historical moment. In his reading, the expulsion was initially understood as a harbinger of imminent redemption; only after redemption tarried was it figured as a problem demanding critical intellectual engagement. “As the event lost more and more of its redemptive element and its catastrophic aspect became increasingly evident,” he explained, “a fire broke forth from the abyss of apocalypse, penetrating ever more deeply throughout the Jewish world until it melted down the entire esoteric tradition, transforming it root and branch.”12 Similarly, he ventured, the Nazi Holocaust contained a “redemptive element” of its own—the establishment of the State of Israel, which he understood not only as the beginning of cosmic salvation for Jews but also as a dialectical response to the collapse of the European diaspora.13 At the time, as he pondered the Holocaust’s potential influence upon the future development of Jewish studies, this redemptive element still registered more powerfully than the catastrophe in Jewish popular consciousness, at least in Israel and the




United States.14 Scholem evidently expected that as years passed the fact of Israel’s existence would cease to console the Jewish people for its losses during the Holocaust. Then, he suggested, when the Holocaust appeared as pure misfortune, with no redeeming quality, the efforts of Jewish intellectuals to probe its depths would generate a fundamental change in their understanding of the Jews’ past and their place in the contemporary world. Half a century has passed since Scholem offered his forecast, more than sixty years since the great “loss of blood which has [had] indeterminable consequences for our spiritual and scholarly creativity.” The interval is more or less the same as the one that separated the Spanish expulsion from the intellectual revolution that, in Scholem’s view, ensued from it. The time thus seems right to ponder the extent to which his prophecy has been fulfilled. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, do any signs suggest an elemental transformation in the way Jewish history is conceptualized, interpreted, and represented in light of what has been learned through five decades of scholarly investigation and debate about the Nazi Holocaust? ✻

Were the question one of the Holocaust’s place in popular understandings of Jewish history, the answer would be clear: the common wisdom among Jews in their principal centers at the beginning of the twentyfirst century is that the catastrophe of two generations before demands a thoroughgoing reassessment of the Jewish past and its meaning. Though it is often asserted that in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War the Holocaust was relegated to the periphery of Jewish communal concern, observers from disparate vantage points agree that since the 1970s “Holocaust consciousness” has become a significant component of Jewish group identity in Israel and the United States alike.15 Some even describe that consciousness as the pillar of a new Jewish civil religion, in which rituals aimed at shaping collective attitudes draw primarily upon symbols and myths associated with the encounter between European Jewry and the Third Reich, and that encounter is represented as a fundamental rupture in the flow of Jewish history.16 Auschwitz, exponents of that faith declare, inaugurated a


new historical era, one in which the Jewish people fi nds itself in constant existential peril, surmountable only by the ability to wield military force on its own behalf.17 Sacred festivals, spaces, and texts have been created to bolster belief in the precariousness of Jewish existence; public ceremonies have been designed, special liturgies composed, positive commandments prescribed, and institutions built for embodying the values that any contemporary Jew who affi rms his identity is expected to espouse. To be sure, voices that decry these activities and warn of their potentially adverse consequences are heard with some frequency in Jewish intellectual circles, but there is little disagreement that during the fi nal three decades of the twentieth century the Holocaust has assumed a commanding presence in collective Jewish awareness.18 Jewish theologians have helped underwrite these developments. In the mid-1960s several thinkers, including Ignaz Maybaum, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, Eliezer Berkovits, Irving Greenberg, and Arthur Cohen, pondered how Jews could continue, in Rubenstein’s formulation, to “believe in an omnipotent, beneficent God after Auschwitz.”19 For many of them, serious engagement with Rubenstein’s question demanded critical reexamination of fundamental Jewish traditions, similar to what Scholem claimed had taken place after 1492. Among traditional beliefs to be scrutinized was the idea that, as the Jewish festival liturgy proclaims, “because of our sins we [Jews] were exiled from our country and banished from our territory.” The successive Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman conquests of the promised land and the removal of Jews from it, especially following the Roman destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem in 70 c.e., were interpreted since antiquity as divinely ordained punishment, a penalty to be endured by Jews for transgressing the covenant that the universal sovereign had made with them at the outset of their collective historical career. According to this interpretation, the penalty for repeated violations was not only dispersion but constant suffering, oppression, and humiliation, all of which would end only when God saw fit to relent. Thus, for example, where God had initially promised Abram that he would make his offspring “as the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16), in exile the promise had became a curse: “Just as dust is the product of earth being trampled




underfoot, so will your offspring be trampled underfoot by foreign kingdoms.” 20 Only one thing prevented complete annihilation: the oath that God had purportedly extracted from the nations of the world at the time of the people’s banishment “not to oppress Israel excessively.” 21 Traditional Jewish theology held such an oath to be part and parcel of the covenant. God, Jews believed, might chastise His treasured people, try its faith with agonizing ordeals, and subject it to cathartic pain, but the survival of the people as a whole was never in danger. On the contrary, because Jews believed they played a special role in God’s great cosmic plan, they were confident that God would not permit them to perish altogether. God’s words, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, were a source of abiding confidence: “See, a time is coming . . . when I will sow the House of Israel and the House of Judah with seed of men and seed of cattle, and just as I was watchful over them to uproot and to pull down, to overthrow and to destroy and to bring disaster, so I will be watchful over them to build and to plant.” 22 Individual Jews and specific Jewish communities might periodically be called upon to sacrifice their lives in God’s ser vice, but the Jewish people would live forever. “In every generation,” Jews proclaim at their annual Passover meal, “[the nations of the world] rise up against us to destroy us, but the Holy One saves us from their hand.” After the Holocaust several Jewish religious thinkers wondered whether God had finally ceased to enforce the oath of the nations and repudiated the divine covenant with Israel. “What,” Emil Fackenheim asked rhetorically, “if not Auschwitz, is ‘excessive persecution’?” 23 The Holocaust seemed to him an attack upon the very foundations of exilic Jewish existence, one undertaken with God’s tacit approval. Hence, he ventured, a new, postexilic age in Jewish history had begun—one in which Jews were obligated to extricate themselves from the condition of powerlessness in which they had been mired, in order “not [to] arouse . . . murderous instincts.”24 That obligation had fallen upon Jews, he claimed, because “the God who had broken his promises in the Holocaust could no longer be trusted to keep any promise.”25 Eliezer Berkovits reached a similar conclusion from a different theological starting point when he called the Holocaust a “radically new event . . . that entered Jewish history.” For Berkovits and Fackenheim


alike, the Holocaust demonstrated that “for the first time in our history, the Exile itself was destroyed.”26 Perhaps the most explicit exponent of this position was Irving Greenberg, who placed the Holocaust at the beginning of what he called “the third era” of Jewish history”:27 The degree of success of [the Nazi] attack constitutes a fundamental contradiction to the covenant of life and redemption. . . . Since there can be no covenant without the covenant people, is not the covenant shattered in this event? In Elie Wiesel’s words: “The Jewish people entered into a covenant with God. We were to protect His Torah, and He in turn assumes responsibility for Israel’s presence in the world. . . . Well, it seems, for the first time in history, this very covenant is broken.” . . . By every logical standard, Wiesel . . . [is] right. The crisis of covenant runs deep; one must consider the possibility that it is over. . . . In effect, God was saying to humans: You stop the Shoah. You bring the redemption. You act to ensure that it will never again occur. I will be with you totally in whatever you do . . . , but you must do it. And the Jewish people heard this call and responded by taking responsibility and creating the State of Israel. Thereby, the people took power into its own hands to stop another Shoah as best it could.28

Such theological pronouncements can be criticized, of course, and critiques have been offered in abundance.29 Moreover, it is yet unclear to what extent the appearance of such a theology can be taken as the harbinger of an enduring intellectual revolution in Jewish thought. Indeed, toward the end of the twentieth century some observers noted that after its apogee in the 1960s and 1970s theological writing about the Holocaust faced “intellectual gridlock” as a result of Jewish thinkers’ inability “to find original and creative ways to address . . . the profound challenges raised by this subject.”30 Important Jewish academicians and public figures found this situation sufficiently disconcerting to initiate a series of conferences “with the hope of encouraging new approaches to the subject.”31 Whatever the case, one thing appears certain: on the intellectual plane, no less than on the popular one, the Holocaust impressed itself powerfully upon Jewish thought during the final third of the twentieth century, to the point where it emerged as one of its paramount concerns.




That status closely resembles the one Scholem assigned to the Spanish expulsion as a problem for sixteenth-century Jewish thought. Even if the speculation that places the Holocaust at its center does not turn out to have launched a long-term intellectual revolution, it surely points to a change of direction in the way sacred texts and long-standing traditions are interpreted. Such interpretation has been powerfully refracted through the lens of recent historical events. That historical hermeneutic echoes the “recognition that the world is not only the manifestation of [God’s] bountiful splendor but also of the emptiness and the harsh regime of judgment into which we have been cast,” which Scholem identified as the central pillar of sixteenth-century Jewish mysticism.32 Furthermore, setting post-Holocaust theology upon historical foundations has opened a bridge between the intellectuals who have led the process and a broader Jewish audience similar to the one Scholem believed was erected following “the great catastrophe of 1492.” The catastrophe of the twentieth century has evidently underscored popular anxiety among Jews over their fundamental isolation in a hostile world and justified raising “Jewish survival” and “Jewish continuity” to the level of supreme values.33 Thus an intellectual foundation has been laid for what Irving Greenberg has called “an enormous communal and theological effort by the Jewish people to confront the challenges of the Holocaust”—one in which the people is enjoined to develop new political, cultural, and social institutions appropriate to the post-Holocaust era, including “a new sacred institution . . . , the Holocaust memorial center.” 34 In similar fashion, some artists and thinkers who have occupied themselves with the Holocaust have become conspicuous figures in Jewish public life. As with post-1492 mysticism, the influence of the Holocaust-based Jewish theology that crystallized during the final third of the twentieth century has extended well beyond a small circle of initiates and devotees. Indeed, that theology has contributed mightily to shaping contemporary Jewish identities. Changes over time in popular and theological engagement with the Holocaust have also paralleled Scholem’s forecast. The centering of the Holocaust in Jewish consciousness began to gather serious momentum only following the State of Israel’s wars of 1967 and 1973—that is, only after many Jews throughout the world ceased to regard the State


primarily as a signal that the exile was about to end.35 The timing can be explained in terms similar to those Scholem employed to account for the delayed revolutionary response to the Spanish expulsion: the deep existential fears that the wars of 1967 and 1973 aroused throughout the Jewish world signaled a transition from concentration upon the “redemptive element” of the Holocaust to emphasis upon its “catastrophic aspect”—its figuring as undiluted disaster in which not even a semblance of consolation was to be found.36 Scholem posited precisely such a transition as a necessary prelude to “the fire [that would] break forth from the abyss of the apocalypse.” His model suggested that the coincidence of Israel’s wars of the 1960s and 1970s with the growth in Jewish public and theological engagement with the Holocaust was entirely predictable. ✻

Still, the comparison need not be carried too far. Contemporary historiosophy would suppose that if the course of post-Holocaust thought matched Scholem’s forecast, the correspondence was due less to any invariable cycle of history than to conditions specific to the post-Holocaust era. Moreover, Scholem’s prediction concerned the Holocaust’s influence not so much upon Jewish public or religious thought as upon academic Jewish studies, especially scholarship on Jewish history. This type of intellectual activity took root among Jews only during the nineteenth century; hence any inference about it drawn from three centuries earlier is more likely than not to mislead. Indeed, it appears that in significant measure Scholem’s prognosis missed the mark: if Holocaust consciousness has left any lasting impression upon the Jewish academy and not only upon the Jewish public, it has done so in ways and for reasons that Scholem’s model did not foresee. The most conspicuous and surprising departure is that most of the theoretical insights through which contemporary scholars of Jewish history and culture engage the Holocaust have been imported into Jewish studies from other areas of the humanities. Unlike what happened in the wake of the Spanish expulsion, following the Holocaust the notion that the human condition had been fundamentally and irreparably altered struck root well beyond the confi nes of the Jewish




world. Indeed, in general Western discourse, not only among Jews, the metonym “Auschwitz” has assumed an increasingly central position, symbolizing not only unspeakable inhumanity but also an extreme situation in which human understanding and expressive capacities are stretched to the breaking point. Even during the initial postwar phase a sense of profound rupture in the expressive tradition through which Western culture had previously represented reality permeated intellectual circles. The oft-repeated dictum of philosopher and cultural critic Theodor Adorno that “after Auschwitz, writing poetry is a barbaric act”37—doubtless a deliberate provocation embodying the confusion and helplessness humanists felt while witnessing the “failure of culture” under the Nazi regime—is merely the crudest and most drastic verbalization of that feeling. To be sure, the harshness of Adorno’s critique shocked many commentators. Yet despite the reservations that have been attached to it over the years, an intellectual trend endorsing its basic thrust gathered notable momentum during the final decade of the twentieth century. That trend denies not only the ability of the standard Western instruments of cultural expression adequately to represent the Holocaust but their very right to represent any aspect of human experience. Cultural critic George Steiner has declared that the Holocaust casts doubt upon the very legitimacy of literature, music, and art, for writers, musicians, and artists not only “failed to offer adequate resistance to political bestiality; they often rose to welcome it and to give it ceremony and apologia.” 38 Hence, concluded philosophers Alan Rosenberg and James Watson, “philosophy, literature, art, religion, indeed all culture, cannot remain what they were before and during Auschwitz.”39 Not surprisingly, such uneasiness over the degree to which the most familiar forms of high cultural expression were implicated in the Holocaust found voice in the academy. A growing number of social scientists and cultural theorists who study human experience from a broad spectrum of disciplinary perspectives have concluded that the Holocaust demands thoroughgoing reevaluation not only of their own personal intellectual agendas but of the scholarly tools through which they pursue their projects. Such was the import of French literary scholar JeanFrançois Lyotard’s comparison of the Holocaust to an earthquake so


monumental that it destroys the very instruments needed to measure its magnitude.40 Two American psychologists, George Kren and Leon Rappoport, have even gone so far as to call for deliberate obliteration of all conventional analytical instruments in order to surmount the ongoing crisis that has, to their minds, beset the social sciences ever since the Nazi killing centers first came to notice in the West: Holocaust material penetrates the ordinary psychosocial adjustment mechanisms supporting scholarly detachment. None of those who engage in serious study of these extraordinary happenings, including trained scholars, can escape without experiencing a deep personal crisis. . . . Among serious scholars, the accumulated horrors of the Holocaust ultimately force recognition that these events defy both cognitive and emotional assimilation because they are off the scale of established human knowledge. . . . The Holocaust . . . has altered the boundaries of human possibilities: Because of the Holocaust, we must recognize that reality has been changed. . . . By relying upon philosophical assumptions, values, theories, and methods rooted in pre-Holocaust visions of reality and possibility, scholars have consistently and systematically either missed or misconstrued important problematical aspects of the Holocaust.41

Moreover, some scholars have noted that the academy itself played a role not only in preparing the intellectual and technological groundwork for the systematic mass murder of European Jewry but also in its planning and execution. That recognition, in turn, aroused doubt in the minds of many over the moral status of Western academic scholarship altogether. Over the years that doubt has prompted successive waves of self-critical reflection concerning both the foundations of scholarship itself and the culture from which the modern academy sprang. Little wonder, then, that toward the end of the twentieth century the Holocaust has figured prominently in a long-standing academic debate over the value of modern Western civilization altogether. Its role in that debate has been dialectical, simultaneously catalyzing the spread of postmodern perspectives and setting boundaries to it.42 To be sure, the tag “postmodernism” defies stable definition; yet no matter whether it is used to signify, as a sympathetic interpreter has put it, uncertainty over “whether we remain ‘modern people,’ who sanctify




the present in the name of the future and march in a ‘grand procession’ toward happiness, progress, and liberation,” 43 or whether it expresses, in the words of one self-identified “postmodernist” historian, belief in “the general failure . . . of the attempt, from the eighteenth century in Europe, to bring about through the application of reason, science and technology, a level of social and political well-being within social formations,” 44 it seems clear that the Holocaust readily heightens such sensibilities.45 Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, a standard-bearer of postmodernist approaches in his own field, saw no accident in the fact that “the Holocaust was born and executed in our modern rational society, at the high stage of our civilization and at the peak of human cultural achievement.” 46 On the contrary, he maintained, “without modern civilization and its most essential achievements, there would be no Holocaust.” 47 In his opinion, the principal connection between modernity and the Holocaust lies in two supporting pillars of the modern mentality: on one hand, faith in the ability of empirical science to engineer a perfect society; on the other, readiness to entrust responsibility for executing the engineers’ designs to bureaucrats selected exclusively for their technical skills. Modern society, he has argued, lacks a control mechanism adequate for preventing “an ideologically-obsessed power elite” committed to “a bold design of a better, more reasonable and rational social order” like “a racially uniform, or a classless society” from charging those bureaucrats to implement its vision, or the bureaucrats themselves from pursuing the most efficient path to the goal, even if the route is strewn with the corpses of those to whom the vision assigns no place.48 It is entirely accidental, he claimed, that such a situation has not occurred more often than it has in fact, because “bureaucracy is intrinsically capable of genocidal action,” and “[modern] civilization proved incapable of guaranteeing moral use of the awesome powers it brought into being.” 49 Bauman’s analysis echoes two common postmodern philosophical positions. One dissents from “logocentrism”—the purportedly modern faith in the ability of language to represent a tangible reality that exists independently of the representing language itself (and thus, by extension, in the superiority of reason, empirical observation, and objective logic over emotion, intuition, and subjective judgment as guides to


human behavior). The second rejects “totality” (totalité)—any claim by a doctrine or theory to embody a single, absolute truth, applicable everywhere and at all times. For Bauman, a bureaucracy like the one that oversaw what the Nazi regime euphemistically termed “the final solution of the Jewish question” was a quintessential manifestation of the dual modern efforts to comprehend individual human beings through abstract, ostensibly objective categories and to place the relations between states and their subjects on a rational, impersonal basis. He noted that during the Nazi years a German bureaucrat who did not wish to become a cog in his government’s murder machine could avoid doing so only by violating, on his own authority, the objective rules he had sworn to uphold. That authority could have come only from an inner moral conviction pushing him in the opposite direction from the bureaucratic logic he had been trained to practice. In his case, in other words, intuition would have yielded results morally preferable to those produced by reason, confirming for many postmodernists the sense that (in the typically convoluted postmodern argot) “the western principle of the logos, which shuts its eyes to the Pandora’s box that lies open wide before it and posits an unbridgeable gap between the contingent and the permanent,” leads in the end to “moral immaturity and injustice, glossing over concrete situations of suffering in the name of a higher system of law or noncontingent knowledge.”50 Similarly, the conception of the Holocaust as the product of an all-embracing ideology that gloried in its selfproclaimed ability to unlock all of the world’s secrets, establish a new order in human relations, and create a perfect state and society reinforces the broad postmodern suspicion of “the philosophical arrogance of the transcendental vantage point” and “the language of totalization and truth.”51 Some postmodernist critics even draw a direct line between Nazi totalitarianism and “the ‘ontological totalitarianism’ of western philosophy.”52 The postmodern denial of any single universal truth—the rejection of “master narratives” (meta-récits) claiming to reduce human experience to a set of all-encompassing formulae and to reveal laws of human behavior53—often finds expression in criticism of traditional humanistic disciplines, especially academic history. In 1989 historical theorist Frank Ankersmit castigated historians for “searching for . . . the principle that




held everything together in the past (or in a part of it) and on the basis of which . . . everything could be understood.”54 Such a principle, he argued, is illusory: in the postmodern era “there is no longer ‘one line running through history’ ”; the past resembles neither the trunk of a tree nor its branches, but only individual leaves scattered in the wind, without an anchor to hold them together.55 Hence, postmodernist critics assert, the historians’ promise to “reconstruct” past events “as they actually happened” by replacing the extant tangible remains of an event in their original context cannot be realized, any more than scattered autumn leaves can be returned to the trees from which they fell. They note that identification of the “correct” context always depends upon the individual historian’s assessment of the remains and the contextual possibilities, both of which necessarily reflect the historian’s unique subject position as an observer.56 As a result, Ankersmit asserted, “the criteria of truth and falsity do not apply to historical representations of the past,” because truth lies in the eye of the interpreter alone.57 According to this view, historians have no mandate except to serve as conduits for individual memories that represent the past in limited, partial fashion; they may not cobble any overarching story out of them or evaluate or filter them according to their conformity with some “historical reality” that is in any case mainly the product of the historian’s own imagination. Whoever gives voice to the greatest variety of stories, told from the greatest possible number of vantage points, is said to fulfi ll the historian’s mission most faithfully.58 Moreover, the criteria postmodern critics employ for preferring one version of the past over another make no claim to objectivity; they are avowedly esthetic and political.59 Hence the boundary between history writing and fiction is effaced: in the final analysis, according to historian and critic Hayden White, “historiography [i]s a form of fiction-making.” 60 Many postmodernists have used the Holocaust to buttress their criticism of modern historiographical practice. The encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews has provided a copious reservoir of stories and memories, mainly in the form of testimonies by perpetrators, victims, survivors, and bystanders. Conventional modern historians are often perplexed by such abundance, for the testifying witnesses tend to express themselves in “a lexicon of disruption, absence, and irreversible


loss” 61 that many scholars and critics believe thwarts efforts to integrate the testimonies into a recognizable master narrative or to incorporate the events they describe into a single, all-embracing analytical framework.62 Historians are liable to be confused by the contradictions and inaccuracies that frequently turn up in the testimonial corpus. Literary scholar James Young has noted that in their search for “what really happened,” historians often forget that the task of witnesses is not to “testify . . . to ‘what happened’ but to what [they] saw.” 63 Such confusion, according to some postmodern critics, exposes the inability of historical scholarship to “transmit the memory and illuminate the experience of the death-world,” demonstrating beyond doubt the need to develop “a multiplicity of . . . new possibilities of emplotting an historical narrative that expresses the horror of the Shoah.” 64 Indeed, it appears that the Holocaust falls in nicely with postmodern notions of historiography’s limitations and the proper task of writing about the past in the postmodern age. Such a conclusion is suggested, inter alia, by postmodernist literary scholar Geoffrey Hartman’s comments on the relative value of testimony and academic history for representing Nazi horrors: We do not have to accept the opinion that oral and written history must coincide, with the oral part auxiliary to some great Book of Factual Truth. Certainly there are difficulties in remembering particular facts or thoughts as one moves away in time from an event; but may there not be compensations, including that very density or mediatedness of perception which the historian sees as problematic? Obversely, can we be sure that the discourse of written history, so revised and contradictory . . . , is any less mediated? Because “history” is written by one person, however well-informed, does not mean it has a truthvalue transcending the heterogenous chorus of voices . . . that is so present and alive in literary memoirs or oral documentation. . . . It is bad faith to simply substitute the dry tones of the academic historian for the voice of witnesses.65

On the other hand, no matter how much oral Holocaust testimony’s multiplicity of voices establishes its privilege over modern academic history in postmodernist eyes, other characteristics undercut that preferred status. In the fi nal analysis the power of oral testimony “to




illuminate the experience of the death-world” stems from the faith of listeners that the witnesses’ words actually reflect some “true” historical reality, one that exists independently of personal memories and imagination.66 The same applies to written testimonies and memoirs, which likewise ask readers to trust their facticity. In fact, more than once violations of that trust have provoked public scandals.67 For this reason testimony, both oral and written, is generally received differently from fiction, poetry, or drama, even though those latter literary forms have repeatedly proven their ability “to express the horror of the Shoah” no less powerfully than the former and despite postmodernist efforts to muddy the distinction between them and forms that claim to represent things that “really happened.” 68 Even Hartman, who played a pivotal role in establishing Yale University’s Fortunoff Video Archive, a large respository of Holocaust survivors’ taped testimonies, has assigned different values to testimonial documentation and belles lettres. In his view, both genres “rouse the sympathetic imagination” of the reader, listener, or viewer, but testimony (especially when presented visually) has the power to “overwhelm viewers” with emotions ordinarily not stirred by reading a novel or watching a nondocumentary fi lm. For him, “the reason is simple . . . : [with the latter] we fall back on the thought that this is fiction,” whereas “with survivor testimonies that sort of evasion is more difficult. If we wish to know what happened, to be in touch with realities, then we cannot turn away.” 69 Indeed, it appears that one of the first questions readers ask about virtually all texts concerning the Holocaust—intuitively, it seems—is whether the events depicted in them actually took place. Even imaginative writers about the Holocaust who “were not there” tend to pursue maximum verisimilitude in their work.70 Yet it is precisely the fragmentary, discrepancy-laden character of witnesses’ stories—the very quality that lends them their captivating vitality—that undermines their credibility as documents of the actual “death-world.” Indeed, pointing out the inconsistencies in survivor testimonies and the other tricks of memory they often reveal is one of the favorite ploys of Holocaust deniers. A theoretical position that disavows essential differences between history and fiction or the possibility of reconstructing a historical reality independent of the words employed to describe it cannot defend the


privileged place it assigns oral testimony in Holocaust representation, whether from hostile attacks or from normal expressions of need to connect it with some extratextual experience.71 No wonder that this contradiction has prompted many intellectuals to qualify the postmodernist negation of academic history, or that the Holocaust has become one of the most conspicuous foci of a vigorous, wide-ranging debate over a variety of theoretical problems of concern to the humanities at the beginning of the twenty-first century—the nexus between history and memory, the tangible world and its linguistic and artistic representations, trauma and its modes of expression, and the languages of science and ethics. As a result, it has become indispensable for many scholars whose interests do not lie primarily in the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews to learn about that encounter and to ponder its implications for their own specialties.72 Because most historians of the Jews see themselves within the broader community of academic humanists, it is to be expected that issues of concern to the humanities as a whole will occupy them as well. Indeed, the wave of reflexivity and self-criticism that has swept the academy in recent years has left its mark upon virtually all subfields of Jewish studies, from the Bible to modern Hebrew literature. Specifically, the discussion about the limitations of modern historical study has heightened Judaicists’ sensitivity to the fictive elements in their own historical writing and aroused interest in memory as an alternative window onto the Jewish past. Thus insofar as the academy’s overall intellectual engagement with the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews has helped shape their thinking about these issues, study of the Holocaust has affected study of the Jews. But such influence has been indirect and weak: in practice, few Judaicists who do not specialize in some aspect of the Holocaust seem consciously aware of it.73 Weakness is evident in the first instance in the absence of Judaicists from the general theoretical debates in which the Holocaust plays a central role, in stark contrast to the situation in other branches of the humanities, where philosophers, literary scholars, and historians specializing in a broad range of problems are drawn to discussions about the Holocaust precisely because they fi nd in them food for thought directly or indirectly pertinent to their specific scholarly interests.74




This situation is different from the one Gershom Scholem envisioned in 1959. Scholem understood Jewish studies not only as an academic endeavor but first and foremost as one directed toward “building the Jewish nation,” undertaken by Jews for whom the well-being of the Jewish people was of paramount importance.75 His guiding slogan as a Judaicist was “to see from within”—“to rebuild the entire edifice of scholarship in light of the historical experience of Jews living among their own people.”76 He thus implied that developments in the academy at large would influence the conceptual infrastructure and practice of Jewish studies less than Judaicists’ ongoing confrontation with the vicissitudes of collective Jewish experience.77 In a brief 1971 essay entitled “Wissenschaft des Judentums and Jewish Studies,” he predicted that “the two great events of our era, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, will surely gain an enormous hold over the academic study of the Jews, for at bottom that study is nourished by the living experience of the [current Jewish] generation.” “That experience,” he added, “will provide the background for scholarly study; even more, it will constitute a decisive spiritual force whose effects will become evident only in the distant future.”78 In other words, Scholem did not separate academic Jewish scholarship from Jewish thought. Evidently he believed that the Holocaust would affect both aspects of Jewish spiritual activity more or less identically: both Jewish thinkers and academic Judaicists would give their best intellectual efforts to rethinking the fundamental nature of Jewish history over the generations in light of what had befallen the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi oppressor. In the area of Jewish thought Scholem’s prediction was largely borne out. In academic Jewish studies, by contrast—and especially in the study of Jewish history—it has not been. ✻

Not that Judaicists have ignored the Holocaust as such. On the contrary: historians, philosophers, literary scholars, anthropologists, folklorists, psychologists, and sociologists identified with academic Jewish studies have devoted the better part of their professional energies to illuminating the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews from


nearly every conceivable angle. These scholars have produced significant books and articles about the history of the Jews during the encounter and afterward; its demographic, political, and emotional effects upon various Jewish communities; its place in the civic and religious discourse of Jews and in Jewish collective memory; the forms in which it has been commemorated; and its representations in Jewish literature and art of all sorts. Their published research comprises a notable proportion of the total scholarly output in Jewish studies. The Holocaust is explored in departments, institutes, and programs for Jewish studies in major universities throughout the world, and courses on the Holocaust are frequently among the best attended of their offerings. The two major learned societies for Jewish studies maintain permanent divisions for scholars studying the Holocaust. In short, Holocaust studies has established its place as a legitimate subfield within the larger Jewish studies project. Nevertheless, the impact this subfield has had on other areas of Jewish studies, and especially on the study of modern Jewish history, seems less substantial and more limited than might be expected not only from Scholem’s prediction but also from the far greater degree to which work on the Holocaust has affected the humanities as a whole. Indeed, it may well be that the very defi nition of the Holocaust as the subject of a distinct specialty within Jewish studies has created a barrier between it and other aspects of Jewish history. In fact, Israeli Holocaust historian Leni Yahil directed her colleagues’ attention to this seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon already in 1968: The gap that appeared [during the Second World War] prevented the bridging of the accepted Jewish historiography—which dealt with Jewish history until World War II—with a description of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was not seen as one of the many tragedies that overtook the Jewish people but instead as “The Catastrophe” that placed in doubt the achievements of the past. For this reason it was looked upon as being isolated from everything previously known and accepted. Special memorial institutions were established, others were set up to collect documentation, memoirs and evidence were assembled. . . . [Hence] the intentional isolation of this research from the mainstream of Jewish historiography, as if this were an entirely




separate field. It is as if all the instruments and conceptions of Jewish historiography that had hitherto existed did not enable us to study this period; as if it must be circumvented in contemplating the history of the people, and we have to pass from what occurred before Hitler straight to what happened and what will happen after him. The professional historian seemed to be well advised not to enter this maze of facts and evaluations.79

Yahil offered her own interpretation of the phenomenon’s origin. Consistent with Scholem’s approach, she located it in Jewish historians’ abiding involvement with matters of Jewish public concern. As she put it, “the instruments and conceptions of Jewish historiography” were forged during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the explicit purpose of “find[ing] the solution for Jewish existence on the basis of the conditions that Emancipation has created.” All of the era’s leading historians of the Jews, she claimed, affirmed that purpose, despite the many ideological differences among them.80 Here, she explained, lay the source of the difficulty “the accepted Jewish historiography” faced in confronting the catastrophe of the Nazi era: As far as the Jewish people was concerned, it transpired that the great achievement—equal rights, Emancipation—which had appeared to be a great success in the history of the Jewish people, collapsed in an instant when a destructive regime murdered a third of the people without the greater part of enlightened mankind, the nations of the world as well as Jewry, knowing or being able to do something about it. Neither the Jews of the Diaspora, who enjoyed full equality, nor the Jews of Eretz Israel, who already enjoyed some measure of political independence, recognized the dimensions of the tragedy in time or were able to prevent it. The Emancipation, therefore, did not enable the masses of the people to be saved or to save, neither those who fell into the hands of the Nazis, nor those in the free lands for whom freedom had become a fact of life, nor even for those who wished to achieve Emancipation. All were helpless.81

Yahil implied that had it been possible to interpret the Holocaust as a temporary departure from “the [normal] movement of history striving above and beyond to the improvement of man’s situation,” as historians of the Jews had managed to interpret all of the other “many


known tragedies that overtook the Jewish people,” and not as “an abyss opening up before [humanity], the ruin of [its] cultural image,” as postHolocaust “historic truth” required,82 study of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews would have found a place on the Jewish historiographical agenda with little difficulty. In other words, Scholem’s conception of Jewish studies ironically revealed to her the opposite dynamic from the one Scholem himself noted in Jewish intellectual and popular discourse following the Spanish expulsion: it was not “the abyss of the apocalypse” that would render fundamental concepts useless but the prospect of salvaging from the abyss a spark of redemption. Nevertheless, she too foresaw growing integration between scholarship in the two areas, for in the recently concluded Six-Day War of 1967 she detected signs of a return to historical progress: History itself developed so fast since World War II that the historian has not yet managed to formulate a position or to draw all the essential conclusions from the Holocaust period, when the Six Day War proved that fundamental changes have taken place in the consciousness of the Jewish people, and that this people had learned a lesson from its tragedy. On this occasion the nation was not caught by surprise, this time it knew the taste of the threat of extermination. The response was uniform throughout the Jewish world—identification with the State of Israel, sometimes even to the point of readiness for selfsacrifice. . . . One of the characteristics of the Jewish people—fostered and safeguarded throughout its wanderings and tragedies—was its tradition of mutual aid provided by one community to another in time of distress. . . . This tradition did not stand the test of the Holocaust, where the free Jewish communities could not save those in the throes of extermination. When the State of Israel was threatened, this tradition of mutual aid was revealed once again, and with it the hope was strengthened for the continued existence and unity of the Jewish people which had been undermined by the Holocaust. . . . It appears that this very fact will enable us to provide the Holocaust with the place it deserves in Jewish history. We have emancipated ourselves from the distress of helpless slaughter. . . . This experience transforms the Holocaust into a part of the past. . . . As part of the past we must link it with the past that preceded it, and understand the practical and spiritual revolution that it engendered in the Jewish people.83




To be sure, Yahil sensed that “in practice this approach [of bracketing off the Holocaust from the continuum of Jewish history] has already begun to disappear on its own.”84 But the signs of change she perceived did not materialize in the long run. In fact, twenty-five years later she voiced her complaint anew, charging that “historical research [about the Holocaust] has become a separate, isolated field in general and Jewish historiography alike” and that “in practice no organic connection has been established between the study of the Holocaust and the long chain of Jewish history.” 85 In 1997 Dan Michman, an Israeli Holocaust scholar of a later generation (soon to become chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official institution for Holocaust commemoration and research), perceived no change: “[T]he Holocaust tends to be presented—even in comprehensive studies of modern Jewish history— as a distinct theme, not really interwoven into the larger [Jewish historical] fabric.”86 Nor are historians of the Holocaust the only ones to detect the separation; scholars who specialize in other aspects of Jewish history have noted it as well. In a 1997 lecture on “The Holocaust in the Writing of the East European Jewish Past,” Steven Zipperstein, longtime head of the program in Jewish studies at Stanford University and a leading student of the history of the Jews of imperial Russia, noted that until recently he had been careful “to sequester the Shoah” so as not to allow the horrors of the Nazi period to interfere with his effort to describe what Jews had done and experienced in earlier decades with the proper “sobriety and balance.”87 In similar fashion Zipperstein’s colleague from Yale University, Paula Hyman, an expert in the history of French Jewry and of Jewish women in Europe and the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, observed in a survey of the state of Jewish historiography in the mid-1980s that “despite its importance in the contemporary Jewish consciousness, the Holocaust has not yet had any particular impact on modern Jewish historiography” and has “led to no thoroughgoing revision of our understanding of modern Jewish history.”88 In late 2001 Hyman reaffirmed her assessment, noting that it applied to her own work: “The Holocaust has not led me to rethink how I approach [my subject].”89 “Scholarship on the Holocaust continues to develop and proliferate,” she commented in a 2005 article,


“but that scholarship raises different sorts of analytic questions” from those that occupy historians studying European Jews in the modern period.90 The wall separating study of the Holocaust from study of all other aspects of the Jewish past stands out in recent professional literature. The large majority of historical studies of the Holocaust are published in journals or anthologies dedicated to the Holocaust alone, while journals devoted to Jewish history, even exclusively in the modern era, publish historical articles on the Holocaust relatively rarely.91 In the conferences of the learned societies that occupy themselves with Jewish studies the history of the Holocaust occupies a similarly marginal position.92 As a result, the research fi ndings of historians of the Holocaust do not readily reach specialists in other areas of Jewish history. Moreover, the syllabi of many university-level surveys of modern Jewish history appear to treat the Holocaust as a subject of peripheral importance, less significant than such ostensibly central topics as the nineteenthcentury debates over emancipation and religious reform, international migration, the formation of modern Jewish identities, and the development of contemporary Jewish cultures.93 Comprehensive histories of the Jews also have found it difficult to integrate the Holocaust into their analytical and narrative schemes; generally speaking the Holocaust is presented as a sudden intrusion of German or European history into Jewish history, like a meteorite from outer space, bearing no connection with significant trends in the Jewish world in modern times.94 An extreme expression of sequestering the Holocaust and removing it from the mainstream of Jewish history can be found in New York’s Jewish Museum, an establishment that justly describes itself as “one of the world’s largest and most important institutions devoted to exploring the remarkable scope and diversity of Jewish culture.” 95 Established in 1904, the museum is affi liated with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the school charged with training rabbinical and lay leaders for the Conservative movement in North American Judaism. The latest incarnation of the museum’s permanent core exhibition, installed in 2003— a display occupying two floors of a spacious mansion on Upper Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—presents some 800 objects from its collection,




chosen and arranged so as to “examine . . . the Jewish experience as it has evolved from antiquity to the present.” 96 Approximately one-third of the exhibition, comprising a section entitled “Confronting Modernity,” is devoted to events in Jewish life during the interval 1800–1948. The section opens with a text outlining the narrative to which the objects on display are supposed to give tangible expression: Beginning in the eighteenth century, Jewish life was transformed by its encounter with modernity. . . . The modern age introduced technological advances and new schools of thought, mass migrations and nationalism, and the spread of secular culture and capitalism into almost every corner of the world. Jews were challenged to redefi ne themselves as individuals and as a people. First in America and western Europe, then in eastern Europe, and later in other places, new opportunities for employment, education, and participation in society opened to Jews. In the arts, politics, and the sciences, Jews were often at the forefront of creating modern culture. For the first time ever, Jews became citizens of the nations in which they lived. At the same time, they encountered new forms of persecution and threats to their communal identity. As did other peoples, Jews asserted their own claims to nationhood, eventually reestablishing a Jewish state in their historical homeland. Modernity spurred many Jews to radically reinterpret and recast traditional beliefs and practices. They created new religious and political movements, new communal and international institutions, and new forms of participation in the cultural and economic life of their countries.

Visitors to the museum would hardly sense from the exhibition’s captions that in recent decades it has become common to consider the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel together as “the two modern components . . . of collective Jewish identity.” 97 The opening script offers not a single word about the murder of two-thirds of continental European Jewry in the twentieth century; only a passing reference to “new forms of persecution” informs viewers that Jews might have encountered a bump or two on the modern highway to creativity and renewal. Indeed, the recurring threats that significant numbers of European Jews perceived to their physical security during


the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (as opposed to threats to their “collective identity”) are well camouflaged by the dominant story of the Jews’ successful integration into modern society and culture. To be sure, later in the exhibition visitors learn that during the nineteenth century Jews in Western Eu rope “were ostracized socially and politically” and that “in Eastern Europe, entire Jewish communities were massacred in government-condoned anti-Jewish riots, called pogroms”; but with regard to the twentieth century they are told only that Poland’s 1935 constitution “grant[ed Jews] emancipation in word only” and that the Jews of Romania received “provisional emancipation” with the Versailles Treaty of 1919—inaccurate statements, as it happens.98 The Nazi Holocaust merits only two display cases—one, containing Jewish ritual objects recovered after the Second World War by the American Commission on Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, labeled “Rescue,” the second, incorporating objects from the ghetto for socalled privileged Jews at Terezin (Theresienstadt), in the present-day Czech Republic, entitled “Concentration Camps.” The relatively small area where the cases are displayed is laid out in the shape of a triangle, separated by a partition from the remainder of the exhibition and placed to the side of the path that is supposed to represent the mainstream of Jewish history. In order to enter the area visitors must stray deliberately from the main route and pass through a tiny opening that hides a portion of the display’s contents. Those who enter must leave the way they came; only after they turn to exit do they encounter the panel that is supposed to place what they have seen in its proper context: The Shoah . . . is a rupture in Jewish history. Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis and their allies killed close to six million Jews and destroyed Jewish life in most of Europe. While [the] Nazis’ principal goal was eradicating the Jews, Jews were not their only victims. Gypsies, political opponents (Communists and Socialists), Polish intellectuals, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the physically and mentally disabled also died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Jews and others who had embraced equality and Enlightenment ideals found it difficult to believe that such barbarism was possible. For Jews, the Shoah remains a great collective trauma; for Jews and non-Jews alike, the enormity of these crimes defies comprehension.




The Shoah was not a single event. Every Jewish community and each individual Jew suffered differently. On display in this gallery are remnants that speak to that suffering. Objects belonging to Jewish communities that were wiped out; works of art created by men, women, and children in hiding, in ghettos, and in concentration camps; and documents relating to the persecution of Jews during this period. These artifacts and works of art offer a glimpse of individual lives caught up in the horrific events that constitute the Shoah.

In other words, the Holocaust was a radical departure from the familiar modern Jewish experience, a unique incident that took place outside the normal course of history. This startling eruption of evil into the world of progress and enlightenment delivered a monstrous blow not only to Jews but to an entire range of relatively weak human groups whose previous experience could not have prepared them to cope with their oppressors’ villainous deeds. The Holocaust thus constitutes an interruption in Jewish history; its occurrence should be observed and the suffering of the victims noted, but after doing so observers should return to the main highway, leaving the momentary disturbance behind. Paula Hyman, who served as academic adviser to the exhibition, has testified that such was indeed the designers’ intent: Here was a historical exhibition where you walked from the Biblical period through the Middle Ages into selected cities of early modern Europe, into American Jewry, etc. And then you come to the Holocaust. And how could we depict . . . the journey through the Holocaust? And the decision was: we couldn’t depict what happened during the Holocaust as simply another stage on the journey of the Jews. And the core exhibit decided to represent the Holocaust as a black box, with nothing depicted, and with no door out. In other words, you went in, you had a moment of contemplation, you had to walk out the same way you came in, and then walk around and go on with the exhibit.99

Evidently many historians of the Jews in the modern period find no fault with such a view of the Holocaust; on the contrary, they regard it as fitting and worthy of emulation. When Hyman restated her assessment in 2001 that the Holocaust had not significantly influenced the


writing of Jewish history, she added that “the Holocaust should not lead to a major reshaping of Jewish history.” In her view, “the fact that I know and mourn the destruction of European Jewry does not mean that I should interpret what happened in 1750 or 1800 or 1850 or 1900 differently than I would interpret it had the destruction of European Jewry not taken place.” She saw no point in raising new questions about the experience of the Jews in modern times in light of the Holocaust, because historians were already exploring the essential questions about that experience, as “any good historian would do [regarding] any period.”100 When on the same occasion Steven Zipperstein noted that he no longer believed it proper to sequester the Holocaust from the Jewish historiographical agenda, one of his senior colleagues reproached him for his “heresy”—no less.101 Indeed, historians of the Jews continue by and large to sequester the Holocaust not only rhetorically but in practice. In 2003 the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies—the research arm of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—conducted a three-day workshop aimed at exploring how the Holocaust might be integrated into the teaching of Jewish history and culture. Of the twenty-four participants in the seminar, only one defined himself as a historian of the Jews; the rest were specialists in European history or German studies, even though the activity was intended primarily for Judaicists. Two years earlier the center offered a series of seminars for North American college and university instructors on teaching the Holocaust; only 6 of 240 applications to participate came from faculty members affiliated with Jewish studies programs.102 Such developments would no doubt have shaken Scholem profoundly. Not only has the Holocaust not generated substantial change of direction in the study of Jewish history sixty years after its conclusion; not only has Jewish history remained virtually the sole area of the humanities that has not sensed in the Holocaust a formidable test of its disciplinary foundations; but historians of the Jews have raised the demand to insulate themselves from the Holocaust’s influence to the level of a vital principle from which deviation is to be condemned. The dean of Israeli historians of the Holocaust, Yehuda Bauer, may posit that “the event or set of events designated by the name ‘the Holocaust’ . . .




is the central event in the history of the Jewish people in recent centuries and perhaps for even longer” and place it at the foundation of his professional agenda; he may view the Holocaust as “a turning point into and out of which flow other events . . . that have determined and will continue to determine how Jewish history unfolds”;103 but many scholars who occupy themselves with the history of the Jews in recent centuries appear not only to dispute his premise but to protest it vigorously. Neither Scholem’s understanding of how the Holocaust ought to influence the writing of Jewish history nor Yahil’s can explain this development. Neither the increasing consciousness of the Holocaust’s “catastrophic aspect” that Scholem anticipated in 1959 nor the expectation of imminent redemption from the historical situation that produced the catastrophe voiced by Yahil in 1968 brought about either a fundamental revision of Jewish historiographical practice or even the centering of the Holocaust in Jewish historiographical discourse. Moreover, in contrast to both forecasts, the actual “living experience” of the Jewish public during the second half of the twentieth century appears to have played little role in shaping that discourse. Indeed, postHolocaust Jewish historiography has taken a radically different path from post-Holocaust Jewish thought, in which the legacy of the encounter between the Third Reich and European Jewry has been obvious and strong. This is an anomalous and puzzling situation. What brought it about?

O n e Negating Lachrymosity

Historians who have called for the Holocaust to be bracketed off from the study of Jewish history have justified their position with a broad range of arguments. The grounds have been largely methodological, but practical, ethical, and ideological considerations have been raised as well. The most common methodological argument draws upon contemporary historiographical practice’s insistence that anachronism (description of past events in terms inappropriate to the time in which they occurred) and determinism (representation of the course of past events as fi xed in advance, not susceptible to change by human action) be scrupulously avoided. Paula Hyman evoked this demand when she warned against interpreting incidents from 1750 or 1800 in light of what transpired during the 1940s: such an interpretation, she explained, “would be reading history backwards.” In her view, awareness of the tragic fate that befell Jewish communities in Europe during the Nazi era actually confounds efforts to understand the earlier history of those communities in their proper chronological context, leading invariably to a distorted picture of their experience: “I would not want to project the Holocaust back . . . on the Dreyfus Affair, and I think that we would not be doing our students a favor if we tried to do that.”1 Similarly, in their introduction to a pathbreaking 1995 anthology comparing the processes by which Jews pursued civic and political equality in eight different nineteenth-century European Jewish communities, scholars Pierre Birnbaum and Ira Katznelson dubbed the Holocaust a “historiographical obstacle” that confounds proper appreciation of the contours of modern Jewish history. In the wake of destruction, they complained,


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it is “enormous[ly] difficult . . . [to] honor . . . the first working principle of good historical research and writing: historicization without teleology.”2 Furthermore, Birnbaum and Katznelson asserted, awareness of what befell the Jewish communities examined in the volume leads to “devaluation of the historical tale,” for “what counted in the end was proximity to the organized violence of the Third Reich.” 3 Indeed, historians of the Jews in the modern period have repeatedly expressed fear that reading Jewish history backward from the Holocaust, as it were, will place disproportionate emphasis on the Nazi era in the historical narratives of the Jewish communities that fell victim to its horrors. For some, calling attention to the Holocaust threatens to divert attention from how Jews themselves lived and what they created to the awful circumstances of their death. Hillel Kieval, a leading scholar of the Jews in the Habsburg Empire and its successor states, declared in 2000 that he chose “deliberately not to write about the destruction of Jewish life in the Czech lands during the Nazi occupation,” for that story had already been related sufficiently, whereas “the Czech-Jewish experience over the long term . . . has not received adequate attention from historians of culture and society.” 4 Moreover, he admonished, “Holocaust narratives have a way of introducing so much disruption to long-term patterns of experience as to blur them altogether, rendering them somehow trivial in light of the ‘inevitable’ end of the story.”5 Ernst Löwenthal, a veteran communal activist and student of German Jewry, warned even more pointedly that emphasizing “this singular, shocking event, the Holocaust . . . leads to neglect of the previous decades . . . and to seeing [Jews] exclusively . . . [as] historical and historiographical objects [instead of as active agents].” 6 Other historians have expressed concern that “hindsight [from the vantage point of the Holocaust is liable] to prejudice our analysis of earlier [German Jewish] hopes.” 7 Gershon Hundert, a senior scholar of early modern Polish Jewry, has likened the Holocaust to “a distorting prism, impeding our vision of what came before.”8 The introduction to the 2004 volume of the journal Michael, a publication of the Diaspora Research Center of Tel Aviv University, charged Israeli historians in particular with excessive focus on the Holocaust and its repercussions, to the neglect of earlier eras,

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which they allegedly treat as “a prologue to the destruction of the Jews and not as a period in its own right.” 9 A younger scholar of French Jewry has offered perhaps the starkest statement against such alleged misrepresentation: As a student and teacher of Jewish history, the two subjects I go to great lengths to avoid are anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. In fact, I try to banish them to as small a place in my thinking and my curricula as I responsibly can. I consider it my obligation to combat the tendency common to Jews and non-Jews alike to flatten the historical experience of Jews into a narrative of suffering through the ages or allow what were only a few years in one exceptional century to eclipse a history some three millennia long.10

Scholars have also pointed to more specific errors that purportedly found their way into the narrative of Jewish history when the Holocaust was placed at its center. Ismar Schorsch, former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a noted scholar of modern German Jewry, has protested repeatedly that the Holocaust tends to imbue all Jewish history with the stain of passivity and submissiveness, making Jews appear too craven to defend their vital interests. By doing so, he has argued, the catastrophe of the 1940s has blinded historians to the fact that over the centuries Jews fashioned for themselves a formidable tradition of political action on their own behalf.11 Similarly, according to Michael Brenner, holder of the chair in modern Jewish history at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, the history of German Jewry from emancipation to destruction is often figured as “a linear retreat from Jewish traditions and a gradual absorption within German culture,” whereas in fact (so he believes), “Jewish culture in Weimar Germany . . . used distinct forms of Jewish traditions . . . and presented them according to the demands of contemporary taste and modern cultural forms of expression.”12 In his view, it is simply not true, as those superficially acquainted with the subject frequently assert, that German Jews began seriously to explore their Jewish identity only after the Nazis turned Jewishness into an inescapable fact of life; in the event they did so during the decades before the Nazi rise to power, in an atmosphere of freedom and openness, not from external compulsion but



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out of a powerful internal drive.13 For Brenner, the source of the error lies in the commanding imprint the Holocaust has left upon Jewish historical consciousness: “The image of Weimar Jewry [is] overshadowed by its tragic end.”14 Because of this purportedly overwhelming imprint, another historian of German Jewry has proclaimed the need to “strip away the layers of historical memory that may distort the image” of the German Jewish community, even when speaking of the nineteenth century.15 Fear of distorting the essential character of the Jewish experience is also evident in discussions about the amount of attention the Holocaust ought to be afforded in teaching modern Jewish history. Many who have entered those debates have protested ardently that undergraduate university courses on the Holocaust generally attract more students than other courses in Jewish studies. They have bewailed what they take to be the fact that “Jewish graduate students know the Nuremberg laws and their elaborations but have never read any Mishna, Talmud, Zohar, Midrash, [or] Tanya.”16 In response to this ostensible imbalance, as well as to forestall the representation of Jewish history in what they consider a false and misleading manner, scholars who share this view have recommended that the Holocaust be taught in European history courses, delimiting their own area of concern as “the religion, culture and vast literature of the many forms of historical Judaism.”17 A professor of Jewish studies at the University of Umeå in Sweden explained, for example, that “the study of antisemitism and the Holocaust are central elements in the history of the West and should be taught as such, smack dab in the mainstream of European culture,” not in courses about Judaism or the Jews.18 In similar fashion, Anita Shapira, professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University and a preeminent scholar of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, has labeled the Holocaust “a most significant and most traumatic occurrence, whose impact must be studied in courses about the history of the last half century,” warning simultaneously that “it must not become a surrogate for research into Jewish life and culture.”19 Moral arguments occasionally supplement such admonitions. A professor of Jewish studies at the University of Kentucky warned in 1996 that the “centrality of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Jewish

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studies” (of which he had no doubt) “betokens a kind of voyeurism” and “a lack of commitment to Jewish culture,” constituting “a posthumous victory for Hitler.” 20 Arguments of a strategic nature, disputing the proposition that teaching about the Holocaust in the context of Jewish history will improve Jewish- Gentile relations or enhance the security of the Jewish people, can be heard as well. Ismar Schorsch has warned against the denigration of the Jews’ collective political experience to which concentration upon the Holocaust purportedly leads not only because it is factually unjustified but also because it prevents Jewish communal leaders from drawing and applying proper lessons from the past.21 In the view of Ruth Wisse, professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard University, the louder one proclaims the suffering of Jews under Nazi rule and portrays them as hapless victims, “the less [students] will be able to appreciate the stiff-necked, highly particularistic people . . . who want to remain as distinctive as they are.” “No one has ever had trouble sympathizing with the dead Jews,” she has written, “but the protection of the living . . . requires the opposite set of moral reflexes” from the one the story of the Holocaust generates.22 A professor from the University of Illinois has wondered whether “focusing on the death of Jews in Europe” does not, “by blocking out all the really interesting stuff of modern Jewish civilization,” actually strengthen Christians in their traditional belief that “Judaism can no longer . . . have anything positive to contribute to the world.” 23 Similar considerations led Lionel Kochan, late occupant of the chair in Jewish history at the University of Warwick in England, to the conclusion that “to ‘teach the Holocaust’ was to perform a disser vice to Jewish morale and education, and the Jewish future in general.” He left no room for a course about the Third Reich and the Jews in his program’s curriculum, declaring that “the less said about the Holocaust, the better.” 24 The arguments may appear formidable, but in the final analysis their ability to persuade lies more in their rhetorical force than in empirical precision or compelling logic. Upon examination it turns out that the exaggerated attention allegedly given the Holocaust by scholars and teachers of Jewish history is an exaggeration itself. Hillel Kieval inadvertently offered an example of this misperception when he listed nine



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“first-rate studies” concerning the Holocaust in Czechoslovak ia as proof that the subject had already been treated sufficiently, when in fact none of them was a full-length monograph on the history of the Jews in the Czech lands under Nazi rule.25 Although Ernst Löwenthal’s analysis of 270 publications about the history of various local Jewish communities in Germany that appeared between 1945 and 1982 revealed more space devoted to the twelve years of Nazi rule than to the half century from 1880 to 1930 (“when Jewish life proceeded relatively normally”26), the large majority of publications he examined were not scholarly studies by professional historians but the work of local amateurs written for memorial purposes, which, as could be expected, featured the impressions that weighed most heavily upon the writers’ own memories. Nor is it the case that university courses on the Holocaust invariably draw more students than all other courses related to Jews. Several prestigious universities in various parts of the world offer extensive undergraduate programs in Jewish studies without a single course on the history of the Holocaust.27 Many others, including institutions in Israel, do not require majors in Jewish history to take a course on the murder of European Jewry. Except in Israel, the lion’s share of university courses on the Holocaust are taught outside the Jewish studies framework: a survey conducted by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies in 2002 identified fewer than 90 out of 1,002 such courses that were part of a Jewish studies program.28 The oft-heard complaint that the Holocaust has taken over Jewish studies evidently reflects more the complainers’ own anxieties than any actual facts on the ground. Similarly, the warning against “reading history backward” collapses upon critical scrutiny. To be sure, it is a convention of modern historiography29 that anachronism must be meticulously avoided. Contemporary historians are also virtually unanimous in presuming that historical agency rests with autonomous human beings who choose among possible courses of action according to their own free will, not with some mysterious impersonal historical “forces” or hidden guiding hand (although there is considerable disagreement over how and to what extent human freedom of action might be impersonally constrained). Thus hardly any academic historian today would seriously contend that, for example, terms applicable to the Vichy era can describe the Jews of

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France at the time of the Dreyfus Affair or argue that in 1898 those Jews might have foreseen what was to befall them in 1942. Nevertheless, these two basic principles—which are not mutually reinforcing but actually stand in dialectical tension to one another30—are not vitiated practically or theoretically by an approach to history writing that employs the present to illuminate the past. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any sort of historical narrative that does not “read history backward” to some degree. One of the primary claims of modern academic history since its inception is its ability to explain change in human affairs over time. The very concept of “change,” however, suggests that human beings can gaze backward along the temporal axis and distinguish differences between past and present or among various moments in the past. Indeed, it is historians’ faith in that possibility that enables them to disallow anachronism in the first place and insist upon fidelity to the historical context.31 Yet there does not appear to be a way to identify, describe, or account for such differences without advance knowledge of where the changes to which they point led. On the contrary, a transition from one state of affairs to another cannot be explained without considering its outcome in advance. That the historical actors who actually experienced all or part of the transition were not themselves aware of that outcome while the transition was taking place does not alter the logical impossibility of a retrospective explanation that is similarly uninformed. The nature of any transition over time becomes clear only through analysis of its results; until historians reach such understanding, they cannot offer any historical explanation. The principle of “historicization without teleology,” to use Birnbaum and Katznelson’s phrase, may apply to the way in which historical events are narrated, but not to the way in which they are analyzed prior to narration.32 Moreover, judging by their professional output in recent decades, historians of the Jews appear to have internalized thoroughly the distinction between the manner in which they represent their research findings and the process by which they obtain them. Numerous scholarly studies on the history of the Jews in the modern period make explicit or tacit reference to large-scale changes that befell ever-widening sectors of the Jewish collectivity from the eighteenth century onward— changes in Jews’ legal status, religious and political behavior, social



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networks, class divisions, places of residence, sources of income, languages spoken, marriage patterns, educational practices, and virtually all other facets of daily life that historians have grouped together under the rubric “emancipation.” The search for the roots of emancipation (whether conceived as a uniform process that Jews in different countries experienced in more or less identical fashion or as a generic set of changes revealing numerous local variations33) has engaged students of Jewish history, beginners and veterans alike, as have more chronologically, geographically, or socially circumscribed changes conceived as particular stages or aspects of emancipation overall. Historians who have studied emancipation have tended to note the end of their stories even before they have begun to tell them—witness the recurring presence of such unmistakably “teleological” phrases as “the making of . . . ,” “the shaping (or reshaping) of . . . ,” “from . . . to . . . ,” “the road to . . . ,” “the transformation of . . . ,” “the modernization of . . . ,” or “toward . . .” in the titles or subtitles of central scholarly works on modern Jewish history.34 Among the authors of such works are some of the most vociferous advocates of sequestering the Holocaust from their purview. Nevertheless, all of them have employed their prior knowledge of advanced stages in the emancipation process not only to identify earlier stages requiring explanation and to pose historical questions about them but also to justify affording greater attention to certain aspects of the past over others. No doubt these historians were cognizant of the prospect that such knowledge might distort their historical vision, impede their ability to discern features of Jewish life in earlier generations, or open the door to anachronism, yet such recognition did not deter them from the challenge of negotiating between their own perspectives and those of the people they study—a challenge that every historian faces. Perhaps some came up short, failing to note pertinent phenomena because of their inability to free themselves adequately from their own chronological vantage point. Such inadequacies, however, have largely been exposed in the regular course of historiographical debate. It has been increasingly noted, for example, that viewing modernity as the normal condition of the Jewish people in the second half of the twentieth century has relegated the millions of ultraorthodox Jews who resisted and continue to resist modernization to the

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margins of academic historiographical consciousness. Similarly, it has been observed that the fact that the process of emancipation was first inaugurated and completed in Europe has deflected attention from the modern history of Sefardic and Middle Eastern Jews and that the lesser participation of women in “the events and cultural accomplishments that have been valued and taught in the Western tradition” has obscured the long-standing existence of “a contemporaneous and alternative women’s history and culture” that sometimes presents a picture of the changes upon which Jewish historiography has focused different from the one generated when scrutiny is given only to the experience of men.35 In recent years concerted efforts have been made to rectify these newly perceived imbalances. Yet nowhere has it been suggested that the relative novelty of the perception invalidates historical studies catalyzed by it. On the contrary, rectification was surely facilitated in large measure precisely by the willingness of scholars to adjust their historical vision in response to contemporary developments. It seems doubtful that, if not for the dramatic rise in the number and political influence of ultraorthodox Jewish circles in Israel and the diaspora since the 1970s, orthodoxy would have become “a subject that captured the hearts of historians” to nearly the extent that it appeared to have done so at the end of the twentieth century.36 Sefardic and Middle Eastern Jews have gained recognition as worthy subjects for historical research to the extent that their role in Jewish communities formerly dominated by Ashkenazim has become more visible.37 And the connection between growth in Jewish women’s history and gender studies on the one hand and the emergence of a worldwide feminist movement beginning in the 1960s on the other is patent.38 The interplay between historians’ personal chronological vantage points and the manner in which they perceive the past has been noted repeatedly in historiosophical literature. Marc Bloch, one of the twentieth century’s most renowned historians, even went so far as to comment that “the first requirement” for correctly interpreting the tangible residues of the past that form the basis of all historical research is “to observe and analyze the contemporary landscape.” “In the spool [of pictures from the past] that the historian examines,” he explained, “only the final picture is clear and not blurred; in order to reconstruct



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the faded outlines of the remaining pictures, he must first unwind the entire spool in reverse order from the directions in which they were taken.”39 Historians have not seriously challenged Bloch’s dictum, either theoretically or in practice. On the contrary, contemporary historical writing in virtually all areas is replete with examples of its application.40 In fact, several prominent historians of Europe have used the Holocaust as a window through which to obtain a clearer view of events in the more distant past than they had previously managed to discern, evidently confident that by doing so they remained within the bounds of sound disciplinary procedure.41 Of late a few historians have announced with pride that they have successfully suppressed knowledge of later events, especially the Holocaust, in describing earlier ones, thereby avoiding misrepresentation.42 Analysis of the works in question casts doubt upon their authors’ claims, however. Consider, for example, Ronald Schechter’s confident assertion in the introduction to his deservedly praised 2003 study of how Jews were represented in eighteenth-century French public discourse: I believe that it is possible to treat the topic at hand in such a way that it is not reduced to an origin of phenomena that would manifest their true meaning later. . . . I propose to follow a methodological path that avoids teleology as much as possible. . . . To achieve this perspective, I would like to reverse the age-old Jewish command Zakhor [remember] and submit to the opposite imperative: “Forget!” . . . I propose to forget what I know about the history of the Jews after 1815, and I ask my readers to do the same, at least temporarily. . . . Figurative forgetting, or the bracketing of knowledge, is possible. . . . This mental exercise is . . . worth engaging in because it enables us to ask questions that might not occur to us if we began our investigation by casting our attention toward a known future.43

In his epilogue Schechter pronounced his hermeneutic strategy a success: “I believe I have revealed aspects of eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century French history that a teleological approach to the subject would have obscured.” 44 In the event, however, there is cause to doubt whether it was precisely his willful amnesia that led him to his conclusions. Schechter has not subjected his assertion to any controlled test: his book offers no concrete comparison between a “teleological”

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interpretation of a past artifact and one derived from his approach that might demonstrate the latter’s ability to illuminate what the former leaves hidden. There thus appears to be no compelling reason to believe that he would not have reached similar conclusions from examining the documents that form the book’s empirical core even without his exercise in “forgetting.” 45 On the contrary, immediately following his proclamation of success Schechter enumerated similarities between the eighteenth-century discourse described in the book to what he saw as parallel discussions in France after 1968 (when, in his words, “the memory of the Shoah” became “the decisive factor in the return of the Jews to public consciousness”).46 To be sure, he took pains to make clear that “the prior history” he had recounted did not “prefigure, foreshadow, or otherwise determine the . . . history” of recent generations, but the resemblance he perceived between the two periods impressed him nonetheless. “Once again the Jews are a ‘question’ in France,” he wrote; “they are ‘good to think’ about some of the most urgent issues of the day.” 47 In his view, exchanges about Jews in France since 1968 have served much the same function as they did two hundred years earlier—as a touchstone for assessing attitudes on a broad range of political and cultural issues: “Once again the Jews help non-Jews in France think about matters of fundamental importance to them,” first and foremost “whether [the French nation] is a tolerant and generous people, respectful of ‘the Rights of Man’ and remorseful for past violations of them, and whether it can accommodate diversity.” 48 It is difficult to imagine that he noticed such symmetry only after completing his empirical research and formulating his inferences. It is surely more plausible to suppose that the debates of the last four decades drew his attention to similar ones in the more distant past and provided him with a ready lens through which to analyze the earlier time. Indeed, Schechter himself testified to that effect in an interview given to his campus newspaper after his book received a prestigious award. Commenting on the intellectual context in which he conceived his project, he explained that he was initially concerned with a general contemporary social problem—“relationships between minority groups and the dominant culture that seeks to define or to change those groups”—as well as with “the fact that he is ‘Jewish living in a society that is not Jewish.’ ” 49



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In eighteenth-century French discussions about Jews and Judaism he evidently found what he had sought from the outset—useful ways of thinking about those contemporary concerns.50 Schechter is not the only scholar whose interest in the earlier history of the Jews in France was stimulated by the more recent experience of Jews in that country. In March 2001 the Department of French at Haifa University, the Vidal Sasson Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the French Embassy in Israel, and several additional academic and nonacademic bodies convened an international conference entitled “Inclusion and Exclusion: Perspectives of Jews from the Enlightenment to the Dreyfus Affair.” 51 In his keynote lecture, Pierre Birnbaum, an exceptionally productive historian of France and its Jews (whom Schechter engaged critically in his book), reminded conference participants that they were gathering “only a few months after numerous synagogues were set afire or attacked, after Jewish students were threatened as they left classes, when once again the old slogan, ‘Death to the Jews,’ was heard in the streets of several French cities.”52 Indeed, the conference’s timing was doubtless not coincidental.53 Yet at the same time Birnbaum emphasized that during those violent attacks the leaders of the French state stood shoulder to shoulder with the embattled Jews. Only a week earlier, he noted, French President Jacques Chirac had bestowed the insignes de Grand officier de la Légion d’honneur upon Professor Ady Steg, president of the Jewish philanthropic, educational, and political organization Alliance Israélite Universelle, noting unequivocally in his presentation speech that Jews were entitled to “dual citizenship, in which the love of France and the love of Israel are inseparably intertwined.”54 It was the contrast between the two episodes, along with the dissimilarity between both aspects of the contemporary situation and the state of affairs during the Vichy era, that prompted Birnbaum to ponder “the two faces of the modern history of the Jews in France” and to think about a range of historical and current questions, including “Should the Jews of France be more fearful of unanticipated antisemitism on the part of the state that emancipated them or of the [antisemitism] of the heterogeneous social environs that express their violent hatred from time to time? Is there a specifically French variety of antisemitism? . . . Does France have its own way of

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acting upon antisemitic hatred?”55 Similar questions, also prompted to a large extent by current events (including the manner in which presentday Frenchmen have dealt with their predecessors’ behavior toward Jews during the Vichy era), stand at the center of the prodigious body of scholarly work that Birnbaum has produced since the 1980s, one of whose declared aims has been to add a long-term historical perspective to contemporary discussions of French Jewish identity and the place of Jews in French society.56 It seems that Birnbaum does not recoil entirely from “reading history backwards.” On the contrary, in his words “those who wish to consider the fate of the Jews in France from the days of the revolution to the present need not restrict themselves to a narrow chronological narrative. It may be that a more interpretive approach, one that moves back and forth over time, will permit better understanding of the problems the Jews of France faced as they made their way into a society rent by constant . . . confl ict and powerful reaction against the values of 1789.”57 This methodological approach does not fit well with his relegation of the Holocaust to the status of a “historiographical obstacle” because of the inescapably teleological tone it allegedly invites. The demand that narratives of modern Jewish history be constructed with a blind eye to the Holocaust thus turns out to be little more than a discursive affectation. Those who voice it do not actually reject any effort to understand earlier historical episodes in light of later ones. They reject only use of one specific episode—the Holocaust—as a starting point for retrospective reflection; otherwise they are prepared to rely on the historical discipline’s ordinary mechanisms for avoiding anachronism and determinism while unwinding the spool of pictures from the past from last to first, as it were. Only when the unwinding begins with the fate of European Jewry during the Second World War do they warn of unavoidable injury to sound historiographical practice. In other words, they view the Holocaust not only as a radical departure from the normal movement of human history but also as a phenomenon with which the conventional investigative, interpretive, and representational instruments of academic history cannot cope. To be sure, such a feeling is not unique to historians of the Jews; on the contrary, for years it has inspired searching interchanges throughout the



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humanities and social sciences as a whole. Yet the manner in which historians of the Jews have behaved in the face of that feeling has set them apart from fellow historians who specialize in other fields.58 Where the latter have not shied away from reexamining hitherto-standard historical master narratives and research methods, allowing what several decades of Holocaust-centered studies have uncovered both to refine them and to clarify how the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews, for all of its extraordinary features, might be placed into some larger context,59 the former have by and large refused to bring their own specific professional vantage point to bear upon the reexamination. That refusal cannot have arisen out of the general methodological considerations commonly adduced to justify it: if it had, specialists in other fields of history would have joined them in significant number.60 On the contrary, the fact that historians of the Jews have remained more or less alone in their attitude suggests that their response is actually rooted in factors specific to the professional discourse of Jewish history and to the internal Jewish sociocommunal context to which that discourse is linked. Indeed, it turns out that the proclivity of specialists in Jewish history to “sequester the Holocaust” rests largely upon particular socially generated interpretations of powerful traditions in academic Jewish historiography—traditions that crystallized precisely during the two decades that preceded the Holocaust and have retained their hold in its aftermath. ✻

That the demand to exclude the Holocaust from the purview of academic historical study of the Jews is rooted more in internal Jewish historiographical discourse than in methodological considerations common to the historical profession as a whole is evident from the routine invocation in its defense of the foremost icon of modern Jewish historical research—Salo Baron. At least one commentator has explicitly condemned the Holocaust’s (illusory) central position on the Jewish historiographical agenda as a violation of the fundamental tenets Baron sought to bequeath to his profession.61 In similar fashion Paula Hyman accompanied her statement that the Holocaust had not and would not move her to rethink her approach to the study of Jewish history in

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modern times with an assertion that in articulating such a position she was acting as “an [intellectual] granddaughter of Baron.” 62 Ismar Schorsch, another of Baron’s leading acolytes, offered an even more pointed example of justifying his position by invoking a great name when he praised his mentor’s supposed determination “to repel the noxious fumes of the Holocaust” from Jewish historical writing by preventing the destruction of European Jewry from overshadowing the memory of “the irrepressible fortitude and creativity of the Jewish people” in contemporary Jewish historical consciousness.63 “And yet,” Schorsch lamented, “the . . . truth is that Baron failed. The Holocaust overwhelmed his lifelong agenda to present a version of Jewish history that would do justice to all the evidence.” 64 Thus removing the Nazi era from the program of Jewish historiography has become for Schorsch tantamount to raising the fallen Baronian banner, the proper response to the master’s injunction “to rein in the demons of the Holocaust” in order to “forge a new [historical] vision for a less tormented age.” 65 Who, then, was Salo Baron, and how did he help shape the manner in which contemporary historians of the Jews have confronted the catastrophe of the 1940s? Baron held the first (and for many years the only) standing faculty appointment in Jewish history at a secular institution of higher learning in the United States, teaching at Columbia University from 1930 to 1963. During that interval he trained many of the foremost scholars who taught the history of the Jews at North American and Israeli universities during the second half of the twentieth century. Since his retirement he has been remembered chiefly for his monumental Social and Religious History of the Jews, a comprehensive review and analysis of trends and developments in the Jewish past from earliest times until the twentieth century. That work, issued in three volumes in 1937 and in an expanded, eighteen-volume version from 1952 to 1983, was the last in the chain of global, original expositions of Jewish history begun in the nineteenth century by Isaac Markus Jost and Heinrich Graetz and continued in the early twentieth by Simon Dubnow. Since Baron no scholar has undertaken to depict the full range of the Jews’ collective historical experience on the basis of original investigation in primary sources, and odds are that no future scholar ever will.



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In both incarnations of the Social and Religious History Baron railed against what he called “the lachrymose conception of Jewish history”— a view that, in his words, “portrays the destinies of the Jews in the Diaspora as a sheer succession of miseries and persecutions.” 66 In time, negation of lachrymosity became Baron’s intellectual trademark, to the point where those who invoke the Baronian legacy in seeking removal of the Holocaust from the agenda of Jewish historiography do so mainly by referring to this by-now-hallowed principle.67 Indeed, the inference from the premise of antilachrymosity to Holocaust sequestration seems simple enough: if the misfortunes and calamities that befell Jews in earlier centuries are not to be represented as “the predominant and inevitable motif of the Jewish odyssey,” 68 how much more so must the greatest of all disasters be prevented from casting its long shadow upon the millennial career of a vital and talented people that reached the most exalted heights of material and spiritual creativity. Such, at least, is the manner in which many of Baron’s disciples have understood the operative conclusion inherent in their teacher’s overall approach to writing the history of the Jews. Yet it is far from certain that Baron himself would have endorsed such an understanding. In the event the master never explicitly spoke of how he saw the Holocaust’s place in the Jewish historical continuum, nor did his own scholarly work after 1945 point to a defi nite position on the issue. Moreover, Baron recast his defi nition of lachrymosity repeatedly, so that the intent of the injunction against it did not remain stable over time. The evolving meaning with which he endowed that injunction was, moreover, the product of a similarly evolving, complex, multifaceted way of looking at the Jewish past, one that defies reduction to a facile appeal to relegate darker chapters to the background in favor of happier, more auspicious episodes and accomplishments. In the original 1937 edition of the Social and Religious History Baron stated that the lachrymose conception found its first expression in the sixteenth-century lamentations of Samuel Usque, Joseph Hacohen, and others over the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.69 Its novelty, he explained, lay in bemoaning past catastrophes instead of “glorifying the achievements of the rabbis and teachers,” as Jewish chroniclers from earlier centuries had done.70 In other writings, however, he located the

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origins of lachrymosity both earlier and later—in the Hasmonean era,71 the time of the Crusades,72 or the heyday of the nineteenth-century Wissenschaft des Judentums movement.73 He also ascribed to it different features, from glorification of martyrdom to the tendency following the French Revolution to posit a “complete contrast between the black of the Jewish Middle Ages and the white of the post-Emancipation period.”74 Whether he thought it an ancient or relatively modern phenomenon, however, Baron consistently lamented that “Jewish historiography has not been able to free itself [from its hold] to this day.” 75 As he pointed out in one of his earliest extended discussions of the matter, once historians identified persecution as the characteristic motif of the Jewish past, they created a picture of Jewish life in earlier generations that failed the test of modern historical criticism: It would be a mistake . . . to believe that hatred was the constant keynote of Judeo- Christian relations, even in Germany or Italy. It is in the nature of historical records to transmit to posterity the memory of extraordinary events, rather than the ordinary flow of life. A community which lived in peace for decades may have given the medieval chronicler no motive to mention it, until a sudden outbreak of popu lar violence, lasting a few days, attracted widespread attention. Since modern historical treatment can no longer be satisfied with the enumeration of wars and diplomatic confl icts, the history of the Jewish people among the Gentiles, even in medieval Europe, must consist of much more than stories of sanguinary clashes or governmental expulsions. In fact . . . , the pogroms, even of those most tragic three centuries from 1096 to 1391, were but sporadic outbreaks. . . . Normal relations between Jews and Christians were generally amicable, or at worst characterized by mild mutual suspicion. . . . On the whole, social intercourse in Germany, northern France, England, Hungary and Poland was in normal years not much less frequent than that prevailing among burghers and nobles, or patricians and artisans.76

These few sentences, together with the many examples Baron offered to buttress them, have formed the platform for a Jewish historiographical school claiming to embody the antithesis of lachrymosity. The platform, as implemented from the mid-twentieth century onward, has



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sought to subsume moments of persecution and crisis in Jewish history within a narrative highlighting “the subtler forms of change as well as continuities that bridge the moment of crisis.”77 It has thus directed scholarly attention away from past suffering, which it has depicted as a recurring but transient deviation from normal lived experience, toward a broad range of mutual daily social, economic, and cultural interactions between diaspora Jews and their surrounding societies from which, it has insisted, Jews gained no less (and often more) than they lost. Consequently it has located the roots of the relations between Jews and non-Jews in any given time or place in “sociological” factors— the demographic trends, economic practices, and institutional and administrative arrangements characteristic of specific locations and eras— no less than in purportedly timeless qualities or predispositions, like the “spirit of Judaism” on one hand or “antisemitism” on the other.78 More precisely, it has promoted exploration of how the mundane and spiritual aspects of Jewish existence (what Baron termed its “social” and “religious” foundations) influenced one another and joined together in shaping the experience of Jews throughout the centuries.79 This paradigm, represented as the fundamental imperative of Baron’s teaching, has been embraced by at least three subsequent generations of self-styled Baronians, each adapting it to its own understanding and to the demands of its own time. Baron first laid the platform’s foundations between 1928 and 1937, years when the Nazi party rose to power and established itself in Germany, and the economic situation, legal status, and physical security of Central and East European Jewry became increasingly precarious. Yet the anxieties of those years do not appear to have cast their shadow upon his optimistic assessment of relations between Jews and non-Jews in earlier generations. To be sure, Baron did not look upon the events of the decade in question with equanimity. On the contrary, in the concluding chapter of the 1937 Social and Religious History, evidently composed shortly before publication of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935, he observed that “the Jewish people are passing through one of the greatest of their historical crises,” cautioning that “not the upheavals of early modern times, nor the rise of Islam, nor, perhaps, even the simultaneous loss of national independence and the maturing

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of the great daughter religion in the first century, were fraught with more dangers for Jewish survival than are contemporary developments.” 80 Indeed, he portrayed the incipient dissimilation of Jews from German society and the Hitler regime’s inauguration of a worldwide campaign of anti-Jewish calumny as but one aspect (and not necessarily the most threatening) of a multiple bind. True to his method, he described the crisis of his day as a composite phenomenon stemming from various causes that interacted with one another in complex ways. Thus, for example, he found “the most conspicuous . . . danger sign” and “the most dangerous single factor threatening the survival of . . . Jewish culture” less in the rise of Nazism than in the sharp decline in the rate of natural increase among Jews in Western Europe since the beginning of the twentieth century.81 He also perceived danger in what he regarded as the excessive number of East European Jews who earned their livelihoods from artisanry and commerce (who, he feared, would soon be unable to withstand the steadily mounting pressures of industrialization and corporate capitalism),82 as well as in the effacement of traditional religious norms in Jewish communities exposed to the processes of emancipation and assimilation.83 All of these developments, he warned, and not only the political encumbrances recently placed upon Jews in several countries, cast doubt upon the future of the Jewish people as a whole. Nevertheless, his predilection to seek balance between timebound circumstances and timeless mental constructions and to identify long-term lines of continuity across moments of apparent rupture kept him from excessive despair: [T]he fascist state, as such, [is not] necessarily antagonistic to the survival of Jewry. [The] revolt of the German petty bourgeoisie would have had an animus against the large Jewish upper middle class, even if anti-Semitism had not had such deep roots in the tragic past of German-Jewish relations. Ironically, it raged against the Jews much more because they had furnished a number of distinguished leaders to the proletarian groups . . . than in their capacity of capitalists. But this is more in the nature of a historical accident, emanating from the rivalry between national socialism and communism, in the bloody struggle for succession after the long-expected downfall of the Weimar republic. In this struggle the Hitlerites have long drawn their major



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financial support from capitalist circles, and reciprocated by constantly toning down their anticapitalistic exhortations. Even Jewish capitalists have been treated with comparative mildness. Thus a movement which started out to destroy “Jewish” fi nance capital and “interest servitude,” has concentrated all its implacable ire upon middle-class Jewish doctors, lawyers and shopkeepers. . . . Economic realities, however, reassert themselves, even in overzealous Germany, and various decrees . . . were issued to preserve, at least temporarily, Jewish big business. Whether and how soon these economic and expansionist considerations will put an end to the excesses of racial and nationalist frenzy, it is too early to judge.84

Baron seems to have discerned an equilibrium among the factors that produced the distress of his time: “The deep crisis in all domains of Jewish life,” he wrote, “would really threaten the people’s survival were not many of its phases so contradictory as to efface one another’s effects.”85 Thus, for instance, he anticipated that falling birth rates would soon produce zero population growth among Jews, leading to reduced pressure for emigration and easing of anti-Jewish discrimination in countries struggling with the dislocations of modernization. He was also convinced that the spread of antipathy toward Jews through the world would eventually strengthen internal Jewish feelings of solidarity and return assimilated Jews to full identification with their people.86 Accordingly, he believed, the long-range problems associated with declining natural increase would fi nd solution on their own. Mounting unemployment among Jews, caused to a degree by discriminatory legislation and a dearth of emigration outlets, would reverse the hitherto-growing desire of Jewish women to enter the work force; women would instead be motivated to remain at home, bear children, and raise them. Poverty would “remove . . . one of the chief causes of birth control” among Jews, while the Nazis’ “enforced abandonment of free relationships with non-Jews and gradual exclusion [of Jews] from public amusements have all made the previously extremely individualistic German Jew more family-minded.”87 In sum, he declared in a triumphant tone, “If the preceding analysis is not altogether erroneous . . . , the Jewish people and their religion are going to survive the present extraordinary crisis.”88

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The Jewish people and their religion did survive, to be sure, but not before losing a third of their number in what Baron later termed “a far greater destruction than what any Jewish community ever experienced in a history filled with destructive episodes.”89 Such was clearly not the sort of survival he had in mind. In a 1942 lecture entitled “The Effect of the War on Jewish Communal Life” he still held out the possibility that “the cultural re-awakening of East-Central European Jewry may . . . prove to be unexpectedly speedy and profound.” 90 Of course, neither his own paradigm nor any other one could have enabled him to foresee the Nazi campaign to annihilate all European Jewry, even when killing ran counter to vital German material interests; even less could it have predicted the extent to which the campaign achieved its aim. Yet his failure to anticipate any impending catastrophe does not appear to have undermined his faith in the paradigm’s validity. True, in the introduction to the expanded edition of the Social and Religious History, which he wrote in 1951, Baron warned that “the story of the Jewish dispersion, the friendly or unfriendly relations between Jews and their neighbors, economic and social transformations, even the development of the Jewish religion—all assume new aspects when viewed from the standpoint of the tragic decline of European Jewry, the Nazi and Communist onslaught on the foundations of the Judeo-Christian civilization, and the newer world-wide economic and cultural trends.” 91 Nevertheless, his basic approach to the study of Jewish history, as outlined in the expanded edition’s first chapter, remained by and large unchanged, as he himself noted.92 In subsequent volumes of the revised History he continued to lash out against the “lachrymose conception,” warning that the powerful impression left by the Holocaust was liable to frustrate efforts to overcome it.93 When, as an expert witness for the prosecution at the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, a principal functionary of the Nazi murder program, he sketched the historical background of the Holocaust and described the situation of European Jewry in its aftermath, he cut his testimony, which he prepared in advance, from the same die he had employed during the 1930s to trace the crisis of that decade: first a demographic overview emphasizing changes in the rate of Jewish natural increase, followed by analysis of the effects of industrialization upon Jewish life, a country-by-country survey of Jewish legal status



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and the course of emancipation, a profile of Jewish communal organization, comments on Jewish cultural activity and Jewish contributions to general European cultural life, and a meticulous comparison of Nazi anti-Jewish legislation to laws concerning Jews enacted by Christian authorities in the middle ages.94 In a 1963 essay reviewing changes in Jewish historiography since 1939, he declared anew that “all my life I have been struggling against the hitherto dominant ‘lachrymose conception of Jewish history’—a term which I have been using for more than forty years95—because I have felt that, by exclusively overemphasizing Jewish sufferings, it distorted the total picture of Jewish historic evolution”; the declaration came while discussing the influence (negative, in his view) that the Holocaust had exerted upon Jewish notions of heroism.96 In short, Baron displayed little conviction that the Holocaust demanded a new approach to writing the history of the Jews. Baron’s continued disparagement of lachrymosity may have put him at odds with a Jewish public that found in the destruction of European Jewry easy confirmation of the rabbinic dictum that “Esau always hates Jacob,” 97 but there is no doubt that his steadfastness won him admirers among historians of the Jews. “Only a world-class historian would have persisted” in his initial path in the face of the calamities of the 1940s, ventured Ismar Schorsch; “[Baron held] his ground to the very end, even at the risk of falling out of sync with his own time.” 98 Even before the Holocaust, he declared, Baron had demonstrated uncanny courage in calling for revision of his era’s dominant Jewish historiographical paradigm, for “the modern period . . . had only strengthened its hold.” 99 According to Schorsch, lachrymose tendencies had struck root in the modern historiography of the Jews during the second half of the nineteenth and first decades of the twentieth century largely under the impact of contemporary developments—the lull in progress toward emancipation following the failure of the 1848 revolutions, the appearance of the antisemitic movement in Germany and the Habsburg Empire, the Dreyfus Affair in France, and above all the First World War, which brought hitherto unprecedented destruction to the great Jewish centers of east Central Europe. Times like those, he observed, were “hardly conducive to rethinking Jewish history in more balanced terms.”100 No wonder, then, in Schorsch’s view,

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that plaintive descriptions of the Jewish past were still the norm in Jewish historical writing when Baron enlisted against them. By contrast, Baron, as Schorsch understood him, “fought the irresistible tendency to let the present color the past.”101 And if it was difficult to fight this trend during the 1930s, Schorsch observed, how much harder it became after the obliteration of two-thirds of European Jewry. Nevertheless, he proclaimed, with obvious pride in his master’s achievement, Baron “dared to write against the spirit of the Holocaust, against the stampede to generalize, against the impulse to turn a historical event into a worldview.”102 For Schorsch, as for many of his colleagues, the absence of any significant post-Holocaust change in Baron’s approach to writing Jewish history provided a model for emulation: the Holocaust was not to be permitted to affect the manner in which any earlier period or episode in the history of the Jews would be perceived or represented. ✻

Matters are not quite so simple, however. In the event, Baron’s understanding of his injunction against lachrymosity was rather different from the interpretation his latter-day disciples have attached to it. Baron inveighed against the lachrymose conception for complex, interconnected intellectual, professional, and Jewish communal reasons. In the most basic sense his position comprised an entry in an ideological debate that has engaged Jewish thinkers and public figures since the end of the eighteenth century concerning whether Jews who have obtained civic equality in their countries of residence remain in a state of exile. That question burst forth after the revolutionary French National Assembly’s decision of 27 September 1791 to abolish all restrictions that French law had hitherto imposed upon Jews and to recognize any Jew taking the standard oath of allegiance to the French state as a fullfledged citizen. This new status challenged the traditional conception of exile as punishment from heaven, which figured exilic Jews as “enslaved” to the descendants of Esau until the arrival of the Messiah, “temporary sojourners” among the “rightful inhabitants” of the lands to which they had been scattered, “until the day comes of which it is written, ‘A star rises from Jacob, a meteor comes forth from Israel’ . . . to burn Esau’s straw.”103 The act of the National Assembly appeared to



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transform the Jews of France (“in a flash,” as the Alsatian Jewish manufacturer Berr Isaac Berr put it in a statement to his coreligionists immediately following the act’s adoption) from “wretched slaves, simple serfs, tolerated figures in this kingdom” into “countrymen sharing in its common duties and rights”—all at the behest of the French nation itself, unbeaten and unbowed, without messianic intervention and without the Jews’ return to their historic homeland in triumph.104 As a result, many contemporary Jews adopted the view that Israel’s salvation might well be accomplished in ways that traditional understandings of exile had not foreseen. According to Berr, for instance, “God . . . chose the generous French nation to return our rights to us and to bring about our regeneration, just as in former days he chose Antiochus, Pompey, and others to degrade and enslave us.”105 Thus, he anticipated, the road to improving the unfortunate situation of Jews the world over would be paved not with tribulations but with incentives offered by their non-Jewish neighbors, who hoped to divert them from the path of error so that they might “once again enjoy recognition as a learned and enlightened nation, as God Himself wishes us to be recognized.”106 It seemed reasonable to conclude that physical exile from the Holy Land and relegation to the status of a perpetual minority among the earth’s nations did not necessarily entail everlasting suffering; the concept of exile, as it had been understood since antiquity and transmitted through the generations, no longer fit the postrevolutionary situation.107 Severing the essential connection between dispersion and exile had far-reaching consequences for how postemancipation Jewish writers understood and represented their own communities’ histories. Over the course of generations Jews in most places had become accustomed to regarding their situations as the practical expression of exilic distress, even if the actual conditions in which they lived were relatively benign. Thus, for example, the Italian Jewish man of letters Leone da Modena, preaching in Venice in 1593, complained of the “many and awful sorrows that beset us today,”108 even though at the time the Venetian Jewish community was expanding both demographically and economically, its members expressed no immediate fear for their physical safety, and the legal charters that guaranteed Jews the right of residence in the Venetian Republic were regularly renewed.109 To be sure, those rights were

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restricted to a designated area, and Jews were forced to wear special identifying marks. However, Modena’s characterization of Venetian Jewry’s daily experience as one of “many and awful sorrows” was likely rooted less in the community’s daily lived experience than in a stereotypic understanding of the exilic state: no matter how favorable conditions may have been, they had to be interpreted as miserable, because misery was an essential characteristic of exile.110 With the French Revolution, the power of that stereotype was substantially weakened and contemporary Jews encouraged to reevaluate the quality of Jewish life in both their own and earlier times. One new evaluation, of which Berr Isaac Berr was a harbinger, accepted the earlier stereotype as an accurate description of Jewish life not only in prerevolutionary times but in those countries where contemporary Jews had still not achieved the benefits of civic equality according to the revolutionary model. On the other hand, it posited a profound rupture, even an abyss, between that situation and the condition of emancipated Jewry: Jews who were not equal citizens of their countries of residence might still be regarded as living in exile (if only in a secular sense that they suffered for this-worldly reasons, not as divine punishment), but the term was no longer appropriate for Jews who had been accepted into their countries’ political communities, even though they continued to live far from their historic center in the Holy Land. On the contrary, the situation of those latter Jews seemed more aptly described as one of redemption. Accordingly a French Jew proclaimed that emancipation had made “France . . . our Land of Israel, its mountains our Zion, its rivers our Jordan.”111 In similar fashion an editorial in Sulamith, the first periodical for Jews in the German language, asserted that “the true and correct idea of the Messiah is simply that one day the Jews will be freed from oppression and tribulations—that is, when they enjoy the same human rights as others.”112 In that spirit the Jewish Consistory of Westphalia, a supercommunal supervisory body appointed by the French authorities who had recently occupied the German-speaking region, expunged several passages from the traditional Jewish synagogue ritual (like the twice-weekly recitation of the petition asking God to “look down from heaven and see how we have become despised and derided among the nations, like sheep being led



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to slaughter, to be killed and obliterated, beaten and disgraced”) on the grounds that, as one communal leader explained, “God in His mercy has favored us with His grace and allowed us to dwell safely in our land . . . , with nothing to harm us, and our fellow Jews . . . reside peacefully and securely; the country is open wide to them, just as it is to all other residents.”113 In Italy the prominent Jewish thinker and biblical commentator Samuel David Luzzatto announced that Jews were no longer “like a sheep being led to the slaughter, like a ewe, dumb before those who shear her,” for “today, now that times have changed . . . , [and the rights of Jews] have been recognized virtually everywhere . . . , Judaism is no longer an object of hatred and [the Jewish people] not persecuted.” Jews, to his mind, could now interact with the nations of the world with a feeling of security and pride.114 Such a conception underlay the earliest efforts by Jews to study their past with the tools of the modern European academy. Isaac Markus Jost, the first Jew to attempt a secular, scholarly, comprehensive history of the Jews, declared in 1828 that following the French Revolution “a new world presented itself to the Jews,” one that “not only spread balm over [their] wounds but healed the sick, awakened the slumbering . . . , elevated the poor, and brought the desperate and despised into the human race.”115 According to Heinrich Graetz, the most widely read nineteenth-century historian of the Jews, “the French Revolution constituted a court that in a single day wiped away the sins of a millennium,” while for the Jews, “the basest and most reviled element of European society,” it brought “the day of redemption and liberation after so long a period of enslavement.”116 “Now,” he announced proudly, “the Jewish people marches before our eyes toward a renewal of its youthful vigor in a way no one could have imagined until now.”117 Even Simon Dubnow, founding father of the so-called sociological school of Jewish historiography—who from his East European vantage point in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries regarded the product of emancipation with some suspicion—depicted the French Revolution as a historic watershed separating the period of Jews’ existence as “foreigners with no state of their own . . . , lacking the protection of international covenants,” from one in which Jews were “raised up . . . from the abyss of slavery.”118 In short, the principal figures in

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the emerging modern Jewish historiographical enterprise during its first century by and large accepted the traditional stereotype of exile as an accurate description of prerevolutionary Jewish life, whereas they figured the postrevolutionary epoch as the polar opposite, an age of grace and redemption in which Jews and non-Jews alike lived under their vines and fig trees with none to make them afraid.119 Baron was the first historian of the Jews to challenge this view directly. He did so initially in 1928, at age thirty-three, only two years after migrating from Vienna to New York, well before appointment at Columbia was visible on the horizon. His critique, in an article entitled “Ghetto and Emancipation: Shall We Revise the Traditional View?” caused a stir not only in academic circles but also among the broader Jewish public, especially in the United States. In this essay Baron first employed the phrase “the lachrymose theory of pre-Revolutionary woe” as a designation for the common representation of emancipation as “the dawn of a new day after a nightmare of the deepest horror,”120 identifying this perception with Graetz, Dubnow, and other nineteenthcentury historians, who had allegedly bequeathed it to “Jews, rabbis, scholars and laymen, throughout the Western world.”121 The historians, he suggested, had led the public astray, for “a more critical examination of the supposed gains after the Revolution and fuller information concerning the Jewish Middle Ages both indicate that we may have to revaluate radically our notions of Jewish progress under Western liberty.”122 In truth, he maintained, before the French Revolution “the Jews had fewer duties and more rights than the great bulk of the population”; the number of Europe’s Jews had grown at a faster pace than the number of Christians “despite minor attacks, periodic pogroms, and organized campaigns of conversion”; and “despite all the restrictions placed on [Jews’] activities, . . . the average Jewish income much surpassed the average Christian income.”123 The institution of the ghetto, which for postrevolutionary generations symbolized the degradation and helplessness of medieval Jewish existence, was actually, in his representation, “an institution that the Jews had found it to their interest to create themselves,” in which “Jewry was enabled to live a full, rounded life . . . under a corporate governing organization.”124 In contrast, he declared, emancipation had robbed Jewish autonomy of



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its foundations; Jews had been slated to merge into their surrounding societies to the point of collective disappearance, and the long-standing Jewish “concept of the inseparability of nationality and religion” had been effaced.125 Hence his conclusion: [I]t is clear that Emancipation has not brought the Golden Age. While Emancipation has meant a reduction of ancient evils, and while its balance sheet for the world at large as well as for the Jews is favorable, it is not completely clear of debits. Certainly its belief in the efficacy of a process of complete assimilation has been proved untenable. Autonomy as well as equality must be given its place in the modern State, and much time must pass before these two principles will be fully harmonized and balanced. Perhaps the chief task of this and future generations is to attain that harmony and balance. Surely it is time to break with the lachrymose theory of pre-Revolutionary woe, and to adopt a view more in accord with historic truth.126

Baron’s summation demonstrated clearly that it was not only the lachrymose theory’s deviation from historical truth as he understood it that bothered him; it was also concern that that view of the past deleteriously affected Jewish life in the present. No doubt such concern prompted him to disseminate his views not in an academic publication with narrow circulation but in the monthly Menorah Journal, the most widely read contemporary North American platform for intellectual exchanges on matters of contemporary Jewish interest. Indeed, the article criticized not only professional historians but also the two leading rival Jewish ideological movements in the United States, Reform Judaism and Zionism, for propagating a false view of the past. Both movements, Baron claimed, “notwithstanding their profound differences . . . , found that their positions were best supported by that view of history which held that before the Revolution European Jewry had lived in extreme wretchedness”; “they differed only in that the Zionists denounced the post-Revolutionary period as equally bad.”127 As a result, he warned, Reform Jews succumbed to the blandishments of emancipation with far too much gusto, without adequately considering the heavy cultural, psychological, and political price it demanded, while Zionists failed to recognize the possibilities for creative Jewish existence in diaspora or to

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appreciate the benefits Jews might gain from building cordial relationships with non-Jews in their diverse countries of residence. Moreover, Baron doubted that modern nation-states, even those with the most impeccably liberal and democratic regimes, provided a propitious framework for establishing such relationships. He thus raised the banner of “a modified medievalism . . . , a medievalism on a higher plane, perhaps, but a medievalism just the same, of organization, standardization, and regulation.”128 Such a “modified medievalism” was epitomized for him in the demands of various European national minorities, including Jews, after the First World War for political arrangements embodying “the equilibrium between their full rights as citizens and the special minority rights they think necessary to protect their living national organism from destruction and absorption by the majority,” and he expressed satisfaction that lately such claims had been advanced “not without success.”129 Still, he admonished, Jews were unlikely to remain in step with this positive trend as long as they clung to the stereotypic views of exile upon which both Reform Judaism and Zionism were based.130 Twentieth-century Jewish historians were thus charged, to his mind, with the vital task of weaning their fellow Jews from harmful notions of the past. Baron continued to develop his outlook over the next decade, until it found full elaboration in the 1937 edition of the Social and Religious History. In the introduction to that grand synthesis Baron expressed his reservations about Zionism by praising the “emancipation from state and territory” that the Jewish people had achieved from the earliest stages of its history.131 True, he acknowledged, the absence of a geographical anchor exposed Jews to much misfortune through the ages, but it ultimately heightened the historical consciousness upon which their collective identity was based, endowing them with “the religious and ethnic power of perseverance” that sustained them after “all the mighty empires of antiquity” were forced to abandon the historical stage.132 Indeed, one of the work’s principal themes, alongside the interaction of social and religious factors in Jewish history, was the development of that unique Jewish historical consciousness and the decisive role it purportedly played in the Jews’ survival. From this perspective Baron also continued to criticize the Reform movement for conceiving



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of Judaism as a set of abstract tenets detached from the Jewish people’s historical experience. In the ideology of Reform, he wrote, “the Jewish people . . . lost its essential standing within the Jewish creed”;133 the Reform approach had not struck deep root among Jews precisely because it denied the historical dimension of Jewish identity.134 Therefore, he warned, neither Reform nor Zionism could deliver a suitable ideology to guide the Jewish people in the present; neither movement accurately grasped the true spirit of Judaism as revealed in Jewish history. Criticism of the two movements came to a head in the concluding chapter of the Social and Religious History, in which Baron undertook, “from the vantage point of past experience, . . . not only to evaluate the present, but also to sketch rough outlines of the future.”135 The chapter began from the premise, adumbrated in “Ghetto and Emancipation,” that emancipation had upset the Jews’ internal equilibrium. To Baron’s mind, that jolt lay at the root of the deep crisis the Jewish people was experiencing in his own day.136 Behind all the tangible signs of crisis— demographic decline, occupational imbalance, spreading anti-Jewish discrimination, erosion of religious norms in Jews’ daily lives—he discerned a fundamental spiritual anxiety: “There has been heard for decades the unceasing question: will the Jews survive?” That such a question troubled so many Jews in his time proved, in his view, “that the day of nonreflective persistence along the path of well-established folk life has passed, and that a new rationale is needed for the approaching decisive struggle for existence.”137 Judaism thus seemed to him in need of “a thoroughgoing reformulation,”138 but for reasons he had already explained, neither Reform nor Zionism could be counted upon to provide what was required.139 Hence, he concluded, “the interpretation and reinterpretation of the history of the people, a kind of historic Midrash, is now to serve as a guidance for the future.”140 For him, one of the chief tasks of Jewish historians was to provide the specific content for the new midrash and to shape it into an instructive master narrative.141 In this context, Baron saw negation of lachrymosity as an indispensable counterweight to a view of the past that sapped the strength of the Jewish public:

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It was . . . not without hesitation that [I] undertook some years back . . . to reveal the historical foundations as well as the inadequacies of “the lachrymose conception of Jewish history.” . . . Quite evidently this lachrymose conception of Jewish history has served as an eminent means of social control from the days of the ancient rabbis, and its repudiation now might help further to weaken the authority of Jewish communal leadership. On closer analysis, however, we can easily perceive that such weakening is the cause rather than the effect of the new historical orientation. . . . As a result of the economic, social, intellectual, and ultimately also political emancipation there had started a complete disintegration of Jewish communal control long before the nineteenth century. . . . That is why . . . the removal of outworn historical conceptions is not only dictated by the scientific conscience of the investigator . . . but may also . . . pave the way towards . . . a new philosophy of Jewish history which would more closely correspond to our own modern social needs and our new intellectual requirements.142

The most important contribution toward the new midrash that Baron envisioned for the antilachrymose approach was to strengthen contemporary Jews’ sense that they were still able to influence the conditions in which they lived. “Rejecting the passivity of fatalistic answers,” he declared, “most thoughtful Jews seek new, rational vistas into the future. Above all, they seek to know their rôle in the events which are to shape the destinies of their people.”143 Lachrymosity, as Baron represented it, ran counter to that desire, for it described the Jew as passive and submissive, devoid of political awareness, one whose fate depended entirely upon the actions of non-Jews. In contrast, Baron’s emphasis upon the generations-long patterns of mutual interactions between Jews and non-Jews and upon the benefit that both parties derived from them emphasized the ability of Jews in certain circumstances to affect their environment and to improve the conditions that others sought to determine for them. Even though Jews did not ordinarily wield significant political power, their history had equipped them, in Baron’s words, with “powers other than political, which were their full equivalent.”144 The Jewish people, he observed, knew from earliest times to remain afloat in “the whirl of world politics and commerce”



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and to make the best of what history meted out.145 He found an outstanding example of that ability during the time when Islam was on the rise: even though their “political and legal status and their relations with the Gentile world were determined by a hostile and zealous state religion,” the Jews, he noted, nonetheless distinguished themselves “in numerical and geographic expansiveness, in economic enterprise and affluence, [and] in intellectual interests and creativy,” to the point where the era became one of revival.146 In medieval Christendom, too, Jews had, by Baron’s account, successfully adapted their traditional model of internal communal organization to the dominant framework of the corporate state so as to constitute “a cultural and political body, with all the characteristics of a powerful state within the state.”147 Directing the historiographical spotlight toward similar examples of successful adjustment to hostile surroundings was supposed to infuse Jews with the hope they required to carry on the Jewish people’s struggle for existence in the twentieth century. Additionally, the story of successful adaptation that Baron told could, he believed, not only restore Jews’ faith in their ability to survive but also persuade them that their collective survival and that of the culture they bore were indeed worth fighting for. He taught that Jews had learned to adjust to changing historical situations thanks largely to their persistent exemplification of certain fundamental characteristics and principles that contributed to human progress as a whole. The most outstanding of these was, he believed, an abiding optimism and faith in the ability of human beings to build a better world for themselves.148 One of the vital expressions of that faith was what he called Jewish “internationalism”; as he put it, “Jewish messianic humanitarianism and internationalism spring from the same root.”149 In Baron’s day the term internationalism signified a specific referent—the ongoing efforts of certain international organizations and political activists, focused since the end of the First World War upon the League of Nations, to limit the sovereignty of modern nation-states by integrating them into a global political framework that would guarantee equal rights and a share of state power to residents of all countries, whether or not they belonged to a state’s dominant national group. Baron had already alluded to those efforts in “Ghetto and Emancipation”;150 like

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many Jewish leaders at the time he was an ardent proponent of the League of Nations and of the postwar minorities treaties signed by fourteen newly created or expanded states in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East, with whose enforcement the league had been charged.151 In the Social and Religious History he described the league and the minorities treaties as both the embodiment of an ancient Jewish ideal and the best chance for implementing one of the clearest lessons of Jewish history—that “the status of the Jews was most favorable in pure states of nationalities (i.e., states in which several ethnic groups were included, none having the position of a dominant majority) [and] least favorable in national states (i.e., where state and nationality, in the ethnic sense, were more or less identical).”152 He viewed the campaign to strengthen the international community vis-à-vis the Europeanstyle nation-state as an extraordinary opportunity to combine a particularistic Jewish interest with a universal human one: Jews were in a position to foster restoration of the equilibrium the world had known during the middle ages but lost with the transition to the modern era. Here, he thought, lay the most convincing contemporary reason for Jews to carry on their struggle for survival. However, he warned, they were not likely to dedicate themselves adequately to that struggle unless they internalized the true lessons of their past, foremost among them the fundamental truth that they themselves were ultimately responsible for their own fate.153 As a result, Baron regarded correction of the lachrymose conception of Jewish history not only as a requirement for historical accuracy but also as a prerequisite for meaningful Jewish existence in his own day. Conveniently, too, the call to disavow lachrymosity offered him personal and professional advantage. Baron first delivered his message while serving on the faculty of New York’s Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), founded by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise in 1922 to train rabbis and Jewish communal leaders from all denominations and ideological streams. Wise himself was identified with the Reform movement; however, he fashioned himself a “liberal” Jew and did not hesitate to criticize central aspects of Reform doctrine.154 One of the main targets of his criticism was the movement’s long-standing hostility to Zionism. Wise was an active Zionist, though he valued Zionism more as a way to



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instill pride in diaspora Jews than as a vehicle for concentrating the Jewish people in Palestine.155 His position at the interstices between Reform and Zionism and his ongoing efforts to build bridges between the two movements no doubt appealed to Baron, who wrote in “Ghetto and Emancipation” of the need for mutual rapprochement based upon revision of traditional tenets.156 Wise also served as president of the American Jewish Congress and was known as one of the leading proponents of international guarantees of minority rights for East European Jewry.157 Baron was active in congress activities in this area, both during his years at JIR (1926–1930) and afterward; in 1929 he even traveled to Romania on behalf of the congress in order to investigate conditions for Jews there.158 It thus seems reasonable to suppose that Baron’s historiographical approach earned him Wise’s favor—an important asset for a young scholar, a newcomer in the United States and a foreign citizen,159 who during his first years at JIR encountered notable opposition to his appointment and advancement from faculty colleagues.160 Baron’s historiographical outlook may have facilitated his integration into the history department at Columbia. In 1930, when he was invited to assume the newly endowed chair in Jewish history, academic Jewish studies in both the United States and Europe were confi ned chiefly to modern rabbinical seminaries; the Columbia chair was one of the first Jewish studies positions to be established at a university anywhere in the world.161 Thus the Jewish historiographical agenda had been shaped largely by Jewish communal considerations; the concerns of the historical profession at large were of marginal concern. That agenda was fundamentally practical and action oriented: one of its paramount aims was to endow contemporary Jews with a usable past, to inject new meaning into Jewish tradition for a generation that had ceased to believe, by and large, in a special divinely mandated Jewish destiny. In pursuing this goal, historians of the Jews had tended to highlight the differences between Jewish history and the history of other human groups; similarities between Jews and others interested them less.162 As long as Baron taught at JIR he encountered no pressures or incentives to abandon this practice. As a result, “Ghetto and Emancipation” embodied a clear Jewish communal perspective. In particular, it advanced no argument in principle that the history of the Jews should

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not be conceived as exceptional.163 Such a position, however, was more difficult to maintain in a department of history at a premier non-Jewish academic institution. In fact, that difficulty may well have been one of the considerations that led Baron, during negotiations over his appointment, to request affiliation with the department of religion or Semitic languages instead of history, or even creation of a separate, one-person department of Jewish history.164 Indeed, a veteran Columbia historian later recalled that some faculty members shared Baron’s view; to their minds, “Jewish history . . . did not really belong in a history department but possibly in Semitics or maybe in a Department of Exotica.”165 Whatever the case, from the moment Baron joined the history department he was exposed to historiographical approaches he had likely not encountered before. Since the early 1920s Columbia had been in the forefront of the so-called new history movement—a platform that gave primacy to the economic, social, and cultural aspects of the human experience against earlier generations’ emphasis upon politics and the state.166 One of the leading new historians, James Shotwell, represented the history department on the committee that recommended Baron’s appointment; another, Carlton Hayes, served at the time as department chair.167 There were points of convergence between Baron’s historiographic outlook and that of the new history. Not only did both favor “sociological” explanations of past events over explanations evoking fi xed ideas or principles; both also shared a belief in the responsibility historians owed their surrounding society.168 Though by his own testimony his new colleagues did not receive him warmly at first, Baron found a way to reach out to them by stressing those common views. Evidently he hoped to demonstrate that his scholarly work was informed by the canons of the historical discipline as interpreted by the history department at Columbia and that he was determined to study the history of the Jews according to the same methods, models, and procedures that were routinely employed in investigating the history of all other human groups. In 1938 he made that determination explicit, pointing to it as one of the guiding principles that had shaped his recently published Social and Religious History.169 In his view, the lachrymose approach to



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Jewish history ran counter to this principle precisely because it stressed, in Graetz’s formulation, the “unprecedented sufferings” endured by Jews throughout their history and represented the “degradation and oppression that grew with each passing century” as a phenomenon that had occurred “only once in world history.”170 Here, most likely, was the source of Baron’s comment in the first edition of the Social and Religious History that the lachrymose conception failed because “modern historical treatment can no longer be satisfied with the enumeration of wars and diplomatic conflicts.”171 The parallel he drew between the “old” historiography’s purportedly excessive emphasis upon “kings and battles” and earlier Jewish historiography’s emphasis upon suffering was not logically necessary, but drawing it made good sense in light of his desire to win his new colleagues’ acceptance as one of them. If such were indeed the considerations that catalyzed Baron’s approach—a drive to adapt the study of Jewish history to the norms of the leading history departments in American universities, a desire to construct a new historical midrash that would meet the needs of contemporary Jews, and a feeling that the lachrymose conception fundamentally misrepresented both the middle ages and the modern era—it is not surprising that the Holocaust did not prompt reevaluation. Indeed, the same considerations applied following the Second World War as they had before. True, the Cold War dimmed the appeal of some aspects of the new history, including its sometimes critical view of liberal democracy.172 But on the other hand, the integration of Jewish studies, especially Jewish history, into the general academy had not progressed much beyond the point it had reached at the time of Baron’s initial appointment in 1930. In 1945 there were ten institutions of higher learning in the United States in which some aspect of Jewish studies was taught. Most courses in these universities or colleges focused on Hebrew language, Bible, Jewish philosophy, or rabbinic literature; only a minority were historically oriented. Twenty years later the number of institutions had risen to sixty-three, but in only five did a member of the standing faculty offer a course in Jewish history, and Columbia remained the only university where the subject formed part of a history department’s regular offerings.173 Recognition of Jewish history as a legitimate field of specialization by the historical profession in the United States still

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appeared far off to the few who pursued it actively.174 Baron’s promotion of what would eventually be called the “normalization of Jewish history”—study of the Jewish past according to “the same rules, the same methods, the same modes of explanation that would be used in the historical study of any social group”175—thus remained relevant. So, too, following the destruction of European Jewry, did the thought that more than ever before the Jewish people needed a reason to persevere. Toward the end of the war Baron had argued explicitly that his understanding of Jewish history would make such a reason easier to identify: Most of all, we must endeavor to become again masters of our destiny. After Hitler’s rise to power it became fashionable in certain German intellectual circles, overwhelmed by the unprecedented torrent of hostility, to assert that Jews had always been but objects, not subjects, of their history. The destinies of the Jewish people, these writers contended, had always been determined not only by the changing tides of hostility or friendliness of the majority peoples, but also by such purely external circumstances as business cycles, international amity or conflicts, and other political and cultural movements of national or worldwide scope. They were, however, prone to forget that . . . in each particular case, similar assertions could be made with regard to the history of any people or any religious community. . . . [T]he history of each people has really been a constant interplay of both external and internal forces. Certainly Jewish history has been such a combination of forces. Without an inner determination to survive, without strong beliefs and a rich culture and powerful institutions, the Jewish people could not possibly have come down the ages and weathered the overwhelming odds of external antagonism. The course of Jewish history has always been, and must continue to be in the future, a dynamic series of compromises—adjustments between the people’s inner will, clad in cultural and institutional forms, to retain its Jewishness, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the circumstances created by both international and domestic developments in the various countries of Jewish settlement.176

Baron maintained that after the Holocaust Jews would be able to demonstrate “an inner determination to survive” only if they “reformulated



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Jewish culture to make it a living and creative force during the new historical epoch dawning upon us.” The primary task of Jewish communal organizations was, in his view, to direct the process of reformulation. Yet, he warned, those institutions were directing most of their resources to the “negative” battle against the hostility of others instead of to “more constructive activities.”177 Baron argued that such an allocation would neither eliminate hostility nor protect Jews from its harmful effects: “Only as we succeed in instilling in our own people, especially in our children, the feeling of the worthiness of being Jews . . . will antisemitism be for us something like any other external cause of suffering, like disease or hunger, which we shall combat with all the means at our disposal but which never will impair our morale.”178 Evidently he thought that devoting less attention to the enmity non-Jews had shown Jews over the generations while emphasizing the heritage of Jewish creativity served Jewish public needs in 1945 no less than they had in 1930. In 1951 he even declared explicitly that lachrymosity could not be “of ser vice to our generation.”179 In 1963 he repeated the argument nearly verbatim: “The hitherto dominant ‘lachrymose conception of Jewish history’ . . . served badly a generation which had become impatient with the ‘nightmare’ of endless persecutions and massacres.”180 Baron continued to recoil from the lachrymose conception on factual grounds as well. He remained convinced that the historiographical approach he had forged during the 1920s and 1930s accurately reflected the problems and possibilities for Jewish existence in both the middle ages and modern times. Indeed, Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of the Jews of Europe made the medieval period seem, in his view, a relatively felicitous and secure era, precisely the opposite of what lachrymose historians were accustomed to suggest. Indeed, on several occasions Baron declared that any comparison between the condition of Jews under Nazi rule and their situation before the French Revolution “malign[ed] the Middle Ages.”181 In his testimony at the Eichmann trial he explained that although “there were riots during the middle ages . . . , there is no evidence that . . . anyone in authority ordered such things”; “Kristallnacht [in November 1938] was perhaps the first time . . . in which the government itself made pogroms against the Jews.” He called medieval

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times “an era of order,” in which “a certain type of justice” applied to Jews and Christians alike. In contrast, he explained, Hitler excluded Jews from his new order and beset them with “numerous liabilities.” For these and other reasons he concluded that “the Nazi movement not only did not set the clock back—that is, the clock of modern development that promoted greater emancipation, greater liberty, and greater equality—but brought new elements into the world that had no precedent and differed from the more than two millennia of antisemitic history.”182 Moreover, according to Baron, even when Nazi persecutions were at their height both Jewish and non-Jewish observers tended for the most part to interpret them as repetitions of medieval mistreatment—a fundamental misunderstanding that “misled quite a few contemporaries” as to the Hitler regime’s intentions.183 For that misperception Baron explicitly blamed the lachrymose conception: Jewish champions of egalitarianism have often been permeated with such messianic fervor that they were prone to paint the emancipation era all white against an abysmally dark background of “medieval” sufferings. The medieval civilization came to be accepted in Jewish historiography and by the Jewish public at large as a period of complete Jewish rightlessness, in which the wandering Ahasver was hunted from place to place, frequently expelled, if not massacred, always treated with disdain by his rapacious overlords, and tolerated on the lowest possible plane only because his economic and fiscal functions as tradesman, moneylender, and taxpayer were urgent necessities for the countries of his settlement. It was from this state of bondage and serfdom that he was “emancipated,” that is, achieved liberty and human dignity. So deeply had this misconception sunk into the minds of the Jewish people and their liberal non-Jewish friends, that when Hitler came to power in 1933 the Nazis and their opponents alike often spoke of the revival of the “medieval” status of Jewry.184

For all these reasons Baron warned against regarding the Holocaust as a typical manifestation of the multidimensional dynamics that shaped the course of Jewish history. Such an admonition, however, is hardly tantamount to a demand that the Holocaust be sequestered from the agenda of the Jewish historiographical project. On the



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contrary, the reasons Baron advanced for continuing to spurn lachrymosity in the Holocaust’s wake might just as well have strengthened his reservations concerning the effects of emancipation and underscored the need he espoused for a radical revaluation of the medieval period in Jewish history. For later generations they might even have turned Baronian antilachrymosity into an exordium for postmodernstyle criticism of modernity. In other words, it is hardly obvious that historians of the Jews interested in following Baron’s lead should have moved the Holocaust to the margins of their professional concern instead of to the center. Indeed, Baron himself never explicitly advocated such marginalization. Quite the opposite: he worked assiduously to encourage the study of the Holocaust precisely within the framework of Jewish history. He promoted such integration from both academic and public platforms. During the years 1941–1954 he served as president of the Conference on Jewish Relations, an institute that fostered scholarly research on Jewish current affairs and recent history; even earlier, from 1937, he edited the conference’s journal, Jewish Social Studies. In 1945 he helped found the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, a body dedicated to locating Jewish books and cultural artifacts that had survived the Nazi onslaught and salvaging them for the Jewish people’s ongoing future benefit. From these positions he initiated academic studies of various aspects of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews.185 Under his leadership Jewish Social Studies became the leading English-language venue for publishing Holocaust-related research.186 Baron also played a central role in introducing Holocaust studies into the American academy. In 1948 he invited his former student from Vienna, Philip Friedman, who had directed the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland for more than a year following its establishment in 1944 and whom Baron regarded as “the father of Jewish Holocaust literature,” to become a research fellow at Columbia and, from 1951, to offer courses on the Holocaust and modern European Jewish history as an adjunct professor.187 He also helped procure funding for Friedman’s research on the social history of the ghettos, Jewish resistance, and efforts to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, among others.188 More notably, he praised Friedman explicitly for an approach to studying the

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Holocaust that sought connections with earlier periods in Jewish history.189 Baron used that approach to promote Friedman’s selection as a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research in 1957. Indeed, Baron termed the study of the Holocaust “a new discipline in Jewish studies,” one that merited the particular attention of specialists in the history of the Jews.190 To be sure, Baron himself did not study the Holocaust per se, nor did he write about its implications for understanding other issues in Jewish history. The reasons why he gave so little personal attention to a matter he considered of great significance cannot be determined with any certainty, since he never explained this aspect of his professional work. Personal considerations may have played a role: his parents and sister perished in 1942 despite Baron’s own feverish efforts to bring them to the United States.191 Perhaps, too, he hesitated to comment on the Holocaust in the absence of documentary and monographic foundations sufficient to support broad historiographical generalization. For decades following the end of the Second World War the work of Holocaust studies consisted largely of gathering and arranging massive quantities of documents scattered across the European continent and beyond and of developing effective research methods and analytical frameworks for interpreting them. Baron was aware of the enormity of the undertaking and did not underestimate its complexity.192 No doubt he concurred with Friedman’s 1950 warning that “research on the Jewish catastrophe of 1939–1945 is still in a prescientific stage,” one that would pass only after the process of gathering and cata loging the necessary source materials had been completed and reliable research aids published.193 In such a situation the field of Holocaust studies was better suited to those who found professional satisfaction in meticulously reconstructing the history of individual Jewish communities than to a scholar like Baron, who, for all his deep appreciation of painstaking archival research, preferred to ponder the larger, long-term dynamics of Jewish history and to sketch broad interpretive designs. Baron, it seems, was content to leave the former sort of work to others, no matter how great an importance he attached to it. In fact, Baron took several steps to encourage others to undertake the formidable research tasks in which he himself did not wish to



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participate. In 1948 he brought Friedman to speak to the American Academy for Jewish Research about studying the Holocaust within the framework of Jewish history. In his lecture Friedman described the efforts that European Jews who had survived the Holocaust were making to document and narrate what had recently befallen them, complaining that those efforts had been left “mostly in the hands of amateurs” who required “instruction, leadership, guidance, and assistance” from professional historians. “The Jewish scholarly institutes and historical societies of the United States and Israel should be the initiators and organizers” of projects for writing the history of the Holocaust, he concluded.194 But though Friedman hoped to inaugurate discussion of the matter among fellows of the academy, and Baron was one of that body’s principal movers, the call fell upon deaf ears. The academy did not assume the leadership role that Friedman had urged upon it; following publication of his lecture in its yearbook in 1949, not a single article on the Holocaust graced the pages of that central publication in the field of Jewish studies. Nevertheless, it seems that one of Baron’s students did take up the challenge inherent in his master’s paradigm, using the Holocaust as an exordium for exposing the less-than-entirely salubrious face modernity had shown toward the Jews and proposing an alternative narrative of Jewish history in the modern period that questioned the standard liberal emancipationist interpretation. In his controversial 1968 book, The French Enlightenment and the Jews, which began as a Columbia University dissertation under Baron’s supervision, Arthur Hertzberg noted that “the era of Western history that began with the French Revolution ended in Auschwitz” and wondered, “Why was the emancipation of the Jews that part of the liberal order which was destroyed most easily and effectively?”195 The answer he proposed echoed his teacher in its implications (if not in its apodictic style): Modern, secular anti-Semitism was fashioned not as a reaction to the Enlightenment and the Revolution, but within the Enlightenment and Revolution themselves. Some of the greatest of the founders of the liberal era modernized and secularized anti-Semitism too. . . . The action of the French Revolution in emancipating the Jews was . . . no simple triumph of liberalism over darkness. The immediate context of

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this declaration and the sources out of which it arose were complicated and not of one piece. . . . The debate about the Jewish question on the way to the Revolution, during it, and after it happened . . . produced not only new, modern Jewish intellectuals and an intelligentsia that was willing to accept them. . . . [A]n anti-Jewish, left-wing intelligentsia arose at the same time. The liberal age in Eu rope was . . . made by the new intellectuals who first appeared in power in the French Revolution. It was to be devastated by the heirs and successors to the anti-Jewish intelligentsia that appeared in the very midst of these events. The outline of all the modern versions of the “Jewish question” . . . existed in 1791. The glories and the tragedies to come had already been conceived.196

Hertzberg’s debt to Baron’s apprehension of the dangers the modern revolutionary settlement posed for Jews is patent. Yet no less striking is the fact that Hertzberg appears to have been the only one among the many historians of modern Jewry who count themselves as Baron’s disciples to take the master’s teaching as an imperative to continue probing the dark underside of that settlement with a mind to assigning a new valence to the modern period. Virtually all of his colleagues applied the antilachrymose platform in an altogether different fashion, emphasizing the continuity of fruitful interactions between Jews and non-Jews and beneficial mutual influences that each group exerted upon the other from the middle ages through the entire era of emancipation.197 That majority interpretation has led, in turn, not to adoption of the Holocaust as a starting point for interrogating the experience of the Jews in the postrevolutionary world but to its practical exclusion from the historiographical agenda. The question remains: Why? ✻

The earliest responses to Hertzberg’s work suggest part of the answer. The French Enlightenment and the Jews received considerable attention during the months following its publication; numerous reviews appeared in scholarly and popular fora, general and Jewish, alike, with opinion divided concerning both the reliability of Hertzberg’s fi ndings and his interpretation of them. Whereas some reviewers accepted the book’s thesis about the significance of the revolution and emancipation



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for European Jewry, others rejected it out of hand; of the latter, some called the thesis exaggerated, others unfounded. One critic argued that emancipation led to “the loss of autonomy and . . . ultimately to the decline of the Jewish community, but not to its destruction.”198 Another complained that Hertzberg “has not . . . shown us what the roots of modern European anti-Semitism are, and . . . cannot do this upon his present assumptions, the connections between ideas and actions being more complex and less abstract than he will allow.”199 Still, it appears that behind the debate over the merits and shortcomings of Hertzberg’s argument lay a feeling that, as one of its admirers explained, “this book is larger than its theme.”200 Virtually all reviewers agreed that the implications of Hertzberg’s thesis extended far beyond the question of what a handful of eighteenth-century French intellectuals thought about Jews and Judaism; what was really at stake was how the modern liberal political order as a whole, including the emancipationist solution to the Jewish question, should be assessed. Little wonder, then, that opinions about the book split largely along ideological lines: virtually all who praised it were either Zionists or American conservatives, while its detractors wrote against it in the name of liberalism and the democratic ideal. Typical of the latter was the opinion of Simon Schama, then a young scholar from Cambridge University: As long as Dr. Hertzberg prosecutes his brief against individual writers his case is irrefutable. When he tries to extend the indictment to the principles of liberalism, his charges fail to stick. Voltaire’s halo may have slipped, but his gospel is not yet anathema. He was a carrier of the [anti-Jewish] bacillus rather than a source of infection.201

The conservative camp, steeped in the spirit of the Cold War, was exemplified by Robert Byrnes of Indiana University, who in 1950 had published a pioneering study of antisemitism in France before turning to the history of Russia and Eastern Europe: This provocative book . . . throws new light upon antisemitism among the national liberals, the socialists, and many “democrats” in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Indeed, one of the ironies of history is that it is now conservatives more than liberals who

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understand the threat posed to the very safety and survival of the Jews and of all religious and ethnic minorities by those whose programs for “perfect” homogenized societies reflect both a cultural arrogance and a totalitarianism which goes back to the Enlightenment.202

Jacob Katz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the book from a Zionist perspective in a review he published (perhaps not by chance) in the monthly Commentary, then emerging as the leading organ of nascent Jewish neoconservatism in the United States: The experience of the Hitler period revealed just how precarious was the situation of all Jewish communities within their respective environments. French Jewry, for instance . . . , underwent the profound shock of losing at one stroke whatever security it had acquired during the period of integration. The phenomenon of integration itself, therefore, has become for the historian a primary object of reexamination; and the burning question behind any such reexamination must necessarily be whether the bargain of emancipation and social acceptance . . . might not have been deeply flawed from the beginning. . . . Hertzberg claims that “the glories and the tragedies to come had already been conceived” in 1791; this is certainly true, if by the term “conceived” we understand not what was contemplated for the future but what was already inherent in the situation.203

The political implications of Hertzberg’s work, as critics and admirers perceived them, together with developments in the American academy and the American Jewish community, forged the basic paradigms through which the generation of historians of the Jews that followed him—in the United States, at least—considered the problems and possibilities presented by using the Holocaust as a lens through which to view earlier episodes in the Jewish past. The members of that generation, most of whom were born between 1935 and 1955, began their careers during the 1960s and 1970s, decades during which the barriers that had kept Jewish studies isolated from the mainstream of American academic life began to fall, and recognition of Jewish history as a legitimate field of specialization within the historical profession, for which Baron and his students had waged an uphill battle for more than thirty years, appeared close at hand. Young historians of the Jews who completed their professional



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training, found employment in new university-based programs in Jewish studies (which sprouted like mushrooms following the Six-Day War), and published their first books and articles around that time took it upon themselves to carry the battle through to successful conclusion.204 Their determination to do so led them to stress ever more forcefully what Baron had proclaimed in the 1930s as Jewish historiography’s guiding principle—that those who study the history of the Jews must work according to the same methods and professional canons that serve their colleagues in other historical fields. In that spirit they sought to place their investigations at the theoretical and methodological cutting edge of the American historical profession as a whole. At the time that cutting edge was moving determinedly away from political and intellectual history, which had dominated historical studies for more than a century, toward social history—a broad attitude toward studying and representing the past that sought to reconstruct “from below” the everyday experience of ostensibly “ordinary,” “inarticulate” men and women who did not belong to their countries’ intellectual or cultural elites, did not consciously act in accordance with clear-cut ideological directives, and left their mark on history less individually than collectively, as members of particular social groups.205 Little wonder, then, that sociohistorical research also dominated the agenda of Jewish historiography.206 The turn to social history proved especially appealing to those whom American political discourse defined as “liberal,” “radical,” or “progressive,” while its critics came largely from conservative or neoconservative circles.207 The young historians of the Jews who joined the turn appear to have been well aware of the political genealogy of social history, and many identified with it. Such, at least, was the impression of Todd Endelman of the University of Michigan, a leading scholar of English Jewry who for three decades has been one of his generation’s most prominent spokesmen: The arrival of social history did more than switch the focus of research from diplomats, writers, and legislators to washerwomen, coal miners, and criminals. There was a strong political or ideological dimension to this shift, which reflected . . . the temper of the times (the 1960s and the 1970s), especially in the universities. For many of its practitioners, doing social history was linked to a commitment to championing the

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dispossessed, the downtrodden, and the inarticulate and rescuing them and other “casualties of history” from obscurity. . . . [E]ven those historians who practiced social history without embracing radical politics endorsed—intentionally or implicitly—a radical understanding of the history of cultures and societies. . . . [S]ocial history democratized the historical landscape and subverted conventional notions of what constitutes historical change. By refusing to [afford] privilege [to] the activities of the rich and the famous, it affirmed a radical egalitarianism.208

Social historians thus tended to place themselves squarely within the modern revolutionary tradition, whether in its liberal or radical incarnation, and to look askance at historical interpretations that cast doubt upon its justice or efficacy. For historians of the Jews that attitude dictated a fundamentally positive evaluation of emancipation, which, after all, purported to constitute the paramount manifestation of the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity in matters of Jewish concern. Indeed, one of the primary benefits that the social history approach offered members of the generation of Jewish historians that came into its own in the 1960s and 1970s was its ability to underwrite a more congenial representation of the results of emancipation than the one seemingly suggested by the catastrophe of the 1940s. In a discussion of how social history had illuminated study of the European Jewish past, Paula Hyman, an outstanding figure of that generation, gave special praise to a series of works that celebrated the vibrant Jewish life and positive Jewish identity displayed by various emancipated Jewries, the creative ways in which postrevolutionary Jews and non-Jews interacted with one another on a daily basis, and the wide range of experiences that typified Jewish communities in different places, while reserving the bulk of her criticism for works built around “the prevailing emancipation/failure of emancipation axis of Jewish historiography.”209 In her view, the chief shortcomings of works in the latter category lay in their failure to undertake “a serious attempt to locate legal documents, ideas, and ideological pronouncements in their social context.”210 The methods of social history thus appeared, inter alia, as a vehicle for correcting the historiographical paradigm focusing upon “the problematic nature of emancipation and the impact of anti-Semitism upon the organizational



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and ideological development of Jewish communities in various European countries.” 211 Among the paradigms that regarded emancipation with suspicion was one commonly associated with Zionism. Indeed, it was a group of scholars identified with the Zionist movement—most of them, ironically, sociologists, demographers, and economists who placed the “ordinary Jew” at the center of their professional attention and were thoroughly attuned to the social context of the phenomena they recounted—who in the early twentieth century fi rst called attention to emancipation’s pitfalls for diaspora Jews and marshaled statistics predicting their demographic demise.212 As a result, the sociohistorical approach that informed the research projects of the generation of Jewish historians of the 1960s and 1970s prompted a reserved attitude toward classical Zionist disparagement of the diaspora. No surprise, then, that such studies have often called attention to what their authors have presented as authentic, vital expressions of Jewishness outside the Jewish homeland.213 Paula Hyman explicitly set her historiographical outlook in opposition to the one she ascribed to Zionism, to the latter’s detriment: [M]any Israeli historians of the modern Jewish experience . . . often force the diverse trends found in the modern Jewish world into a Procrustean bed of Zionist analysis. Viewing modern Jewish history in teleological terms, they see the purpose of all trends in this era as leading to the restoration of a third Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel. . . . [In contrast], within the diaspora, and particularly in North America, modern Jewish historiography has benefited from the flourishing of Judaic studies within the university. A younger generation of Jewish historians of the modern period has emerged that has been rigorously trained in the regnant methodologies of historical study. These scholars, who are open to the uses of the social sciences in historical writing, have introduced a new emphasis on social history to complement the more traditional focus on intellectual history and have thus incorporated the experience of ordinary men and women into modern Jewish historiography. They have also developed an agenda that is distinctly oriented toward diaspora conceptions of Jewry. In fact, the shift of general historiography from its traditional emphasis

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on the exercise of political power, diplomacy, and the study of “great men” to social history and the study of “mentalities” has made it easier to pursue the history of the Jews and to incorporate that scholarship within a general historiographic framework.214

It thus seems clear why proponents of such an approach would object to a book like Hertzberg’s, which, based entirely upon analysis of the writings of members of the French and Jewish elites in the fashion of old-style political and intellectual history, and with no regard whatever for “the experience of ordinary men and women,” inferred the fundamental weakness not only of Jewish emancipation but of the entire revolutionary heritage in a way that strengthened the hand of political conservatives and Zionists. Indeed, some of Hertzberg’s liberal critics hinted that had he placed the writings he analyzed in their correct social context and properly considered the complex nature of the “connections between ideas and actions,” he would have been able to refi ne his sweeping generalizations about French revolutionary attitudes, especially those of the far left, toward Jews—generalizations that, according to the critics, ultimately marred his efforts.215 It also seems clear how Hertzberg’s book gave some critics putative proof of the distortions that follow from employing the Holocaust as a springboard for exploring the distant of more recent Jewish past. According to Hyman, “it is likely that a contemplation of the indifference of most European[s] and Americans, liberals included, to the destruction of European Jewry led Arthur Hertzberg . . . to study Enlightenment attitudes toward the Jews and to conclude—wrongly, I think—that there is a straight line between Voltaire and Auschwitz.”216 Those who admired the book, especially from a Zionist point of view, shared her assumption, though they regarded it as one of the book’s merits instead of a defect. Miriam Yardeni of Haifa University, a student of early modern France, found the book’s main value precisely in the fact that it was “written in the light of the experience of modern antisemitism”; to her mind, it was that very vision that enabled Hertzberg “to distinguish some little-known but major trends in Enlightenment thought.” 217 Jacob Katz, too, detected a post-Holocaust perspective in Hertzberg’s work and considered it one of the book’s most appealing features:



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Paradoxically enough, the attention now being paid to the Jewish communities of Europe is in many ways directly attributable to the fact that for the most part these communities no longer exist; what impels the historian to search through the records of the past is the expectation . . . of finding in them some explanation for the terrible riddle of the Holocaust. . . . This, indeed, is the question that hovers in the background of Arthur Hertzberg’s book. . . . [T]hose who incline to doubt the objectivity of historical research in general will perhaps find additional support for their skepticism in this particu lar combination of scholarship with the perspective of contemporary issues. But the fact is that historical research does not necessarily suffer a decrease in quality when it is motivated by contemporary concerns. . . . Hertzberg’s concern with present-day problems has left traces in his presentation without detracting from the essential scholarly nature of the book; if anything, the connection which he draws with current problems enhances the value of his work for the general reader.218

To be sure, the various interpretations of Hertzberg’s work can be disputed every bit as much as Hertzberg’s own argument about the link between the ideas of Voltaire and Hitler. There can be little doubt, though, of the book’s importance for the development of the academic discussion about the place of the Holocaust in the writing of Jewish history. Indeed, forty years following its appearance, The French Enlightenment and the Jews continues to serve as a focus for debates about the nexus between the modern liberal political order and the Holocaust, as well as about the ways in which that order has affected Jewish life over the course of the past two centuries.219 It appears, moreover, that the book’s perceived political implications continue to affect how readers evaluate not only its specific content but the very concept of linking the Holocaust to earlier chapters in the history of the Jews.220 In any event, those implications may well shed light upon a curious aspect of the prevailing contemporary Jewish historiographical discourse concerning such linkage. The initial rejection with which most historians of the Jews from the generation of the 1960s and 1970s met Hertzberg’s book coincided with the push by the members of that generation teaching in North American universities

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to situate their field closer to the center of gravity of academic history. At that moment academic history in the United States was undergoing a far-reaching conceptual shift, moving from political and intellectual to social history. However, since then the American historical profession has largely replaced the social history model with an alternative one—a “new cultural history,” heavily inflected with the language of postmodernism, whose attitude toward the heritage of the French Revolution is far less unequivocally affi rmative than that of the radical democratic currents that provided much of the impetus for social history.221 As it turns out, Hertzberg’s book stands closer in both spirit and method to the new cutting edge than to the one it supplanted, thanks precisely to the principal characteristics that critics on the left found most objectionable: its argument about the coercive nature of the Eu ropean Enlightenment, its focus upon images of Jews held by French intellectuals instead of upon ordinary Jews in their social context, its exclusive reliance upon textual evidence, and its use of the Holocaust as a window onto the dark underside of modernity. It thus seems reasonable to suppose that if the generation of Jewish historians of the 1960s and 1970s had not been largely successful in establishing itself in the American academy, so that a successive generation did not have to wage the same struggle in the intellectual climate that prevailed three decades later, a book that cast doubt upon aspects of modernity such as Hertzberg’s would have found a more favorable reception among at least some young Jewish studies scholars in the United States. Yet not only have the major figures of the generation of the 1960s and 1970s not altered their view of Hertzberg’s approach in light of subsequent changes in the academy as a whole, but the scholars they have trained, many of whom completed their doctoral studies at the height of the cultural turn, have continued to reject the book and its method even while proving willing in general to adopt certain features of the postmodern program, at least on the rhetorical level.222 It seems that many historians of the Jews working today in the United States do not feel nearly the same compulsion as before to swim unreservedly with the general historiographical current.



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No doubt extra-academic, Jewish communal considerations have fed much of their resistance. Indeed, the postmodern tendency to disparage the value of modernity appears to have touched a sensitive nerve among the significant number of Jewish historians whose professional interests are closely connected with their personal identities as modern Jews. A strong personal commitment to cultivating a modern Jewish identity—one based upon an effort “to reconfigure a narrative understood previously in supernatural terms and render it comprehensible as something of this world,” as Steven Zipperstein has defi ned it 223—turns out to have been one of the primary impulses that led many of them, especially those whose work concerns the modern period, to choose Jewish history as their area of specialization and to pursue it precisely within the secular academy.224 As a result those historians “live within the ironic awareness that the very mode in which [they] delve into the Jewish past represents a decisive break with that past,” 225 one whose roots can be found in the farreaching intellectual, social, and cultural changes that rocked the Jewish world during the modern era. Those changes, in turn, were inseparably connected to “the general . . . attempt, from the eighteenth century in Europe, to bring about through the application of reason, science and technology, a level of social and political wellbeing within social formations” that has been identified as modernity’s defi ning characteristic.226 The Jewish historians in question seem well aware, moreover, that their ability to develop the sort of Jewish identity they seek in a general academic framework depends upon the academy’s own commitment to norms and values anchored in the ethos of the Eu ropean enlightenment, especially a neutral attitude toward matters of religion and ethnic origin. As Deborah Dash Moore, one of the foremost representatives of the generation of the 1960s and 1970s, explained, the battle to gain recognition for Jewish studies as a legitimate pursuit in American universities entailed “a vision of the academy as the vanguard of emancipation, source of a new world order.” 227 In sum, many historians of modern Jewry who work in Western universities, especially in the United States—members of the generation of the 1960s and 1970s and their successors—came to their careers with a sympathetic attitude toward enlightenment values

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already fi rmly in place. Those values, they believe, are precisely what permit them to exist both as academics and as modern Jews. Ronald Schechter’s comments in this regard may be unusual in their frankness, but they are typical in their thrust: As a liberal humanist, pluralist, and secular Jew . . . I abhor the fulminations of writers and politicians who denounced the Jews as bloodsuckers and natural liars. I approve of those French gentiles who acknowledged the Jews as equals and called for concomitant recognition of their rights. I applaud the Jews who embraced the values of the Enlightenment and the Revolution without renouncing their Jewish identity, and I sympathize with those who believed that these movements would bring happiness to themselves and all humanity. I believe that the Enlightenment and the Revolution, and even Napoleon, were “good for the Jews,” as it were, insofar as they promoted equality before the law.228

No wonder, then, that historians of the Jews who share Schechter’s credo have condemned the postmodern challenge to enlightenment and revolutionary values as “historiographical elitism of a conservative, if not reactionary, hue” that “threatens to reverse the gains” of Jewish historiography in the last two generations.229 No wonder, too, that one of the dominant themes in the writing of the young generation of historians of the Jews to which Schechter belongs is the efficacy of enlightenment values for Jewish life not only in liberal democratic states but also in states with centralist-absolutist regimes, from revolutionary France and Josephinian Austria to colonial Algeria and tsarist Russia.230 These historians make frequent use of the argument that even though Eu ropean enlightenment thinkers displayed an ambivalent attitude toward Jews and Judaism, in practice the hostile elements of their thought retreated before the elements contributing to Jews’ security and prosperity and strengthening the foundations of their collective existence. Thus, they stress (as a study published in 1999, thirty years after the first appearance of The French Enlightenment and the Jews but with explicit reference to it in a language reminiscent of the book’s initial critics, put it), “there is no need to rehearse the anti-Jewish diatribes of a Voltaire”; what is important is to place those calumnies in



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their proper social context, in order to reveal the “means by which the Enlightenment promise of universalist inclusion of Jews could be translated from potential to actuality.”231 Thus the way in which Hertzberg’s book looks backward from the Holocaust to question the intellectual foundations of liberal culture has undoubtedly contributed to the vigorous opposition it continues to arouse more than a generation after its first appearance. Another reason for that opposition has been the manner in which the book challenged those foundations from a Zionist perspective. Indeed, the drive to reject the Zionist rejection of the diaspora seems no less pronounced among younger historians of the Jews in the modern period currently working in the United States than among their teachers. Much of their work valorizes the vitality and vibrancy of diaspora communities purportedly animated by the liberal vision—a vision they claim instilled in Jews throughout the world not only hope for a better future but also a feeling of real control over their collective destiny and the ability to withstand assimilatory pressures.232 They also continue to charge Zionist-inspired historiography with deliberately obfuscating the success of integrated, pluralist liberal environments in nurturing secure, positive Jewish identities even in communities lacking a strong sense of connection with Israel or affinity for Jewish nationalism.233 Identifying Hertzberg’s interpretive method with history produced by committed Zionists thus continues to invalidate it in the eyes of a significant segment of Jewish historians. Similarly, to the extent that that method appears to have been influenced by a post-Holocaust gaze, the dangers of looking backward from the vantage point of Auschwitz seem demonstrated beyond doubt. Hertzberg’s departure from the principles of social history and the tendency identified in his book, rightly or wrongly, to reject the diaspora have helped his opponents among historians of the Jews effectively to deny him a portion in the Baronian legacy, even though he shared many of Baron’s hesitations about the revolution’s effects upon modern Jewish life. Today the essence of that legacy is typically figured as an optimistic view of the ability of Jewish life to flourish outside the historic Jewish homeland, insistence upon the need to understand the

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history of the Jews against the background of the full range of mutual interactions between Jews and the surrounding non-Jewish society, emphasis upon the benefits Jews and non-Jews alike derived from those interactions, and use of a wide range of disciplinary tools in order to illuminate the material and social contexts in which the Jewish people evolved. Those principles are widely represented as part of a single, inseparable package constituting the antilachrymose approach to writing Jewish history.234 However, that understanding obscures the fact that Baron’s own objection to lachrymosity referred mainly to representations of the middle ages, not the modern era. Baron did indeed warn against too dark a portrayal of prerevolutionary centuries, but at the same time he cautioned against depicting the postrevolutionary era in excessively bright colors. He did not call for complete exclusion of references to the sufferings of Jews in all periods or for relegating the moments of crisis in the Jewish past, especially after the revolution, to the background. On the contrary, in several of his writings he painted a thoroughly lugubrious picture of one or another modern Jewish community,235 and “crisis” was a dominant motif in his interpretation of the modern period as a whole. His “socioreligious” approach did not lead him to unreserved affi rmation of the diaspora in all circumstances. Nor did he exclude the Holocaust from the range of subjects with which historians of the Jews must come to grips. Those distinctions, however, have escaped the attention of many of his spiritual descendants, who regard the Baronian legacy largely as a counterweight to the Zionist historiographic tradition and a justification for removing the Holocaust from their own intellectual agenda.236 Ironically, though, it turns out that Zionist historiography has hardly placed the Holocaust at the center of its agenda, and the backward glance from Auschwitz has never become an integral feature of that Israeli school of history writing with which those who claim the Baronian mantle like to contrast themselves. On the contrary, the most assertively and self-consciously Zionist of Jewish historians never raised serious objection to sequestering the Holocaust from their intellectual purview; indeed, several have even warned against the distortions that



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are liable to ensue if the Nazi period is not bracketed off from the broad flow of Jewish history. Here is yet another unexpected and puzzling situation—puzzling in light not only of Scholem’s forecast but also of how closely Zionism and the Holocaust have been linked in recent Jewish religious and civic thought. It too requires explanation.

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That neo-Baronians and Zionists have placed the Holocaust in a similar relationship to the mainstream of Jewish history is especially surprising because the founders of academic Zionist historiography not only did not reject “reading history backward” in principle but actually raised such reading to the level of a virtue. Those forebears— Gershom Scholem, Ben Zion Dinaburg (Dinur), Yitzhak Baer, and Yehezkel Kaufmann—proceeded from the assumption that “all historical writing treats earlier times from the perspective of the present, interpreting and explaining them according to its [current] concerns and outlook.”1 Indeed, their work as historians proceeded from the assumption that, as Kaufmann put it, it was both possible and desirable “to deal with the problem of Jewishness in its totality, throughout history no less than in our own day” and to explore both aspects of the problem, the historical and the contemporary, simultaneously.2 They believed, moreover, that what Baer and Dinur called “the history of recent times,” and especially their own personal experience as builders of the Jewish national home in Palestine during the first half of the twentieth century, actually facilitated their “emotional entry into the lives of earlier generations.”3 Flush with the spirit of national rebirth and independence in the Jewish homeland, seeing in themselves the spearhead of the intellectual revolution that was to be one of its foremost expressions, they attributed to the Zionist outlook their selfproclaimed ability to perceive and expose hitherto-hidden spiritual treasures in the Jewish past, knowledge of which had eluded earlier generations of researchers who had not taken part in the great work of national reconstruction. In Palestine, according to Scholem, the scholars


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who assembled in Jerusalem at the established Hebrew University’s Institute of Jewish Studies “found firm ground on which to stand, a new center from which new and altogether different horizons became visible.” 4 As he saw it, he and his colleagues were destined to effect “an enormous transvaluation of values, in some realms an actual revolution” in the academic study of the Jews—a revolution that only the grand national redemption ushered in by the Zionist movement made possible: By assuming our place within the chain of generations and not diverting our gaze in any direction, by linking our fate in every sense with our people’s historic destiny . . . , we cannot help but return to those sources of the living stream that have become imperceptible to closed hearts. The great vital continuum, the turbulent dynamic of history, will be exposed in its full palette of light and dark hues; the war for the soul of the nation between the forces of good and evil, the angelic and the demonic, will no longer need to be banished from view. . . . Factors that assimilationists had placed in the foreground and portrayed in a positive light out of false piety will be reevaluated from the ground up in order to determine what role they really played in the nation’s evolution, while factors that were considered unworthy of serious scholarly attention will be raised from obscurity. We may well count as inspired what our predecessors labeled degenerate and what for them was barren superstition as powerful, living myth. The rule is: “The stones that the builders rejected will become our cornerstones.” 5

Scholem’s image of a great “chain of generations,” in which historians of the Jews constituted an integral link, expressed a peculiar attitude toward the place of time in historical study. It effectively bound the historian to the past and the future simultaneously. In the 1935 essay with which Baer and Dinaburg introduced the first volume of the so-called Jerusalem school’s flagship historical journal, Zion, time was depicted as a two-way street, along which past and present contexts moved forward and backward at once: “Both the medieval and modern periods of our history can illuminate the era of the Second Temple, and without knowledge of the Bible it is impossible to comprehend the struggles of subsequent generations or the problems of our own times.” For Baer and

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Dinaburg Jewish history comprised a single, unbroken continuum, “a homogeneous unity encompassing all times and places, all of which reveal something significant about all others.” 6 Moreover, the notion of a chain of generations effectively erased the distinction between academic study of the past for its own sake and study for extra-academic, contemporary purposes. Just as participation in Zionist nationbuilding was supposed to sharpen historical sensibilities, so was studying the history of earlier Jewish generations expected to contribute materially to nationbuilding. As Baer put it, “If we understand the unity of our history, if we truly comprehend that its beginning is implicit in its end and its end in its beginning, then we shall be able to understand our present position, and by arousing the creative power of past generations we shall also awaken the creative power for the future that we hold within us.”7 Indeed, the effort to unite the academic and the practical aspects of historical study stood at the foundation of the first comprehensive scholarly history written expressly from a Zionist perspective—Yehezkel Kaufmann’s Golah veNechar (Exilic Community and Foreign Lands), published a full decade before Baer’s pronouncement: The question of the Jewish people’s historic destiny, the question of why the Jews pursued a unique historic path unlike that of any other nation, is an incomparably complex one that can be answered only by paying attention to several methodological and theoretical fundamentals. Like most subjects of social research, the question has both speculative and practical aspects. It is directed toward the past, but it has implications for the present and the future. It begins with historical . . . research, but it ends in a jumble of vexing, painful existential problems. It begins with scholarly investigation but ends with “blood and fire and pillars of smoke.”8

Thus from the moment the Zionist historiographical enterprise first coalesced, its exponents sought in the episodes and processes they studied what Baer called “the educational value of Jewish history,” with the conscious and explicit intention of strengthening the Zionist ethos of national rebirth.9 The porous boundary that the first Zionist historians set between past and present was evident in their initial pronouncements concerning



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the Holocaust’s place in Jewish history. Having formulated their historiographical platform just as the Nazis were gaining and consolidating power, they detected much educational value in the events of 1933–1945. Their view chimed with the capsule history rehearsed in Israel’s Proclamation of Independence, according to which “the holocaust that recently befell the Jewish people, in which millions of Jews in Eu rope were slaughtered, proved conclusively once again the need to solve the problem of the Jewish people, lacking a homeland and independence, by reestablishing the Jewish state in Palestine, which will hold the gates of the homeland wide open to all Jews and endow the Jewish people with the status of a nation holding equal rights within the family of nations.” In fact, Dinaburg, who, since his migration to Palestine in 1921, had gained fame as a public educator no less than as an academic,10 may well have influenced the actual wording of that foundational text—a possibility suggested by his summation of the (as yet ongoing) catastrophe’s lessons at a 1944 gathering of schoolteachers: The holocaust (sho’ah) that befell the Jews of Europe and the isolation they experienced as part of their disaster ought to have proven conclusively the fundamental falsity of hope in humanitarian beneficence as long as we remain a people without a homeland, without a territory on which we can live by right. Until our situation changes in this respect we must be prepared for every ill occurrence, everywhere and at all times. In particu lar, after the holocaust we have undergone, we must cease to place hope in the beneficence of other nations. Historical experience teaches us that every recurrence of misfortune for Jews, of persecution and suffering, generates a new stratum of hatred, bequeathing to the next era the benefits of its experience and “accomplishments.”11

Dinaburg ascribed a single purpose to studying Jewish history in the academy and teaching it to a broader public: “to instill . . . awareness [of the past] in the heart of the entire [contemporary] generation, so that it becomes a foundational experience of [the generation’s] identity.” Because of the Holocaust, he explained, “our generation [has become] . . . , more than any other, the one that will determine the [nation’s] fate:

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Today Palestine is the primary arena of the great battle to save the Jewish people. There is no other way, no other path to resurrection [than a Jewish state in Palestine]. And even here we have no hope or means of longterm survival unless we gather all our exilic communities together onto our ancestral soil and concentrate the masses of Jews who will remain [after the Holocaust] in their home. So the first question is: How can we instill into the consciousness and sensibility of our generation a complete and total identification with its historic fate? How can we imbue our souls with this living identity so that it becomes organic, vital, inspiring, moving to action? How can we turn [affirmation of] our fate into the purpose to which each and every [Jewish] individual in Palestine today will devote his life?12

For Dinaburg the question had special urgency. Jews of his generation, he believed, were not sufficiently attuned to their people’s historic fate. He reproached them for failing to grasp the Zionist message that diaspora existence was inherently unstable, even though “warning after warning, alarm after alarm” had been sounded repeatedly during the five decades before the Nazis seized power. Those warnings, he claimed, had assumed diverse forms, including “the explosion of the new antisemitism onto the scene” during the 1870s, the convulsions in the southern provinces of the Russian Pale of Settlement in 1881–1882, the expulsion of Jews from Moscow in 1891, the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, the anti-Jewish violence that accompanied the 1905 Russian revolution, the horrors that befell Jews throughout Eastern Europe during the First World War, the postwar massacres in the Ukraine (which claimed upward of 60,000 Jewish lives), and finally what transpired “when Hitler came to power, stated clearly that extermination of the Jews was one of his goals, and set out to fulfi ll that aim.”13 Yet for all these recurring threats and disasters, he protested, “we continued to deceive ourselves . . . ; we did not do the one great thing that it was in our power to do to alter our own fate: to organize an immediate mass ‘exodus from Europe’ to the Land of Israel.”14 He placed some responsibility for this failure on earlier Zionist activists, who, for all their efforts, had proven ineffective motivators of the Jewish masses.15 Still, he expected that the masses themselves ought to have produced more of the “human type exemplified by the Zionist immigrant” on their own.16 In the



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final analysis, he acknowledged, with more than a touch of sadness, “we have been insufficiently courageous and perspicacious to give the warnings our complete attention, to see things as they really are, and to reach the proper conclusions.”17 Compensating for the insufficient presence of the proper “human type” among the Jewish people was, Dinaburg insisted, a primary task of the Zionist historian. As early as 1935 he and Baer posited that the ability to see things “as they really are” would be one of the welcome consequences of studying Jewish history from a Zionist perspective.18 He located the source of European Jewry’s inability to absorb the Zionist message in a fundamental misunderstanding of the Jewish past. Hence, he reasoned, his mission and that of his colleagues was to extract from that past a new “spiritual heritage” that would serve the needs of the current Jewish generation: Each generation makes its own spiritual life; each era approaches its spiritual heritage in its own way. . . . Rethinking the choice of a spiritual heritage, determining the portion . . . that will play an active role in national life in a particu lar generation—these things are always associated with a turning point in the nation’s history. . . . These days, when our people is fighting desperately for its existence, it is examining afresh . . . its spiritual inventory, in order to employ it more effectively in the struggle for existence. . . . The vigor of every nation is tested by the speed and thoroughness with which it carries out such a spiritual readjustment. . . . At fateful junctures every nation is tested by its ability to mobilize its spiritual resources, to reexamine them, and to activate them in a way that strengthens solidarity among its members and across the generations. In our time we have witnessed such movement in Russia; this is undoubtedly one of the most impressive things that have ever happened in history. With our own eyes we saw how this great nation, which found itself in the most acute danger, succeeded . . . in mobilizing its entire history, discovering in it . . . powerful spiritual resources. . . . We, too, face the same situation, and it is equally severe: we must make new selections from our spiritual heritage and activate it in our people’s existential struggle.19

Dinaburg appears to have begun his own process of reformulation in early 1942, when the first reports of Nazi mass killings of European

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Jews appeared in the Palestinian Jewish press.20 Toward the end of that year, at a conference held at a Jerusalem teachers’ seminary in conjunction with a “day of mourning and outcry” proclaimed by Palestine’s organized Jewish community on 30 November 1942, he outlined the new historical narrative toward which he was working: Did this catastrophe really fall upon us all of a sudden? Have we not been sitting atop smoking volcanoes for generations? Every time the earth shakes below us and the volcanoes spew forth the lava that buries us, we stand shocked and bewildered, because we closed our eyes and told ourselves in a loud voice that those volcanoes have long since gone extinct, that it is not smoke that we see coming out of their tips but morning fog, that they present no danger at all. “All of a sudden!” Haven’t [former] great centers of Jewish settlement collapsed “all of a sudden,” burying tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews, young and old, men, women, and children, beneath their ruins, leaving them as if they had never existed at all? Did not the collapse of those centers put an end to the life’s labors and spiritual longings of dozens of Jewish generations that poured body and soul into building the walls of Pithom and Raamses throughout the world? Is not the image of our young people being conscripted en masse into forced labor brigades to build fortifications, pave roads, and drain swamps for the enemy, only to be executed when their work is done, an awful, frightening symbol of the entire history of “Israel among the nations” throughout the years of exile and wandering from one kingdom to the next?21

Dinaburg thus interpreted the destruction of European Jewry during the 1940s as the most recent instance of a recurrent motif in Jewish history—every attempt to establish a great Jewish community in the midst of non-Jewish populations failed sooner or later, condemning the community to extinction no matter how great its members’ contributions to the welfare of their country of residence, how impressive their material and cultural achievements, and how promising prospects for security and prosperity appeared when the community was founded. Having detected this pattern, he asked why “great centers of Jewish settlement” seemed always to have collapsed violently. In 1943, in the prestigious journal of ideas Knesset, he ventured a bold answer to that question, reconceptualizing the entire dynamic of exile in a



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way that explained—to him, at least—the reasons for the Jewish people’s unique historic fate. The central element in his reconceptualization was what he termed the dialectic of “exilic communities and their destruction.” In this “historical pattern,” which, he claimed, “is unique to our history and constitutes its distinguishing characteristic,” the end of every Jewish settlement outside the Jewish homeland was irrevocably inscribed in its beginning.22 “Every diaspora Jewish community began with exile,” he declared, taking “exile” to signify “coercion and brutality, not only in the factual sense but in the realm of ideology and historical consciousness as well.”23 It was in the latter, subjective realm that, to his mind, the ultimate demise of all exilic communities was set. First, he supposed, “because it was well known that Jews arriving on foreign shores had suffered the destruction of their homeland, it was natural that residents of the countries where Jews sought refuge would think they knew the full circumstances that had brought the Jews to their land.” On the other hand, “the Jews were themselves often interested in downplaying their experience in their previous country of dispersion, stressing instead the circumstances of Jewish history that had first set them on their exilic course.”24 Hence, he concluded, all settlement in the diaspora was predicated upon a stereotype shared by Jews and their hosts together: “Everywhere Jews have ever lived, they have been perceived always and entirely as . . . refugees from persecution.” 25 In his view, that perception invariably “determines the attitude [toward Jews] and shapes the entire Jewish experience”:26 on one hand it is what permits individual Jews or Jewish groups that came to a particular country at different times and different places to see themselves as members of a single consolidated community, while on the other it impedes the complete integration of Jews into the surrounding society, for they appear as foreigners who are not truly connected to the place in which they live.27 In this bidirectional operation of the stereotype he found the source of the “historical pattern” he sought to explain: The moment an exilic community consolidated itself into a distinct social unit, its enslavement became inevitable. The masses of the [host] peoples did not react favorably when Jews became ensconced in . . .

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various branches of the economy and the country’s Jewish population grew. They were sensitive to the presence of a strong Jewish entity in their midst. That sensitivity was especially sharp among circles close to the economic sectors in which the Jews were active; they looked upon [Jews] as competitors who had succeeded in wresting from them significant sources of livelihood that by right belonged to . . . members of the ruling nation and the true faith. That sensitivity quickly boiled over into hatred of the Jewish “conquerors”—conquerors not by force of arms but as a result of collusion with the rulers. The conquest was unjust and without basis. . . . And thus begins the phase in which the Jews feel the true punishment of exile.28

According to Dinaburg, only the state could shield Jews from the harmful effects of such hatred. However, he observed, “as antagonism between ‘kings’ and ‘the people’ becomes sharper, and as popular antipathy toward Jews grows, state rulers invariably reach the conclusion that not only is it not their obligation to offer the Jews ‘so much’ protection but that the Jews themselves are to blame . . . for both the hatred that the masses direct toward them and the masses’ opposition to the regime.” Consequently, he concluded, “the regime joins in the antipathy toward the Jews and uses its own agencies to foster that enmity,” paving the way to “forced conversion, killing, or expulsion.”29 Such behavior by states could be anticipated, he warned, “with every serious historic shockwave, with every crisis in the political, economic, or cultural sphere”; and because such crises occurred frequently throughout history, “there has hardly ever been a time of peace and security in exile.” Hence, Dinaburg postulated, sooner or later every exilic community would be violently destroyed—a truth he claimed had been borne out by “the bitter experience of exile throughout the centuries”:30 It is sufficient to recall the wars of religion that assumed various forms in Christian territories—the wars accompanying the rise of Islam, the Crusades, the wars of chivalry, the wars between Christians and Muslims in Spain, the wars of religion during the Reformation, the Cossack rebellions and civil wars in Poland, the revolution and civil war in Russia, the [First] World War, and so forth—and to align them chronologically with the dates when different exilic communities



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perished: the destruction of the Jews of the Arabian Peninsula and the Byzantine lands; the slaughter of the Rhineland Jewish communities in 1096; the Black Death; the great expulsions from England, France, and Spain; the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648; and the Russian pogroms.31

Noting the coincidence of general historical convulsions with the ruin of diaspora Jewish communities prompted Dinaburg to conclude further that “the extent and magnitude of destruction does not depend exclusively upon the dimensions of the general disruption that besets a particular region of exile” but rather upon “the degree to which Jews gained influence during the ‘stable’ period that preceded destruction.”32 The more Jews succeed in the countries of their dispersion, he warned— the more the ruling authorities favor them and the better rooted they become in their surroundings—the deadlier the blow that falls upon them when the end inevitably arrives. For this reason, he explained, “the great holocaust that has befallen us in our generation . . . is larger both in magnitude and in horror than any other we have known in our bloody history.”33 “Never has there been a time when Jews have penetrated more deeply into the political, economic, and cultural lives of nations and states as they have during the present era” of emancipation, or when “Jews have extended so broadly the range of life activities upon which they have exerted influence” as they have since the 1880s.34 Nevertheless, he admonished, the novelty of the twentieth-century destruction lay merely “in its form and compass, its calculated organization and horrific scope, but not at all in its essence”:35 In the end, what is the phenomenon that our historians usually term “the movement of centers”36 really about if not the destruction of one set of exilic communities and the emergence of others? Aren’t those new exilic communities bound to be destroyed? Are they not so destined from the moment they come into existence? And from a historical perspective is the path these communities travel from their first establishment to their end really so long? . . . If we examine how those communities grew and the extent of their destruction, we learn that the word “destruction” really does not encompass the full dimensions of their awful descent into oblivion, a descent that leaves them virtually without a trace even in memory, such as the one the Bible

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described with terrifying realism: “You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall consume you.”37

Through this dialectic of exilic communities and their destruction, Dinaburg claimed to comprehend a series of episodes in Jewish history that he had not properly grasped before. The dialectic explained to him why the great Jewish settlement in ancient Alexandria, about which only scant evidence remained, disappeared “from life’s stage” toward the close of the Hellenistic period.38 It bolstered his confidence in the Jewish population figures for the Roman Empire from the Emperor Claudius’s first-century census, making him realize how the seven million Jews enumerated at the time had vanished.39 It helped him connect the few hints scattered in medieval chronicles concerning the number of Jews in the various European countries with similarly sparse references to local anti-Jewish riots to form a broad picture of “the physical destruction of those [medieval] communities—that is, the annihilation of the majority and the conversion of the minority, with only a small ‘saving remnant’ managing to rescue itself and build a new exilic community, a new ‘center’ ” in another corner of the diaspora.40 And it served as his point of departure for recounting the course of emancipation in the modern period and assessing what it had produced.41 Accordingly, he proclaimed “the historical pattern of exilic communities and their destruction” to be a paradigm for all future research in Jewish history, directing the investigator’s eye toward the principal episodes, processes, and motifs that had shaped the experience of the Jews throughout the generations in a way no other model could. Conceiving the course of Jewish history as the product of dialectical development in the relations between Jews and non-Jews marked a sweeping change in Dinaburg’s historiosophical outlook. Until the appearance of his article in Knesset he, along with the entire Zionist historiographical school, had portrayed the fundamental motive forces in Jewish history as largely immanent creations of a primordial, autonomous Jewish national spirit. That spirit, as Baer put it, might periodically “encounter external events that deflect it from its normal path, [but] it always strives to regain its own independent direction.” 42 Consequently Zionist historians placed the effort to discover and bring to



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light the Jewish spirit’s many and varied expressions as the chief task of those who studied Jewish history; indeed, it was that spirit that was supposed to lend the history of the Jews its “homogeneous unity.” 43 To be sure, they acknowledged both the possibility and the desirability of investigating the ways in which “external events” affected the specific forms in which the spirit manifested itself in different periods and places and of assessing the degree of deviation from its “normal path” those events had induced. Dinaburg even conceded that exogenous factors like the nature of the regime under which Jews lived and the cultural level of the surrounding society “constitute a general framework within whose boundaries, and only within them, can the nation’s own vital forces function and create, adjust and adapt.” 44 Nor was the notion of dialectical development in Jewish history foreign to them. To be sure, they were divided over what the concept implied and precisely how it operated. As early as 1926, in the introduction to the first edition of his monumental compilation of documents from the middle ages, Yisra’el baGolah (Israel in Diaspora), Dinaburg had pointed to a regular “swing of the pendulum” between what he called the “two polar ‘axes’ ” of Jewish existence outside Palestine—“settling in and striking root in the countries of diaspora . . . on one hand, active anticipation of imminent redemption and a feeling of utter estrangement upon ‘alien soil’ on the other.” The tension between these two axes, he postulated, was “what lends each period of diaspora Jewish history its unique character.” 45 Scholem, by contrast, conceived the dialectic of Jewish history as a constant struggle between opposing positions capable of developing in virtually any direction.46 Still, no matter what their conceptual disagreements in this regard, both, along with their colleagues, steadfastly proclaimed the autonomous Jewish national spirit as the formative, dynamic agent in the Jewish people’s historic evolution; it was not necessarily subordinate to any other agent, even though it could be subject to some influence by the deeds of non-Jews.47 The Zionist historians tended to believe that the operation of the Jewish spirit in any given historical context was not altogether predictable: sometimes the spirit would succumb temporarily to the temptations of foreign cultures; sometimes it would reject them steadfastly, so that historians searching for laws according to which the spirit behaved in one type of “external”

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situation or another were bound to come up empty.48 Indeed, Baer made so bold as to declare that “there is a power that lifts the Jewish people out of the realm of all causal history.” 49 Even Dinaburg, who was generally more amenable than his fellow Zionist historians to deterministic explanations, spoke of dialectical oscillation between two autonomous, “internal” spiritual attitudes among Jews, not between two patterns of non-Jewish attitudes toward them: the “swing of the pendulum” of which he spoke was indeed subject to the effects of changes in the ways in which non-Jews approached Jews, but it would not have existed at all had not the Jews’ own “recognition that ‘Palestine is their eternal patrimony, never to be given over to others, and should they perhaps be exiled from it they will return . . . ,’ become the inheritance of the nation as a whole.”50 In the final analysis, he proclaimed, it was the way Jews viewed their association with Palestine in their own minds—as “a living, animated connection finding real, tangible expression in everyday life,” not forced upon it by others but emanating from within the wellsprings of the Jews’ national spirit itself 51— that lent Jewish history its special character. So Dinaburg believed until he learned of the Nazi annihilation of European Jewry. Immediately thereafter he changed his tune: in his Knesset essay it was no longer the independent Jewish spirit that shaped the Jewish people’s experience in every time and place but the more powerful forces of general history, with the fate of the Jews an altogether predictable outcome of the constant struggle against them: The structure of exile in all periods, in all countries, and under all regimes lacks solid foundation. . . . Every storm that blows makes the lack of a foundation perceptible: the walls move, the plaster falls, the cracks and fissures multiply and spread. It is no surprise that during such times our sensitivity has not been especially sharp: observe how people become accustomed to living next to normally dormant volcanoes that now and again open their jaws to devour cities and towns by the hundreds and human beings by the tens and hundreds of thousands. . . . The teaching of our sages that “no catastrophe befalls the world except to punish Israel” is but one more historical conclusion drawn from the bitter experiences of exile over the centuries.52



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Dinaburg’s shift clearly grew out of an effort to fathom the meaning of European Jewry’s destruction, the fact of which had just then penetrated his consciousness. Such, indeed, was the unequivocal message of his essay’s opening paragraph: At present we cannot grasp [the great Holocaust] in all its horror and effects. . . . But even if we lack the emotional capacity to gaze directly into the abyss before us, we can [now] see more clearly into the dark recesses in our past and penetrate the shadows cast by earlier generations. There is no doubt that the enormous shocks of our generation have almost completely eliminated the sense of chronological distance between us and our forefathers. . . . The struggles of generations, the worlds of “exilic communities and their destruction,” have been illuminated suddenly in the blinding light of the conflagration of the exilic communities burning before our eyes. Things that seemed opaque to us have now been elucidated and clarified, and sounds that came to us muffled by the distance of generations now fi ll our soul, our entire being, with their wailing. And the clarity with which our present trials and tribulations endows our past serves also as a vital means of illuminating the black holes that lie before us.53

To be sure, the change that the first news of the Holocaust wrought in Dinaburg’s understanding of Jewish history was only partial: Dinaburg continued to attribute his capacity to understand what had befallen Jews in earlier generations primarily to the fact that he had taken his place firmly within the “chain of generations” of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, the addition of the latest links to the chain during the 1940s radically altered his view of how the Jews’ historical experience had been shaped. The work of building the Jewish national home in Palestine now appeared to him not only as an immanent expression of the Jewish spirit but as the only conceivable practical response to the dialectic of exilic communities and their destruction.54 Indeed, the Holocaust led Dinaburg to a new historiographical paradigm, one he initially thought would best serve the Zionist movement’s post-Holocaust needs. However, the paradigm that Dinaburg adumbrated in 1943 did not come to dominate Zionist historical writing, even though it comported

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well with attitudes and feelings that permeated the Jewish community in Palestine during the decades following the Second World War.55 In fact, the new understanding of the “historical pattern” that he derived from the first news of the Holocaust remained aberrant not only in the work of the Jerusalem school as a whole but in Dinaburg’s own subsequent scholarly corpus. The puzzle grows. ✻

The aberrance of Dinaburg’s first reflections on Jewish history in light of the Holocaust stands out in contrast with the manner in which the events of the Nazi era left their mark upon the work of his colleague, Yitzhak Baer. Unlike the shock that struck Dinaburg upon receipt of the baleful news from Europe in late 1942, the anxiety Baer had felt ever since the Nazi accession to power in 1933—visible in his writings since the mid-1930s—does not appear to have impelled him to reconsider the assumptions that had informed his approach to Jewish history until that time. To be sure, it is possible that (as his student and acolyte, Shmuel Ettinger, once ventured) “his [Jewish] nationalist and Zionist sensibilities, which he had expressed in moderate . . . form since his earliest youth . . . , were now transformed into a radical ‘negation of exile’ born of a wounded soul.”56 But no matter how pronounced his private transformation, it produced nothing resembling the paradigm shift that Dinaburg suggested in 1943. The impact of “the stormy events that assailed us subsequently with the destruction of millions of our people by the Nazi Germans,” as he put it years later,57 was noticeable more in variations of emphasis than in new insights aroused by the catastrophe. True, his own personal research program changed substantially after 1945, and the Holocaust no doubt played a role in the move.58 But his post-1945 direction actually seems to reflect the absence of readiness to subject his earlier historiosophic presuppositions to the sort of reexamination Dinaburg urged. Unlike his colleague, Baer did not detect in the destruction of European Jewry any enhanced possibility for “illuminating and clarifying things that once seemed opaque” about previous Jewish generations; instead of expanding his historical vision, it appears that the Holocaust actually induced it to contract.



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Not that the events of the 1930s in Germany did not influence his historical work during that decade itself. On the contrary, by his own testimony it was the increasingly desperate situation of German Jewry under Nazi rule that drove him to publish a compact study of the concept of exile in Jewish thought from the Hellenistic period through to the beginning of the modern age. “I wrote this little book while in a state of great mental excitation,” he later recalled;59 by publishing it he hoped “to send . . . a word of comfort and emotional encouragement to my brethren, who saw before their eyes a terrifying death.” 60 Indeed, the book, entitled Galut, the Hebrew word for exile, was published in Berlin in German, even though Baer had virtually ceased to employ that language for academic writing after migrating to Palestine in 1930.61 However, the comfort that Baer sent flowed entirely from his Zionist historical outlook, which he had formed well before Hitler’s rise to prominence on the German political horizon and which had only grown in strength in the wake of the Nazi rise to power. As a result the book’s basic message was not encouraging at all, but somber and foreboding: the diaspora as a whole was on the verge of extinction, and if the Jewish people did not turn its collective back upon it immediately, it was destined for utter physical annihilation: Recent Jewish history has carried to its conclusion a long process of disintegration. The gap between religious promises and the debased body of the Jewish people, of which Jewish rationalists had before been aware, led to a complete or partial abandonment of the nation. Loss of faith in the national future and in the folk strength of the religion led to a denationalization of the religion. The nation’s specific political constitution in the Diaspora and the consciousness of Jewish unity were destroyed. . . . All modern interpretations of the Galut fail to do justice to the enormous tragedy of the Galut situation. . . . No man of the present day . . . dare claim that he is equipped to carry the burden of the centuries as did his forefathers. . . . The Galut has returned to its starting point. It remains what it always was: political servitude, which must be abolished completely. The attempt which has been considered from time to time, to return to an idea of the Galut as it existed in the days of the Second Temple—the grouping of the Diaspora around a strong center in Palestine—is today out of the

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question. There was a short period when the Zionist could feel himself a citizen of two countries . . . ; the Zionist was prepared to give up his life for the home in which he had his residence. Now that the Jews have been denied the right to feel at home in Europe, it is the duty of the European nations to redeem the injustice committed by their spiritual and physical ancestors by assisting the Jews in the task of reclaiming Palestine and by recognizing the right of the Jews to the land of their fathers.62

Not much comfort was evident in this mournful reading. To be sure, Baer mentioned the late-sixteenth-century scholar Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague (Maharal), who had famously predicted that the Jewish people’s exile would eventually be abrogated because it contradicted the natural order of the universe.63 Maharal’s prophecy, though, was rooted in dialectical thinking, whereas Baer, still faithful to his immanentist perspective, was reluctant to place faith in the laws of nature alone. He thus demanded that his contemporaries work immediately to revivify the historic Jewish spirit, which, he claimed, had become progressively attenuated since the onset of the modern era: We may appeal to such ideas [of the inevitability of redemption as inscribed in nature] today with the consciousness that it is up to us to give the old faith a new meaning. If we seek to end the Galut, let us not attribute our desires to earlier generations; rather, we must draw from the ideas of earlier generations those consequences which follow from a changed spiritual approach to an unchanged political situation. The Jewish revival of the present day is in its essence not determined by the national movements of Europe: it harks back to the ancient national consciousness of the Jews, which existed before the history of Europe and is the original sacred model for all the national ideas of Europe. However, it is undeniable that this turning home must involve a coming to grips with the ancient Jewish consciousness of history, on whose foundation European culture constantly and repeatedly reared itself in the decisive epochs of its history, without wishing to acknowledge its debt in a serious and conclusive manner. The question is how we ourselves stand in relation to a belief whose foundations have held unshaken for more than two thousand years. For us, perhaps, the fi nal consequence of modern causal historical thinking coincides with the final consequence of the old Jewish conception of history, which comes



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to us from no alien tradition but has grown out of our own essential being: “Our eyes saw it, and no stranger’s; our ears heard it, and no others’.” 64

Such was Baer’s 1936 assessment of the forces that shaped Jewish history. In 1947 he effectively affi rmed that assessment, publishing an English version of Galut that, for all that had transpired in the interval, contained not a single departure from the German original. The sole addition to the English text was a three-page appendix restating the basic historiosophic principle that had guided Baer from the start of his career: “Our history follows its own laws, maintaining its innermost tendencies in the face of the outward dangers of dispersal, disintegration, secularization, and moral and religious petrification.” He underscored further that “all that we did on foreign soil was a betrayal of our own spirit.” 65 The autonomous Jewish spirit, not “an unchanged political situation,” remained for him, after the Holocaust as before, the central actor in Jewish history. Baer’s conception of the purpose of studying Jewish history remained similarly unchanged: “It is our constant duty to keep alive before us and before other peoples the greatness of our historical past, in order that we may draw strength and confidence from it, validate our claims before mankind, and find the path that leads to the further self-education of the Jewish people.” 66 Evidently it was Baer’s pursuit of “the educational value of Jewish history” that led to his disagreement with Dinaburg over whether and how the Holocaust might illuminate earlier eras of the Jewish past. Whereas Dinaburg maintained in his Knesset essay that the Holocaust exposed a historical dynamic that had hitherto escaped his perception, and he located in that dynamic the key to “the reactivation of our spiritual heritage in the current existential struggle” that he had urged in 1942, Baer found in the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews only ruin and desolation. For him, the Holocaust was an episode with no redeeming qualities, one he would not permit to move him even one iota from the conception of the Jewish past he had adopted years earlier. Nevertheless it appears that the years of persecution in Germany that preceded actual physical annihilation prompted a change in his evaluation of the various periods in Jewish history and his understanding

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of the links among them. The upheavals of those years exposed for him not only the political precariousness of Jewish existence in exile but even more its spiritual defects. That discovery no doubt stimulated him to rethink his attitude toward the middle ages in particular, to whose study he had previously devoted the better part of his scholarly energies and from which he was accustomed to draw exemplary parallels for the Jews of his own day. Where in 1930 he had pronounced medieval times a vibrant era, during which “the Jews became a global people,” 67 now he detected in them only a single outstanding characteristic—readiness to suffer martyrdom for the Jewish faith.68 Similarly, where earlier he had proclaimed that his Zionist perspective had “liberated” him “from the mire of chronicling the lives of scholars and persecutions and sufferings and prejudice-induced violence” in which previous historians of the Jewish middle ages had become immured, in 1938 he excoriated Salo Baron’s call to disavow the lachrymose interpretation of that era, claiming that “in spite of everything the fact remains that medieval Jewish history was an unending series of persecutions and that the insecure foundations of Jewish existence were palpable even . . . during times when violent impulses were not given free rein.” 69 And where in 1930 he had insisted upon the centrality of the middle ages in his own research and teaching at the Hebrew University, upbraiding those historians who saw the period as “a mere appendix to ancient history . . . or even as a time of transition to our modern life” and were prepared “virtually to wipe one or two thousand years from the books” as a result, after the war he turned his primary attention to the Second Temple era.70 It seems that following the Nazi rise to power Baer no longer discerned in the two millennia following the Temple’s destruction a platform capable of presenting the Jewish spirit in all its manifestations and greatness. The principal operative conclusion that he drew from the twelve years of Nazi rule was that not only he individually but the Jewish people as a whole must repudiate the exilic heritage altogether and direct their gaze exclusively to the fountainhead of their existence in ancient Israel—the only place in which they had ever managed to develop religious and cultural values that were authentically Jewish.71



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In other words, Baer did not deny the educational value of the Holocaust for the generation that would build the new Jewish national home in Palestine; instead he denied the educational value of the middle ages, which he now termed “the real age of the Galut.”72 That denial placed him head-to-head with Dinaburg, who, following the paradigm he had set forth in his Knesset essay, continued to distinguish between the physical insecurity of exilic communities stemming from dialectical forces beyond the Jews’ control and the spiritual wealth that characterized their internal life. Indeed, that essay’s final paragraph included an explicit warning against too radical a rejection of the exilic legacy: The three oaths of Rabbi Yose ben Haninah73 are oaths for the perpetuation of exile. Now that the exile has been destroyed the oaths are no longer in force, including the one that enjoined the Jews from immigrating en masse to Palestine. The [present] generation can respond only by immigrating en masse. But let us not forget that mass immigration also implies the immigration of the exiled divine presence— that is, of those great spiritual resources that shaped the character of the Jewish people, endowed it with strength and vigor, and formed Israel into a single unit even while scattered and divided, persecuted and enslaved. In every generation that exiled divine presence caused its light to shine upon those great Jewish communities . . . that together lent the nation its spiritual countenance. One of the ways to bring the divine presence in Israel back from the ruins of diaspora to the forge of its existence is to learn to identify with the outstanding characteristics of those communities, with the “soul” of each of them. This is one of the paths to immigration en masse.74

Dinaburg’s conclusion thus returned to its beginning. He still placed clear limits upon the transformation his historical outlook had undergone: he would relinquish neither the image of the Jewish past as a single, continuous chain of generations nor the belief that Jewish historians must not only place themselves within that chain but work actively to link all Jews with it. The change in attitude toward the middle ages that Baer announced, limited though it was in comparison to Dinaburg’s own paradigmatic shift, seriously challenged those limits: it brought Baer close to the radical negation of the diaspora and its cultural heritage espoused by Zionist thinkers like M. J. Berdiczewski

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and Y. H. Brenner and political leaders like David ben Gurion and Yitzhak ben Zvi—an ideological position that represented the lengthy interval between suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 c.e. and the crystallization of the Zionist movement at the end of the nineteenth century as a sort of historical black hole from which not even the tiniest fragment of light could escape. That position effectively denied the very existence of the chain of generations; Dinaburg thus rejected it emphatically.75 To be sure, Baer never went to the extreme of renouncing all products of diaspora en bloc; he continued to depict the middle ages as a direct continuation of earlier eras, not as a deviation from the spiritual foundations that had been laid in ancient times, even though from the mid-1930s he viewed that period as one in which the vibrancy of the Jewish spirit was attenuated by the deleterious political conditions of exile.76 However, he did retreat from his earlier attribution of equal value to every link in the generational chain, thereby violating the “basic assumption of our approach to the past” that he and Dinaburg had set forth in 1935—that “the history of the Jewish people . . . has known no interruption” and “its significance [for national life] did not decline in any period.”77 Baer’s violation also ran counter to certain pedagogic convictions to which Dinaburg had long subscribed. Indeed, whereas Baer’s ideas about the proper emphases in teaching Jewish history changed in light of the Holocaust, the war appears actually to have reinforced Dinaburg’s earlier opinions on the matter. In particular, Dinaburg continued to object to what he regarded as the neglect of the middle ages in the curriculum of Palestinian Jewish schools. In 1945, in fact, he explicitly argued that the recent fate of European Jewry made the medieval period an even more important era for the present young generation to study than it had ever been before. Proper regard for the middle ages was, he explained, essential for “renewing the national covenant that is the source of the nation’s true essence and vitality: When we teach Jewish history in the schools we usually teach the Second Temple period—which is surely important—but we say little about what happened to the Jews in medieval times. In fact, for the most part we eliminate this period from [the course of study in] most



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high schools. Everything that we inherited [from this period], the entire experience [of the middle ages], does not live in the soul of the [present] generation. Yet it would seem that precisely in our day we have the greatest need for that experience. What happened to us during the Holocaust—as we now know clearly—happened, among other things, as a result of deception; the Jews were deceived in all sorts of ways, made to believe all sort of illusions, as they were being led to the boxcars that carried them to their deaths. Yet one of the things about which our medieval sages warned continuously on the basis of their experience was not to believe those who hate Israel, and when Israel is faced with adversity to be wary even of our good neighbors.78

Moreover, he argued, any relegation of the middle ages to the margins of Jewish historical consciousness was liable to weaken feelings of national unity—to his mind the sole basis upon which Jews in Palestine might take effective action on behalf of their fellow Jews who had survived the Nazi murder campaign: The [Zionist] renewal of the covenant with the Land [of Israel] was not accompanied by . . . a renewed sense of complete identification with the nation. . . . I shall not exaggerate if I declare that Palestinian Jewish youth does not identify immediately with the fate of diaspora Jewry. How and why has this happened? The sense of purpose that was and remains an important factor in their education was linked to . . . building the country but not to . . . saving the people. . . . With respect to our Zionist struggle, criticism of the way Jews live has turned into [both] rejection of exile and rejection of the Jews who live in exile, and we have transmitted to our youth too much of an attitude of superiority toward other Jews and too little of a sense of mission, of responsibility for them and their fate. Only thus can we even begin to explain the processes of disintegration that spread among us in frightening proportions even as beyond our borders the sword descended upon the entire house of Israel, and the nation as a whole faced extinction. All the divisions over petty details, the disputes and pugnacious behavior that fragmented Palestinian Jewry, proved that in many strata of our society there is no true spiritual identification with the nation and its fate, that in no small number of circles, even in those that claim to be the nation’s chosen representatives and its rescuers, the primordial

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national instinct that is the guiding light of every nation’s struggle for independence is absent.79

That Dinaburg linked his call for a historiographical paradigm shift to a warning against estrangement from the history of the diaspora indicates no doubt that even as he was formulating his new paradigm he feared that others might see it as justification for Baer’s position. The new paradigm also raised a theoretical problem. Before publishing his article in Knesset Dinaburg had argued that exilic communities would eventually be liquidated by the Jewish people’s own desire to liquidate them. Indeed, the dialectic he evoked in 1926, of “settling in and striking root in the countries of diaspora” on one hand and “active anticipation of imminent redemption” on the other, was supposed ultimately to generate a mass return to Palestine: “It is precisely when Jews strike roots in the lands of exile and adapt themselves maximally to their way of life that the space for friction and conflict [between Jews and nonJews] grows, so that whenever Jews become broadly ‘established’ [in a new diaspora country] a general crisis ensues; maximum rootedness is followed by separatism and feelings of foreignness, which lead in the end to the revival of the people’s connection with its land, efforts to hasten the coming of the Messiah, and a wave of immigration to the Land of Israel, slower or more rapid, smaller or larger, depending upon the condition of the country at the time.”80 In contrast, the dialectic outlined in the Knesset essay made no provision for “revival of the people’s connection with its land”; instead it posited that times of crisis produce not mass migration to Palestine but a saving remnant that escapes to found a new exilic community. More strikingly, in the “historical pattern” that Dinaburg sketched in 1943, the end of exile implied not redemption but destruction. Alert readers were thus liable to wonder how the Zionist movement would draw the strength and energy necessary to realize its aims: according to the new paradigm, the return to Zion could not have arisen out of the dynamic of Jewish history itself. Hence it is not surprising that in the very year in which the Knesset essay appeared Dinaburg already began to retreat from the scheme he presented in it. Indeed, in a lecture entitled “Our Fate and Our



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Struggle at the Present Time,” delivered at a conference of writers in May 1943, he set forth an alternate model of the relationship between the Holocaust and the earlier history of the Jews, highlighting the differences between recent and earlier catastrophes more than their similarities: What has happened to us is altogether unique. It has no precedent. It has never before happened that the murder of an entire nation has been proclaimed publicly [as an aim] and allowed to proceed. We have been removed from the human race, set up to be killed by all available means, and the whole world has watched it happen. . . . It is unlike anything that occurred even in the darkest days of the middle ages. . . . It is different because then there was mass hatred . . . , but there were also kings, bishops, and others who tried to stand in the way and change things. . . . Then there is the extent of the . . . Holocaust, [encompassing] half or more of the Jewish people, the Jews of western Eu rope, central Eu rope, all of Poland, all of Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Belorussia. Finally, the danger lies not only in the extent . . . , not only in the fact that a great, powerful, and influential nation is the one that has done the deed, but in . . . the fact that nothing has really been done to rescue the Jews: the eyes of the world see the horror, but no one extends a hand to succor or save.81

In this alternate paradigm the Holocaust was not the latest incarnation of a recurring motif in Jewish history, as Dinaburg had portrayed it in his Knesset article, but an altogether modern phenomenon. In his new version, the features that distinguished the Holocaust from all prior catastrophes that had befallen the Jews had not even been imaginable in the middle ages, for “in those days the state was not organized and did not take part in the slaughter, whereas today a well-organized state extends over much of the earth, and not only was the well-oiled machinery of that state activated . . . for the purpose of exterminating us, but the state made extermination one of the elements upon which it fed.”82 Consequently, he suggested, it was not the constant, unchanging dialectic of exilic communities and their destruction throughout the generations that gave rise to the Holocaust but “exile in the modern state.” Modernity, not exile, was the primary culprit:

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The modern state engulfs the entire person. There is no aspect of public life that the state does not scrutinize. There are no openings into which the modern state does not insert itself, no gaps it ignores. All areas of life—the economy, laws, mores, education, literature, art, family life, community organization, everything—are subject to the state’s influence, even in the most liberal and democratic states that set boundaries for themselves and allow individuals autonomy and room to maneuver. Everything belongs to the realm of the political. And the political realm is by its very nature an arena of friction, disputes, conflicts. In recent generations political conflict has been constant. . . . And the Jews of Europe, who have obtained political equality, are active, enthusiastic participants in that conflict. It is only natural that their participation will give the struggle a Jewish aspect. . . . The Jew is the other. There is a tradition of Jew-hatred that is brought to bear in [modern] political conflict. . . . That is essentially what Herzl intuited with his prophetic sense, what he called “the new ghetto.”83

For Dinaburg, who continued to insist upon the educational value of the middle ages, this representation of the Holocaust’s origins was surely more congenial than the one embodied in his Knesset essay. Moreover, the new interpretation served Zionist needs equally well. If, as Dinaburg believed, one of the primary reasons for studying and teaching Jewish history was to spur mass migration of Jews from all corners of the diaspora to Palestine, then it made no practical difference whether all exilic communities throughout history were portrayed as living on the edge of destruction or only exilic communities in the modern period. Nevertheless the new model presented historiographical and ideological difficulties of its own. In its own way it, too, no less than Baer’s Galut, denied the perception of Jewish history as a continuous organic whole, each of whose periods was equally valuable. Just as the depiction of the Jewish past in Galut denigrated the status of the middle ages, Dinaburg’s attribution of the Holocaust to modernity detracted from the worth of recent times. Because “the modern state encompasses every aspect of life . . . , a ghetto cannot exist in our day,” Dinaburg explained, employing “ghetto” as a symbol of the wide autonomy Jews enjoyed in medieval times and lamenting the disappearance of the institution he believed had lent the Jewish spirit fertile ground on which



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to develop. By assuming an active role in modern political life, he protested, Jews who had been granted civic equality had vitiated their Jewish energies to the point of losing the primeval vigor that had animated the Jewish people in earlier times.84 He noted that whereas “in the middle ages it was customary [among Jews] not to blot out or hide the blood stains of martyrs from the walls of their houses,” more recently “there have turned up among us some who declare that we must indeed remove the blood, that we forget, that we return to the cities of slaughter and make a life for ourselves in them as we had in the past—that is, as our ancestors did following the Black Death.”85 Dinaburg feared that the all-encompassing character of the modern state could extinguish the last remaining spark of the Jewish spirit, and the legacy of the middle ages would not suffice to reignite it. In other words, his new interpretation of the Holocaust could no more explain where the Zionist movement’s motive force was to be found than could the paradigm of exilic communities and their destruction. Thus for Dinaburg the chief historiographic challenge posed by the Holocaust was the problem of placing the destruction of European Jewry into an analytical framework that would support the twin notions of the unity and continuity of Jewish history and the equal educational value of all periods while simultaneously leaving room for the possibility of redemption from exile by means of this-worldly, historical processes. In the end, Dinaburg met the challenge only partially. His partial success points, in turn, to a partial explanation of why the platform of the Jerusalem school did not militate against sequestering the Holocaust from the rest of the history of the Jewish people. ✻

In January 1945 Dinaburg presented the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University with a proposal to convene a conference of “scholars who work in all branches of Jewish studies” to determine “the attitude of Judaicists toward the Holocaust and the duties the Holocaust imposes” upon them.86 Eventually the proposal led to the first World Congress of Jewish Studies, which convened in Jerusalem in 1947. In his address to the congress Dinaburg restated the original proposal’s proposition that “what has happened to us most recently

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requires us as scholars to reexamine the entire history of ‘Israel among the nations.’ ”87 To that end he asked his colleagues to begin compiling “all of the required evidence” and to do so “systematically, so as to open before us new avenues for research.” He also set forth a framework for organizing the documentary material once it was assembled. Dinaburg’s call to action brought no immediate practical results. Historians of the Jews did not take up “the duties that the Holocaust imposes” as a matter for extended discussion, neither at the congress nor in its wake. In fact, Dinaburg’s own personal research agenda did not match the program he outlined; for years after the war the Holocaust proper stood far from the center of his academic attentions. His list of publications reveals that during the years 1945–1952 he devoted not a single article to any aspect of the destruction of European Jewry.88 He also ignored documentary compilation; locating new materials from the Holocaust period and preparing them for publication assumed only a marginal role in his professional activities at the time.89 Instead, during the late 1940s he undertook an intensive inquiry into the fundamental characteristics of modernity and their influence upon the history of the Jews,90 capped by a lengthy programmatic article entitled “The ‘Modern Period’ in Jewish History: Definition, Essence, and Character,” published in Zion in 1949. In that essay Dinaburg tackled, among other issues, the problem of identifying the historical forces that had driven the Jewish national movement in recent generations. The ideas elaborated in his discussion suggested in turn, albeit indirectly, a possible escape from the blind alley in which his earlier efforts to integrate the Holocaust into the mainstream of Jewish history had left him. The suggestion was at once breathtakingly bold and astonishingly simple. It rested upon a notion that Dinaburg had begun to develop on the eve of the war, in the introduction to a 1939 volume entitled Sefer haTsiyonut (The Book of Zionism). In this anthology Dinaburg expatiated for the first time upon the wellsprings of what he called the movement for Jewish national revival, depicting Zionism as an outgrowth of a particular stream in Jewish messianic thought. That stream, he asserted, considered the Land of Israel as a “real physical place” and its inhabitants as “involved and occupied with the concerns of the world,” 91



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avoiding entanglement in abstruse mystical speculation about the end of days. He stated that this “realistic” messianism reached the peak of its development at the end of the nineteenth century, with the crystallization of the Hibbat Zion societies in Eastern Europe and their subsequent absorption into the Zionist Organization.92 However, he claimed, that culmination had been long in arriving; the process that led to it actually began toward the end of the seventeenth century, after much of the excitement surrounding the false messiah Shabbetai Zvi, who had galvanized the Jewish world beginning in the late 1660s, had abated. That moment appeared to him as “the beginning of a major turning point in Jewish history.” 93 Consequently he designated it the start of the modern era for the Jewish people.94 That designation went hand in hand with another argument Dinaburg raised in the same text. He maintained that along with realistic messianism, the late seventeenth century witnessed the origin of two additional processes that helped shape the modern experience of the Jews. Those processes, which in his words produced “a great national crisis that shook every foundation of Jewish existence,” 95 were “the ongoing weakening of the social bonds holding the Jewish nation together” and “the emphatic insinuation of Jews into the national life of the peoples in whose midst they lived.” 96 According to Dinaburg, these two processes represented two sides of the same coin, as it were, for while “the dissolution of the social bonds that had welded the individuals of the dispersed nation throughout the centuries into a single, solid, tightlyknit unit freed the individual from submission to the [Jewish] community and prepared him well to insinuate himself with intensity into the economic, social, and cultural life of the nation in whose midst he resided,” at the same time “the individual who renounced the authority of the Jewish community not only assumed the manners of another community . . . but also willingly submitted to that community’s domination and accepted its precepts as binding.” Nevertheless, he declared, “the onset of this great national crisis aroused a struggle against it as well, a national struggle for existence that constitutes the essential content of Jewish history in modern times.” 97 Realistic messianism, in his view, was a central element in this struggle, a countervailing trend

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to the transfer of Jews’ loyalties from the Jewish people to their surrounding societies. Such a definition of the essence and starting point of the modern period at once complemented fundamental notions that Dinaburg had been developing since the beginning of his career and deviated from them substantially. On one hand it offered a concrete modern example of the dialectic of striking root in diaspora and anticipation of redemption. On the other it contradicted the periodization scheme he had proposed in 1926, which divided Jewish history into “eras of stability and eras of crisis” according to variations in “the demography and settlement patterns, the socioeconomic structure, and the political regimes in the countries where the fragments of the [Jewish] nation were scattered, along with the civic and cultural situation of the peoples among whom the Jews lived.” At that time Dinaburg had suggested that those exogenous factors “determine the boundaries of the static and dynamic features of the [Jewish] nation in diaspora.” 98 In 1939, by contrast, he employed certain static and dynamic features themselves to define the character of a period, as if they were entirely endogenous creations. Indeed, in the introduction to Sefer haTsiyonut there is no hint that the weakening of social bonds and integration into the surrounding society bore any connection with the histories of the peoples among whom the various Jewish communities experiencing those processes lived. In this fashion Dinaburg appears to have added a layer to his developing notion of Jewish history as the product of forces immanent in the Jewish people themselves. His new periodization scheme endowed Jewish history with a pace of its own, allowing for a Jewish “modern period” not necessarily coterminous with the modern era in the history of other peoples. The news reaching Palestine in 1942–1943 seems to have deflected Dinaburg from this line of thought, but he took it up again once the war came to a close. In his 1949 article on modern times in Jewish history he delimited a Jewish modern period in much the same way he had ten years earlier, abandoning the ideas he had developed during the war. No longer was the “modernity” of recent Jewish generations associated with the dominance of “modern” political and social arrangements as he had limned them in 1943. “The problems which exercised



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the people of that period,” he explained, “the goals which they set themselves and the methods by which they sought to attain them, are all readily intelligible to us, precisely because they are so similar to our own views, aspirations, and ways of action. That is why the history of these recent generations can truly be called modern history.” 99 Accordingly he no longer declared the intervention of the state in all aspects of human life to be the defining characteristic of the modern period in Jewish history, as he had when the Holocaust was at its height. Instead he pointed to the appearance of a “new type of Jew,” one “close to us not only in time, but also in character”—as the criterion for fi xing the beginning of the Jewish modern era.100 Conceiving Jewish modernity in this fashion stimulated Dinaburg once again to expound upon the “new type of Jew” and “the essential content of Jewish history in modern times,” as he had begun to do on the eve of the war. In this connection he rejected the two most common characterizations put forward by earlier historians of the Jews— that of Graetz, which lionized “the Europeanized Jewish intellectual with the new modern outlook,” and the version of Dubnow, featuring “the recently emancipated citizen whose equal status was officially recognized by the state.”101 In Dinaburg’s words, “ ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘emancipation’ are far from exhausting the whole content of the historical reality of Jewish life in modern times.” Furthermore, he proclaimed that “a historiographical approach which regards the enlightenment and the emancipation as the central features of modern Jewish history entirely fails to take account of, or at least relegates into the background, some of the most important aspects of Jewish life in modern times, those very aspects in which the ‘historical activity’ of Jewry in those times was in fact most intensely displayed.”102 Among those areas he listed “the rise of the great new centers of Jewish population . . . in Russia, North America and Palestine . . . ; the origin, spread, and growth of Hassidism . . . ;” and mainly “the movement of ‘revolt against the Galut . . . ,’ which, during the last sixty years, has gradually and steadily spread to all sections of the Jewish people, renewing its political and cultural unity, and rousing it to acts and achievements such as had not been performed by Jews since the beginning of the Dispersion, and which changed the whole character of

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the nation.”103 From the perspective of 1949—one year after the establishment of the State of Israel, which he considered “the absolute epitome of Jewish history”104—the rebellion against exile seemed to him the central process of modern times, especially to the extent that it found expression in “the formation of a great Jewish community in Palestine.”105 For this reason he sought the beginning of the modern period in “organized mass [Jewish] immigration to the Holy Land under the leadership of a prophet of redemption, himself a religious rebel against the Galut.” He detected the first appearance of these motifs in “the immigration . . . of one thousand Jews led by Rabbi Judah the Pious in the year 1700.”106 In that event he perceived great “symbolical value” as “a pointer to generations whose historical experience was largely one of mass revolts and mass migrations in search of national salvation.”107 Notice: even though in comparison with his position in 1939 Dinaburg had added to the list of historical phenomena that he counted as integral components of modern Jewish history, the language he employed to indicate the paramount significance of the rebellion against exile repeated word for word the manner in which, in Sefer haTsiyonut, he had described “the great national struggle for existence”—as if nothing had occurred in the interval that could induce him to change his view. Indeed, focus upon the increased pace of Jewish migration to Palestine from the early eighteenth century gave Dinaburg a convenient way both to incorporate the modern period within the central stream of Jewish history and to account for the national revival in his own generation. He began from virtually the same exordium he had employed in 1939, before the two schemes he had formulated in light of the Holocaust had channeled his thoughts in another direction. The movement led by Rabbi Judah the Pious, he explained, “marked the beginning of a more realistic course of messianic activity which made it possible to keep alive the eagerness for redemption in the common people’s hearts.”108 At this point, however, he added a new argument: the Jewish community that took shape in Palestine as a result of this increased immigration “became a new and very influential factor in the strengthening of the physical bonds between the nation and its land, to an extent unequalled for many generations.” To his mind, that community served as a magnet for all who desired to preserve the last glowing



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embers of Jewish civilization at a time when “the new spirit of nihilism and atheism” that informed the “tremendous changes [that] occurred, in the modern era, in all the lands where the Jews lived . . . so blurred the outline of collective Jewish existence and so reduced the inner content of Judaism, that it becomes necessary first to determine the limits of specifically Jewish history in this period.”109 He had not insisted upon such a preliminary examination before the war; evidently he had yet to consider the possibility that the boundaries of Jewish history in any era might not coincide with the sum total of actions and experiences of Jews the world over. Now, by contrast, he explicitly rejected that assumption: whereas earlier he regarded what had befallen even those Jews who had cast off “the social bonds holding the Jewish nation together” and made “the national life of the peoples in whose midst they lived” their own as belonging to the history of the Jewish people (if only by virtue of their essential role in the dialectic of striking root in diaspora and anticipation of redemption), now he removed most Jews who had attained civic equality in their countries of residence from the confines of Jewish history altogether: [The Jewish] way of life could never have come into being without the previous existence of the Jews as a corporate body, without their collective will to live together, and without the possibility thus afforded them of creating their own pattern of life even on foreign soil. Now, it is precisely in modern times that this Jewish “corporateness” has been most seriously impaired. . . . The individual Jew was set free from the jurisdiction of the Jewish community, in part by his own conscious will and effort. The economic integration of the Jews into the life of the state was accompanied by a process of cultural assimilation. In his daily life the Jew became more and more a part of the environment in which he had made his home and in which he lived and worked. . . . An outlet was thus provided for his energies outside the Jewish community. . . . Such activities on the part of individual Jews, however, do not come, and cannot be brought, within the purview of Jewish history, despite the large numbers of the Jews involved. They belong rather to the history of the gentile nation or community in which these Jews did their work. . . . Yet, at the same time, throughout this period we can also feel the continued existence

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of Jewry as an indissoluble entity. During all these generations Jewish life was carried on with a vigorous, restless intensity and the Jewish struggle for survival also continued unabated. Even the active participation of Jews in the social, political, cultural and spiritual lives of the countries in which there was a considerable Jewish population sometimes appears to be a distinctive historical trend which derives its special character from the life force of Jewish uniqueness. The limits of specifically Jewish history in modern times are thus not chronological, but social, and are to be defined in terms of developments in the following fields: the attempt to “break through” on to the stage of world events, accompanied by a stubborn struggle to preserve a distinctive, centuries-old spiritual and social entity; the emergence of a new pattern of Jewish life, resulting from a constant process of adaptation to the non-Jewish environment, side by side with a constant renewal of Jewish uniqueness; and the crystallization of certain tendencies in the collective will of the Jewish people, arising from their ideological unification and their orga nization for national self-defense.110

What Dinaburg hoped to gain from this postulate seems clear: by eliminating from the purview of Jewish history most Jews who, upon achieving emancipation, were “set free from the jurisdiction of the Jewish community,” he was also able to discard most of the episodes of the modern period whose educational value he deemed dubious. The deepening desire of the millennial Jewish nation to seek its fortunes in foreign climes, the mounting estrangement from the Jewish spirit demonstrated by ever-widening sectors of the Jewish people, the mass disregard for the repeated harbingers of impending destruction—all of these, he proclaimed, had sapped the nation’s endurance and robbed it of its creativity. Hence, he argued, those Jews who succumbed to the spirit of modernity had effectively removed themselves from the chain of generations, to the point where future generations of Jews would be ill advised to seek educational values in their quasi-Jewish experience. On the contrary, according to Dinaburg’s prescription Jewish history in the final phase of what he called “Israel in diaspora” was to be confined to the ceaseless struggle that the minority of the people that remained determined to be included in the Jewish “fellowship”—the “faithful



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remnant” that had survived not physical destruction, as he had suggested in his Knesset article, but spiritual annihilation111—had waged against the relentless assimilatory pressures of modernity. That minority, he declared, was the true bearer of the Jewish spirit in a time of massive defection from the Jewish ranks; it alone provided the motive force for the national revival of the twentieth century. Thus Dinaburg effectively confined the story of the Jews in modern times to the narrative of the final triumph over exile. He even fixed an end point for the modern period: “the international recognition of the independent Jewish State of Israel.”112 The establishment of the Jewish state represented for him the culmination of “the reunification of Jewry into a national political body aiming at the territorial concentration of the Jews on the soil of their ancestors and the attainment of their political independence in their ancient fatherland.”113 And because “the basic premise for the understanding of Jewish history is . . . [that] the Jewish people constituted a distinctive national entity, the different parts of which were linked together in a common destiny by certain unique life processes peculiar to them alone,”114 Dinaburg could no longer allocate space in the national narrative to those who chose consciously not to take part in the nation’s generations-long struggle to reclaim its land. In this way Dinaburg returned the modern period to the continuity of Jewish history after the two analytical frameworks he had developed in 1943 had placed its position in doubt. In doing so, however, he did not complete the task of incorporating the Holocaust into his master narrative of Jewish historical unity and continuity in a way that could help his own generation “make new selections from our spiritual heritage and activate it in our people’s existential struggle.” Not only in his article on the modern period but in virtually all his later schematic essays on Jewish history in general and on the modern era in par ticu lar he mentioned the Holocaust only in passing.115 Indeed, whenever he returned in those writings to the theme of the Jewish people’s “historic destiny,” he tended to deflect the spotlight from the Holocaust proper, concentrating instead upon what he called the broader “war against the Jews” that began in 1881 and continued to be “waged unceasingly right down to its end” in the Holocaust.116 That war, he explained, “was set in the general historical framework of a strife-torn world . . . which saw

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the rise and fall of classes . . . ; the struggle for mastery between emergent and effete parties . . . ; the clash between declining old-established nations . . . and the revolutionary force of rising new nations . . . ; wars between states . . . ; and rivalry for the division and control of the world between great power blocs.”117 The climate of universal war engulfed the Jews as well, providing, in his words, “an outlet for the bitterness of the social déclassés . . . ; an effective means of restoring the fortunes of the Jews’ unsuccessful economic rivals . . . ; a satisfactory way of deflecting the wrath of the masses in the political struggle . . . ; and . . . a kind of cesspool into which could be poured all the moral corruption of a decaying society.”118 In this historic situation he located the primary factor that had converted the “revolt against the Galut” from the work of “a few ‘faithful remnants’ ”119 to “a long and courageous social and political struggle which . . . has constituted the whole content of Jewish life in the last two generations.”120 But to his mind all these developments had preceded the Holocaust by sixty years. Morever, in Dinaburg’s postwar formulation the Holocaust did not generate any change of direction in the overall course of modern Jewish history. Dinaburg continued to figure that direction as he had in 1926, when he had written that “the fourth crisis” in the history of “Israel in diaspora” began in 1880, when “the disintegration of dynastic states into their national and social foundations” led to “the removal of the Jewish masses from the national-territorial bodies and the beginnings of their coalescence into a national-political association.”121 In other words, after the shock of the first news of the destruction of European Jewry had worn off, Dinaburg ceased to speak of the Holocaust as “a turning point in the nation’s historic destiny” requiring reconsideration of the Jewish people’s most cherished cultural values, as he had done when the war was at its height and for a brief interval thereafter. On the contrary, in 1949 he preferred to incorporate the Holocaust into the analytical categories he had developed during the 1930s and to assign it a less significant place in his historical narrative than he did to the “rebellion against exile” and the reconstitution of Jewish independence in the new State of Israel. Accordingly, when he prepared a new introduction to an expanded edition of Yisra’el baGolah, which appeared in 1958, he changed nothing of the conceptual infrastructure he



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had laid down thirty-two years earlier, at a time when the Holocaust was still a far-off nightmare that neither he nor anyone else of his generation could even begin to imagine. By deciding not to seek a new analytical framework for studying Jewish history in light of the Holocaust but to incorporate the Holocaust into an existing one, Dinaburg (or Dinur, as he was known from 1951, when he Hebraized his name as a condition for appointment as Israel’s minister of education) no doubt took into consideration what he thought were the needs of the Zionist movement during the first years of Israel’s existence. In May 1953, during the parliamentary debate over a bill to create a state-sponsored Holocaust memorial, he acknowledged that “these days I have one criterion: the existence of the State of Israel and its development,” adding that “if [Jews] do not become a . . . strong and powerful people that dwells in [its] own land . . . , if we do not work day and night to become one, Israel will not endure.”122 Yet Dinur was a Zionist of a particular stripe—a socialist Zionist who, during his youth in Russia, had stood close to revolutionary circles.123 No wonder, then, that in addition to the standard tasks he assigned to the state, like promoting the immigration of Jews the world over, settlement on the land, and economic development, he also spoke of Israel’s universal mission “to cultivate a new way of life and a new society, built upon a just and ethical foundation and upon our cultural legacy.” That task was as important in his eyes as any other national purpose. “For the first time,” he explained, “we have been given the chance to demonstrate our ability to create not in the realm of abstract, critical thought but in concrete social action.” Therefore, he argued, the State of Israel was obliged to build an exemplary society and to contribute to the welfare not only of the Jewish people but of humanity as a whole. Dinur had no doubt that Israel was capable of meeting this responsibility: for “the Jewish people came into being on the basis of a covenant with a universal objective,” and “our culture is oriented toward social justice.” The Jewish sense of justice, he claimed, had been sharpened by the experience of exile, throughout which Jews had suffered grievously from the moral failings of those among whom they lived: “Up to now we have . . . castigated all of the kingdoms of the earth, labeling them with the names of brute animals” for their purported lack of moral

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sensitivity. Consequently, he reasoned, in order to realize the exalted moral ideals implicit in Jewish culture, the new Jewish state must work to preserve the memory of exile: it must not turn its back upon “the continuity of the Jewish people’s generations-long cultural heritage,” which had remained unbroken through two millennia under foreign rule. On the contrary, he admonished, “this ‘cultural heritage,’ which is the bedrock of our existence, is also the foundation upon which the entire House of Israel rests; working diligently to preserve and strengthen it is one of the most important things the State of Israel must do.”124 Dinur’s apprehension that Zionist renunciation of exile might turn into radical rejection of the diaspora’s entire cultural legacy—a fear he had expressed with some urgency in his late wartime writings and lectures, prompting him to retreat from the paradigm of “exilic communities and their destruction” only a short time after he had formulated it—thus does not appear to have been entirely assuaged by the establishment of the state. This apprehension stood to dissuade him from representing the Holocaust in ways that might encourage the radical position, especially by portraying it as the inevitable dialectical outcome of the exilic condition. Incorporating the Holocaust instead into the overarching story of the “fourth [period of] crisis” in Jewish history allowed him to sidestep the problem by presenting the Nazi persecutions and murder campaign as nothing more than an extreme expression of that “disintegration of . . . states into their national and social foundations” that diaspora Jews had managed to overcome thanks to their “coalescence into a national-political association,” migration to Palestine, and establishment of a state of their own. Similarly, it allowed him to displace the center of the Holocaust narrative from the murder itself, with all of its attendant emotional baggage, to the Jews’ own struggle for existence under Nazi rule—one he portrayed as a heroic chapter in “the legacy of Jewish self-defense during the generations when Jews were enslaved and treated as aliens.” “From the 1880s,” he wrote, “this legacy became intimately bound up with the rebellion against exile and the reclamation of a foothold for Jews in their land.”125 Not surprisingly, Dinur became a vociferous advocate of incorporating the word heroism—a term he took to refer not necessarily to the actions of those relatively few Jews who had taken up arms against their



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tormentors but to the full range of ways in which Jews preserved their human dignity as the Nazis worked to take it away—in discussions of the Holocaust. As he explained in 1953, “the chapter of the Holocaust and heroism is not only a story of life and death, murder and uprising; it also concerns the daily life of Jews in the ghettos, of Jewish life in all the countries of Europe from the day the Nazis seized power.”126 On the same occasion he declared emphatically that the chief educational value of the Holocaust for the first Israeli generation to come of age in the independent state lay precisely in the second term of the “Holocaust and heroism” locution: We have renewed our independence; we have taken control of our country after more than two thousand years of servitude. The strength and spiritual fortitude we have displayed in this struggle are a direct continuation of the battle waged by millions of our brethren who perished while fighting for their lives. . . . Their spirit and their steadfastness spilled over into the valor shown by the finest of our children, who gave their lives in the fight for our independence, our country, and our lives here.127

For Dinur, a central aspect of the heroism that the millions who perished at Nazi hands demonstrated was the determination to document not only the crimes committed against them but even more the manner in which they persevered in the shadow of death: It seems to me that in our bloodsoaked history there has never been a [time of] catastrophe and destruction in which so many people risked their lives and defied death in order to preserve knowledge of what had befallen them to the last generation and pass it on to their brethren. Not only historians and important people did this. So did common people, ordinary Jews everywhere. Not only did Simon Dubnow exclaim at the outset of the Holocaust, “Brothers, record, write down everything, so that the story can be told to the last generation;” not only did Emmanuel Ringelblum systematically gather historical material. Simple Jews strove to pull down the placards, announcements, and orders posted by the oppressor and preserve them. Jews invented new ways of collecting documents, of photographing each atrocity to the extent that they were able; even in Os´wie˛cim they planned to produce an anthology entitled “Auschwitz.” I take the liberty of reading a few

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passages from the introduction to that unpublished anthology that convey the deep emotional and national basis of the concern for [preserving] memory: “All of us, who are dying here as the nations of the world watch apathetically . . . , feel the need to leave behind something for future generations, if not complete documents then at least fragments and remains of what we, the living dead, thought, felt, desired. . . . Let us use the gallows as a desk for writing; let us write down what we have to say and tell. And so, comrades, record with brevity and incisiveness. . . . May our brothers who remain alive and free read this; perhaps they will learn from it.128

Thus the primary aim of Holocaust research changed for Dinur from reformulating the history of earlier Jewish generations, as he had conceived it while the war was still in progress, to living up to the behest of the myriad victims who risked their lives to record their experiences as death closed in. A research program that stressed how those victims stood up to their oppressors while incorporating their behavior into the master narrative of rebellion against exile evidently seemed to him the optimal way to turn study of the Holocaust into a constructive activity from a Jewish national point of view. In setting this goal Dinur effectively balked at confronting certain basic questions that a historical approach to the Holocaust necessarily demands—questions he himself had begun to address in his earliest writings on the subject. In particular, the approach he had outlined in his 1943 Knesset article included not only a new interpretation of diaspora Jewish history overall but also an explanation, crude and conjectural though it was, of how particular Jewish communities had vanished from the map. The general interpretation and the explanations of specific cases depended closely upon one another: the Holocaust was supposed to have sprung from within Jewish history and to have constituted an integral part of it. Consequently, once Dinur abandoned the former, he tacitly rejected any suggestion that the Nazi destruction could be understood as a product of Jewish historical dynamics. To be sure, the analytical framework into which he inserted the Holocaust from 1949 onward enabled him to identify certain historical processes out of which he believed the Holocaust had arisen, but it located those



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processes mainly in the realm of modern European history, not in the history of the Jews. For all intents and purposes that later framework incorporated the image of the Holocaust as a volcanic eruption that Dinaburg had twice employed in 1942.129 It likened study of the Holocaust’s origins to the work of geologists, who occupy themselves with the eruption’s proximate causes; study of Jewish history during the Nazi period, in contrast, appeared more like the work of archaeologists, who seek to reconstruct how the victims of the eruption coped with its devastation. The implication was that the task of determining the Holocaust’s historical origins and accounting for its evolutionary course belonged to historians of Eu rope. They were to play the role of geologists, whereas historians of the Jews—the archaeologists, as it were—need concern themselves with such questions only tangentially. Put another way, not all aspects of the Holocaust could be encompassed by Dinur’s post-1949 analytical framework; certain central aspects were placed beyond the Jewish historical bailiwick. This move no doubt helped create the gap that “prevented the bridging of the accepted Jewish historiography . . . with a description of the Holocaust” and divides the two fields to this day. ✻

Dinur exercised powerful influence over the earliest phases of Holocaust research in Israel. As chief architect of the “Holocaust and Heroism Commemoration Law” that established the state’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, and as Yad Vashem’s chairman during its first six years (1953–1959), he held a governmental mandate “to assemble, investigate, and publish all evidence concerning the Holocaust and impart its lessons to the people.”130 In this capacity he erected and supervised extensive projects for collecting and cata loging documentary material, recording eyewitness testimonies, developing research aids for scholars, organizing groups to study specific topics, and publishing learned books and articles, concentrating around him a corps of scholars to assist in these tasks.131 As a matter of course he left his mark in all of those areas, to the point where he eventually earned the appellation “pioneer of Holocaust memory.”132

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Dinur’s involvement with Yad Vashem afforded him the opportunity to implement his approach to studying the Holocaust. He took a first step in this direction in 1954, launching a massive research project entitled Registry of Jewish Communities (Pinkas haKehilot) with the goal of erecting “a memorial to the life and destruction of the Jewish communities against whom the Nazis and their helpers raised their hand.”133 Dinur envisioned a multivolume “geographical-historical lexicon” incorporating entries on the history of “all places where Jews lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa that fell under the domination of the Nazis and their collaborators . . . from beginning to end . . . on the basis of primary sources, whether they have already been published or are still in manuscript.”134 This definition of the project’s scope suggested that emphasis was not necessarily to be placed upon a given community’s destruction or even upon its experience during the Nazi era but upon “the vitality of its historical existence”—its “particular historical profile” and “how that profile manifested itself in the horrible reality of annihilation.”135 In contrast, “the annihilation proper”—the question of “how Hitler planned the Jews’ extermination”—was explicitly placed beyond the project’s pale.136 Evidently Dinur sought in this manner to carry out the “fresh look at the [Jewish people’s] hidden reserves, its spiritual inventory, in order to employ it more effectively in the struggle for existence” that he had urged in 1943. But whereas earlier he had spoken of appraising the spiritual inventory in light of “the flames of the exilic communities that are burning before our eyes,”137 now he wondered “how to find the proper way to identify” the true profile of the diaspora in the latest conflagration’s blinding light.138 In a sense, Pinkas haKehilot was to be an archaeological expedition to uncover the living strata that the Nazi volcano had buried, so that cultural resources that had proven their worth during the latest ordeal could be culled from them. The difference between the manner in which Dinaburg conceived the nexus between the Holocaust and Jewish history and 1943 and the conception of that nexus that informed Pinkas haKehilot was subtle in the extreme—so subtle, in fact, that at the time hardly anyone noted it.139 On the contrary, noting the project’s broad chronological scope, as well as the agreements into which Yad Vashem entered in 1955 with



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the Historical Society of Israel and in 1957 with the Hebrew University in order to secure support for it,140 many observers concluded that Dinur proposed to subsume research on the Holocaust proper within “the eternity of general [Jewish] history” in a way that would obscure the specific character of the Nazi years.141 That prospect aroused intense opposition from several important public figures in Israel and the diaspora, who warned that (as Yitzhak Gruenbaum, once the most prominent political leader of Polish Jewry, who had served as Israel’s first minister of the interior, put it) Yad Vashem was liable to turn into “an institute for [studying Jewish] history in general instead of the Holocaust period.”142 Those who feared this possibility called for a clear delineation between Holocaust research and Jewish historical studies, in order to direct Yad Vashem toward what they considered a more appropriate academic agenda and to clarify its proper relationship with other scholarly institutions promoting research on the history of the Jews in the modern period.143 Against this background both Yad Vashem and Israeli institutions of higher education took a series of decisions during the 1950s that ultimately heightened the divide between the two fields of inquiry. The challenges to Dinur’s proposed direction for Yad Vashem received support from some members of the institution’s own academic staff. The internal challengers were historians and writers who had survived the Holocaust in Poland, coming to Yad Vashem after having accumulated considerable skill in several of the activities with which the memorial agency concerned itself—gathering testimonies about the lived experience of Jews under Nazi rule, organizing and implementing research projects, and compiling and publishing documentary volumes. Some had been associated with Emmanuel Ringelblum’s Oyneg Shabbes, the clandestine archive of the Warsaw ghetto, and before migrating to Israel in the late 1940s had held senior positions in the Central Jew˙ ydowska Komisja ish Historical Commission in Warsaw (Centralna Z Historyczna), a body established in August 1944, on the heels of the liberation of eastern Poland, for the purpose of “investigating the history of the Jews in Poland during the period of the German occupation, gathering all materials that bear witness to German crimes . . . , and publishing historical studies.”144 Their reservations about the direction

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in which they believed Dinur sought to move Yad Vashem appear to have stemmed to a considerable extent from a sense that the chairman had “shunted [them] aside”145 in favor of his students from the Hebrew University, “who have acquired neither experience nor expertise” in the complexities of the Nazi era.146 Indeed, upon assuming leadership of the institution Dinur had assembled a cadre of young university-trained scholars from other areas of Jewish studies and had assigned them—not the group of Holocaust survivors—responsibility for Yad Vashem’s academic publishing program, including Pinkas haKehilot.147 In this fashion a cultural barrier emerged within the agency: whereas those close to Dinur, like Dinur himself, had been socialized to the norms of the German academy (which dominated academic practice at the Hebrew University during its first half century), the survivors from Poland had absorbed another research tradition altogether—one harking back to Dubnow’s 1891 call “to the astute members of our people who are taking it upon themselves to collect materials for reconstructing the history of the Jews in Poland and Russia.”148 That tradition looked upon history writing less as an academic occupation than as a popu lar enterprise uniting all segments of a community in gathering documents and recording recollections so to lay a foundation for the “mansion of history” to be erected when the documentary underpinnings were sufficient.149 According to this view, the tasks of the professional historian were to mobilize and supervise teams that would collect materials, orga nize them, and bring the discoveries of greatest contemporary moment to the attention of the wider public in readily accessible form.150 That approach had been adopted by the Central Jewish Historical Commission, as well as by the numerous historical committees formed by Holocaust survivors in Displaced Persons (DP) camps in Germany following the Second World War.151 Earlier it had constituted one of the guiding principles of Oyneg Shabbes, after which many of the survivors’ postwar documentation projects had been modeled.152 The veterans of those projects who had found employment at Yad Vashem expected that Israel’s flagship Holocaust commemoration project would adopt a similar approach, carrying on what one of their best-known figures, the journalist Rachel Auerbach, labeled “the great spontaneous documentation movement . . . to produce memorial books



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(yizkor-bikher) for the demolished Jewish communities of eastern Europe.”153 When Yad Vashem’s initial activities appeared to evolve in a different direction—ironically, in light of Dinur’s earlier observations about the vital role of “ordinary Jews” in documenting the destruction as it was taking place—their disappointment was intense. In 1958 Auerbach gave vent to their anger in Israel’s most widely circulated daily newspaper: Even as [the Holocaust] was proceeding, secret archives were formed for collecting testimonies and documents. Afterwards historical commissions and documentation centers sprang up wherever the stream of survivors passed through. In 1953, when the Holocaust and Heroism Commemoration Law was passed in parliament and establishment of the institution designated to execute it began, a palpable throbbing could be felt among the survivors who had worked in earlier documentation projects. Once again they were persuaded that this was the place to which they should bring their precious legacy—their papers, photographs, and memories. They regarded Yad Vashem as their institution, an enterprise of documentation and research that would give expression to the values and experiences [of the survivors] in a way that would transform them into lessons for the entire Jewish people. Of the people and for the people! Not an aloof, abstract academic institution, not a documentation factory, and certainly not a building full of emptyheaded bureaucrats, but a popu lar enterprise, alive with creativity and excitement.154

The survivor employees were also convinced that Holocaust research was of special interest to the Israeli public as a whole. Hence, they reasoned, immediate public needs should shape Yad Vashem’s research agenda, not purely academic considerations. Journalist Nathan Eck, another well-known member of the group, made the point explicitly in a 1958 statement to Yad Vashem’s governing board: Yad Vashem does not exist to guarantee the Holocaust its place in Jewish historiography; there is no need for it to do this. Yad Vashem’s research mission is special: it is not necessarily academic but one of national education. Its purpose is not to augment or enhance scholarship. . . . Its purpose is to teach a lesson to those who need it. . . . The mission of Holocaust research at Yad Vashem is to set forth research-

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based answers to disparate questions and problems about the Holocaust that gnaw at us. . . . [But] instead the direction [at Yad Vashem] is toward general Jewish historiography, which can be studied at a leisurely pace because it doesn’t have to provide answers for the perplexed of this generation.155

The juxtaposition of Holocaust research with “general Jewish historiography,” which was heard with increasing frequency from the mid1950s, embodied more than dissent from Dinur’s approach as head of Yad Vashem. It also challenged some of the central pillars of his historiosophy, effectively denying the homogeneity of Jewish history, the equal value of all periods, and the essential identity between the theoretical and applied aspects of Jewish scholarship. Moreover, a significant number of those who maintained such a juxtaposition hoped to deprofessionalize Holocaust studies, divorcing them altogether from the academic historical enterprise. In order to ward off this challenge and preserve Yad Vashem as an instrument for implementing his approach to studying the Holocaust from the perspective of Jewish history, Dinur required the assistance not only of the corps of young scholars he promoted intramurally but also of the institutions of higher education in Israel, which he hoped would train advanced students of Jewish history to specialize in the final phases of the rebellion against exile. But the Hebrew University—still the only institution with the resources to meet the demand—was hard pressed to identify appropriate candidates for such work.156 Consequently in 1955 Dinur presented the university’s president, Biblicist Benjamin Mazar, with a proposal to establish “a special scientific institute, attached to the Hebrew University and working in collaboration with it, dedicated to a study of . . . the European catastrophe and Jewish resistance . . . within the bounds of the history of the period, in all its manifold ramifications,” to be headed by “a Professor of Modern Jewish History.”157 In his words, “only such an institute, possessing close ties with academic teaching and scientific guidance, can hope to foster and encourage research and ensure the requisite scientific standards.”158 No doubt Dinur expected that his former colleagues from the Department of Jewish History would welcome a request for cooperation



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from the official state Holocaust memorial and would gladly promote Holocaust studies as a field of academic inquiry in Israel. Leading members of the faculty, however, especially from the Institute for Jewish Studies, demonstrated little enthusiasm for his idea. They protested that the university possessed neither the financial resources nor the personnel to maintain such a research institute, that not enough students were interested in the subject, and that the university’s autonomy and academic integrity might be compromised by entering into formal ties with an external body.159 In the event, beyond such practical and political objections it appears that the university authorities themselves were not fully persuaded of the importance of the Holocaust as a subject for teaching and research and hesitated to encourage the most promising students to enter the field. Indeed, in 1949 the university turned down an offer to endow a chair in Holocaust history, and the subject was not taught there at any level until 1958.160 When Dinur floated the proposal for a joint research institute his former colleagues were well aware of the distance he had traveled in thinking about the nexus between the Holocaust and the Jewish past and were no doubt satisfied with the position he had taken in 1949—a position that left the fundamental assumptions of Zionist historiography intact.161 Hence, in order to gain their support for his proposal, Dinur had to persuade them that “the destruction of European Jewry is . . . one of the fundamental problems for our historical research,” meriting allocation of extraordinary resources.162 Accordingly, in a comprehensive article entitled “Basic Issues in Contemporary Jewish Historical Research,” published in 1955 at the outset of negotiations with the Hebrew University, he raised anew the notion of “exilic communities and their destruction” that he had abandoned years before. He did so, he claimed, in order to demonstrate “that the present reveals the past in a different light.”163 Now, however, twelve years after first coining the phrase that has come inaccurately to epitomize his understanding of the Holocaust, he proclaimed it not loudly, as a paradigm for making sense of hitherto incomprehensible data, but tentatively, as a hypothesis to be tested by empirical research.164 Evidently he was unable to suggest an alternate academic rationale for assigning the Holocaust high priority on the agenda of Jewish studies even though he had already effectively concluded that the

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hypothesis would not stand the test. Indeed, his other arguments were at bottom patriotic in nature, rooted in the conception of the link between the Zionist project and the writing of Jewish history that he and fellow stalwarts of the Jerusalem school had first formulated in the 1920s and 1930s: In order for us to know things as they really were, we must establish facts on the ground, gathering all the materials we can obtain and concentrating them here in Israel. Even now people are deliberately and maliciously falsifying, distorting, misrepresenting. . . . Research [on the Holocaust] is important for our future as well. Of course, it cannot be done without a massive effort to gather material. Such material is to be found all over the world, including among Jews. But diaspora Jews are for the most part not capable of studying these painful episodes. They are not naturally inclined toward extensive investigation along these lines, because they still have to take into account what the nations among whom they live, and to whom they belong to one degree or another, think of them. . . . Only here in Israel do we possess sufficient distance from the scene to permit high quality academic research that will contain not the slightest hint of defensiveness or apologetics and will not be subject to distortion for fear [of unflattering conclusions]. For these reasons we in Israel must concentrate all this historical material, for we believe that we have the most favorable social conditions for systematic, comprehensive investigation of basic historical issue.165

On one level the architects of Zionist historiography who read Dinur’s words must have been impressed with his argument. Surely they found it difficult to dispute that the Holocaust was a subject worthy of multidimensional historical analysis, that clarification of its basic facts was a matter of public interest in Israel, or that conditions in Israel were favorable for promoting the needed investigations. It is also likely that they shared Dinur’s anxiety over calls to deprofessionalize Holocaust research. On the other hand, they were also cognizant of the difficulties involved in linking the Holocaust with other aspects of Jewish history—difficulties that had already surfaced not only in Dinur’s own writings but also, in somewhat different fashion, in those of Baer and Scholem. Such considerations contributed, without doubt,



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to the ambivalence with which they greeted Dinur’s proposal. To be sure, in 1957 the university consented to establish the Hebrew University– Yad Vashem Institute for Research on the Destruction of European Jewry and Its Recent History—a name that gave institutional expression to Dinur’s latest analytical framework for Holocaust studies.166 But the institute was never terribly active, ceasing operations altogether by the mid-1960s. Its existence did not prompt the Hebrew University’s Department of Jewish History to include a course on the Holocaust among its regular offerings; Holocaust studies became part of the university curriculum via the Institute for Contemporary Jewry, a separate academic unit created in 1959 out of discussions between university officials and the Israeli foreign and education ministries concerning the need to train schoolteachers to teach about Jewish life in the diaspora and diplomats to work productively with the Jewish communities in the locales to which they were posted.167 Relegation of the Holocaust to that division of the university gave formal expression to its separation from other areas of Jewish historical research. Moreover, the research and teaching program adopted by the Institute for Contemporary Jewry did not incorporate the Dinurian paradigm in toto. In particular, its focus was not primarily upon the victims and their place in the ongoing stream of Jewish history. Instead it conceived of the Holocaust as an object of study in its own right, connected to the history of Europe no less than to the history of the Jews. Indeed, Shaul Esh, one of Dinur’s former students, who directed the institute’s Holocaust studies division during its first decade, warned specifically against a “Judeocentric” approach to the subject—the approach initially advocated by Philip Friedman, in accordance with Dinur’s view, at a Yad Vashem lecture in 1957: It seems that the farther away we move from the years of Nazi rule . . . , scholarly research and commemorative activity will move even farther apart. It appears unavoidable that academic research on the Holocaust period will become a part of contemporary history, alongside the other subjects studied in that field. . . . In noting this [trend] we say nothing about the importance of the subject [for the Jewish public], which is paramount in the life of our nation and which scholars must consider as Jews. Here we are concerned with how scholars approach the subject

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as scholars. We believe that their approach must be similar to the approach scholars take toward other subjects. . . . It appears doubtful that it will be possible to follow Friedman’s sharp differentiation between subjects of study. . . . Can we really distinguish between two fields [Nazis and Jews] as he wishes to do? Can we really speak of any aspect of Jewish life in the Nazi or satellite countries that was not affected by what happened on the outside? . . . In our view we will not be able to overlook any topic pertaining to the period. . . . There is no doubt that our understanding will be deficient if we do not continue to study the actions of the Germans and other peoples, including their allies in the occupied countries.168

Perhaps Esh’s approach aimed at establishing equilibrium among the conflicting motives that animated the first generation of Zionist historians as they tried to determine their attitude toward Holocaust research and its place in Jewish historiography as a whole. Not only were those scholars themselves reluctant to take up study of the Holocaust seriously; they also made sure not to permit the Holocaust to deflect them from the academic agenda they had set during the 1920s and 1930s. Yet on the other hand they were adamant that the Israeli academic establishment, led by the Hebrew University, retain the prerogative to shape how the destruction of European Jewry was studied and discussed. They were not prepared to turn the Holocaust over to amateurs whose “strong emotional connection” to the subject “sometimes insinuates itself into their research.”169 Defining Holocaust studies as a distinct academic field, one that conceives the history of the Jews under Nazi rule as an aspect of the history of twentieth-century Europe no less, and perhaps even more, than as part of a transnational, autonomous history of the Jewish people helped them resolve these contradictory pressures.170 In this fashion the intellectual and institutional foundations for defining the Holocaust and the history of the Jews as two separate fields of inquiry were laid in the Israeli academy. Developments during the 1960s strengthened those foundations in Israel and the diaspora alike.


T h r e e “The Jewish People Murdered Itself ”

In 1961, at the height of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a book appeared that would shape the academic study of the Holocaust for the next four decades and beyond. Until then no university-trained scholar had conducted a comprehensive investigation of the Nazi murder scheme on the basis of systematic, original archival research. Entitled The Destruction of the European Jews, it was the work of thirty-five-year-old Raul Hilberg, a Vienna-born Jew who had fled Austria with his parents following the 1938 annexation to the Third Reich, settled in New York, served in the U.S. army in the Second World War, and completed his doctorate in political science at Columbia University in 1955.1 The book was an adaptation of his doctoral dissertation. In it Hilberg depicted the Holocaust as the handiwork of a bureaucratic “machinery of destruction,” operated by an ever-expanding circle of civil servants, business administrators, party functionaries, and military desk jockeys who arrived at the idea of mass murder not out of any special antipathy toward Jews but as a result of the bureaucracy’s own internal momentum, gathered while endeavoring to solve what Nazi policymakers defi ned as the problem posed by the presence of significant numbers of Jews in key territories under the Reich’s domination. This portrayal would eventually become the exordium for all academic discussions of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews. Three generations of Holocaust scholars have engaged in animated conversation with Hilberg’s pathbreaking work; even in the fi rst decade of the twenty-fi rst century his representation continues to defi ne central aspects of academic discourse about the subject. In the late 1950s,

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however, Hilberg was unable to fi nd a publisher for his manuscript— its pioneering character notwithstanding and despite the fact that the dissertation on which it was based had been awarded a prestigious prize. The book was rejected by several notable publishers before a small, virtually unknown house agreed to print and distribute it for a hefty fee.2 One of the publishers that spurned the chance to bring Hilberg’s work to light was Yad Vashem. It did so despite its leadership’s insistence, since the institution’s earliest days, that one of its primary missions was to produce a detailed, reliable description of the murder of European Jewry and to distribute it among a broad readership. To be sure, Yad Vashem was at first favorably inclined toward Hilberg’s project: in 1957, upon recommendation from Philip Friedman (a member of Hilberg’s doctoral committee), it had agreed in principle to copublish the book with Columbia University Press.3 In April 1958, in accord with that agreement, Hilberg delivered a 1,500-page manuscript, and Yad Vashem prepared to bring what its director-general called “a first-rate scholarly work” to press.4 Four months later, however, the director-general, Jozeph Melkman, informed Hilberg that Yad Vashem would not publish the book after all: At a meeting of the editorial board which took place on the 15.8.1958, a joint readers’ report was considered. In this report it was stated that while the manuscript possessed numerous merits, it also had certain deficiencies: 1. Your book rests almost entirely on the authority of German sources and does not utilize primary sources in the languages of the occupied states, or in Yiddish and Hebrew. 2. The Jewish historians here make reservations concerning the historical conclusions which you draw, both in respect of the comparison with former periods, and in respect of your appraisal of the Jewish resistance (active and passive) during the Nazi occupation. On the basis of what has been said, our foundation cannot appear as one of the publishers without running the risk that expert critics who know the history of the Nazi catastrophe thoroughly and possess a



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command of the languages of the occupied states in question, might express hostile criticism of the book.5

The “historical conclusions” regarding “Jewish resistance (active and passive)” to which the two readers objected were no doubt the sweeping generalizations Hilberg set forth in his concluding chapter: In a destruction process the perpetrators do not play the only role; the process is shaped by the victims, too. It is the interaction of perpetrators and victims that is “fate.” We must therefore discuss the reactions of the Jewish community and analyze the role of the Jews in their own destruction. . . . The reaction pattern of the Jews is characterized by almost complete lack of resistance. . . . [T]he documentary evidence of Jewish resistance, overt or submerged, is very slight. . . . Why did the Jews act in this way? The Jews attempted to tame the Germans as one would attempt to tame a wild beast. . . . They hoped that somehow the German drive [to murder them] would spend itself. This hope was founded on a two-thousand-year-old experience. In exile the Jews had always been in a minority; they had learned that they could avert danger and survive destruction by placating and appeasing their enemies. . . . Thus, over a period of centuries the Jews had learned that in order to survive they had to refrain from resistance. . . . Only in 1941, 1942, and 1943 did the Jewish leadership realize that, unlike the pogroms of past centuries, the modern machine-like destruction process would engulf European Jewry. But the realization came too late. A two-thousand-year-old lesson could not be unlearned; the Jews could not make the switch. . . . [T]he Jewish victims—caught in the strait jacket of their history—plunged themselves physically and psychologically into catastrophe.6

The readers’ objections were well taken. Hilberg’s apodictic judgments concerning the manner in which Jews throughout Europe responded to the Nazi threat lacked solid empirical foundation. Absolute submissiveness was hardly a universal characteristic of diaspora Jewry; on the contrary, over the centuries Jews adopted a wide range of strategies for preserving their physical security and advancing their collective interests. Those strategies varied according to time and place. In certain instances, when conditions seemed to warrant, Jewish communities even took up arms in their own defense.7 Moreover, Hilberg severely

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underestimated “the documentary evidence of Jewish resistance” during the Holocaust itself. No doubt the readers were correct that had Hilberg been better versed in Jewish history overall, and specifically in documents produced by Jews that reflected the full spectrum of responses to Nazi occupation, he would have portrayed those responses in a different spirit. Nevertheless, it is difficult to accept that Yad Vashem rejected his manuscript solely because of its factual errors. Those defects, almost all of which were located not in the body of the text but in the introduction and conclusion, with no substantial bearing upon the book’s central narrative or argument, might have been corrected or eliminated with the author’s agreement, yet it does not appear that Yad Vashem offered Hilberg this possibility.8 Alternatively, the decision makers at Yad Vashem could have determined that the book’s “numerous merits” outweighed its deficiencies and permitted those parts of its argument they found objectionable to be debated openly through normal academic procedures.9 If Yad Vashem spurned those possibilities, factors other than the book’s scholarly merits and shortcomings likely weighed upon its verdict. In the event, the understanding of the nexus between the Holocaust and the history of the Jews that Ben Zion Dinur endeavored to instill in Yad Vashem during the 1950s offered his acolytes reasons for keeping Hilberg and his account at arm’s length. For students of Dinur like Melkman and Shaul Esh, who continued to occupy key positions at Yad Vashem even after their teacher’s resignation from the institution’s chairmanship in 1959, Hilberg’s remarks about passivity as an essential characteristic of diaspora Jewish existence must have been a red flag, implicitly bringing him near to the radical negation of exile against which Dinur had fought from the outset of his professional career.10 His statements about the absence of a tradition of resistance in Jewish culture stood in glaring opposition to the central narrative around which Dinur had constructed his most recent account of the history of the Jews in the modern period—the narrative of “the nation’s struggle for existence.” Similarly, his suggestion that the outcome of the Holocaust was determined to a degree by the manner in which Jews responded to the Nazi threat violated the boundary Dinur had set between study of



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the Holocaust and study of Jewish history. Hilberg did not distinguish between exposing the roots of the Holocaust and describing how its victims confronted their fate; for him both matters were part of the same historical episode. In fact, Hilberg raised precisely that argument in a furious letter he sent to Melkman after learning that Yad Vashem had rejected his manuscript: Even though my work is on the Germans and their deeds, I had to deal with the Jewish response as well. I had to accept clear and unambiguous evidence that five million Jews were killed without resistance, active or passive, in all parts of Europe. If you are not prepared to accept this fact, you are not prepared to accept any explanation. But once you recognize the truth there is no way to avoid the conclusion that the historical conditioning of many centuries generated this catastrophic response.11

Following the book’s appearance Melkman published a detailed review, challenging the very notion that the fate of Jews under Nazi occupation could be attributed in any way to a supposed diasporic cultural tradition. “In principle,” he explained, “the extent of destruction was the result of external conditions that Jews could not control,” not of the Jews’ ancestral heritage. In his view, “the response of the Jewish community in a par ticu lar country was irrelevant” compared with “the progress of the war, the political situation, [and] German plans for the future of the captured territories.” Moreover, he asserted, Jewish responses were not fundamentally different from those of other conquered populations. He pointed out that five million forced laborers of various nationalities “succumbed to the same measures that the Nazis took against the Jews,” even though for them “it was much easier to run away or revolt against the enemy.” “Millions of Soviet prisoners of war,” who had not inherited a tradition of passivity and submissiveness born of a two-thousand-year exile, “were beaten and starved and exterminated without rising up against their tormentors.” Hence, he concluded, the behavior Jews displayed while facing existential threat stemmed from “objective causes,” not from their own history. By failing to take proper notice of those causes, Hilberg, he declared, had done a disser vice not only to historical truth but to the

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image of the Jewish people, in the eyes both of others and of the Jews themselves: It is the duty of the historian to search for those [objective] causes and to refrain from issuing arbitrary judgments about the [Jewish] people as a whole. [Hilberg’s] method is intrinsically objectionable, but the results of applying such a view, which we can observe among serious scholars, is sevenfold more dangerous. Such opinions, ostensibly based upon scholarly research, find their way into school textbooks in all languages and poison the young generation.12

Melkman had no doubt about where Hilberg had gone wrong: the authors’ “prejudices concerning the supposed effects of the ghetto upon the Jews”—his insistence that Jewish behavior be counted among the causes of the catastrophe and his refusal to conceive of the Holocaust as the handiwork of the Germans alone—had led him astray.13 Melkman further suggested that had Hilberg respected the boundaries between the Holocaust and Jewish history, he would not only have written a better book but would also have obviated the damage that his comments about the absence of Jewish resistance and the Jews’ traditional passivity were liable to produce: In his introduction Hilberg declares, “This is not a book about the Jews. It is a book about the people who destroyed the Jews. Little will be said here about the victims.” If only the author had remained faithful to his declaration and stayed away from any discussion of the inner life of Jewish communities. But he did not do so. In many places Hilberg talks about how Jews responded to persecution, and he judges them harshly. . . . [In his opinion] the Jews were insufficiently perceptive to defend themselves because life in the ghetto had taught them lovingly to accept suffering and turned them into the Nazi murderers’ most faithful accomplices. . . . Hilberg even roundly condemns Jews for performing forced labor in munitions factories. “The Jews worked,” he declares scornfully.14

Shaul Esh added yet another layer to the case against Hilberg in a review published in the American Jewish quarterly Judaism. According to Esh, Hilberg’s attempt “to assign the Holocaust its proper place in Jewish history” was “based on assumptions rather than facts and will,



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therefore, almost certainly not be accepted by many scholars.”15 He explained that in contrast to Hilberg’s intimate familiarity with the documentary corpus left behind by the Nazi regime, his “knowledge of Jewish history . . . is rather restricted.”16 As proof of Hilberg’s ignorance of things Jewish Esh noted that the author of The Destruction of the European Jews failed to mention the many episodes of active armed resistance in diaspora Jewish history, from the revolt against the Roman Emperor Trajan in 115–116 c.e., encompassing Jewish communities from North Africa to Mesopotamia, to the formation of selfdefense units during the pogroms in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the twentieth century. Even more serious a failing in Esh’s eyes was Hilberg’s insistence that a firm line of separation be drawn between diaspora and Palestinian Jews: Hilberg’s suggestion that lack of resistance to persecution was entirely a diaspora phenomenon of which the Jews of Palestine had never been part “obscure[d] the fact that most of the Jewish fighters in Israel were European-born or even new immigrants who shortly before their arrival had endured the horrors of the Holocaust, during which they had behaved according to what the author calls the ‘Jewish reaction pattern.’ ” “Moreover,” Esh insisted, “one ought not to forget that . . . the beginnings of the famous Hagana . . . are to be located in Russia . . . ,” and “it was from the Diaspora that the Halutzim brought the idea as well as the elementary experience of Hagana to Israel.”17 In short, Hilberg’s approach violated the fundamental principle of Jewish historiography upon which Dinur and his followers insisted: the historical unity and continuity of the Jewish people. Esh’s review expressed the ambivalence that typified how Zionist historians of his generation regarded the Holocaust and its relation to Jewish history as a whole. Esh noted that Hilberg raised the problem of the connection between the two matters at several points in his book, including when he indicated that he was “not going to discuss . . . the complex changes which the institution of the ghetto imported into the Jewish communities.” “That,” Hilberg had proclaimed, “is a subject which belongs to Jewish history, not to the history of the anti-Jewish destruction process.”18 Esh dismissed this crude division with sarcasm: “Dr. Hilberg does not consider the anti-Jewish policy of the Nazis or

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apparently that of any other anti-Semitic government be an integral part of Jewish history!” To be sure, he averred, Hilberg had made “an honest and serious attempt to separate the various components of Jewish life during the Nazi period”; but in the final analysis he had failed, because “it is virtually impossible to keep these components completely separate.”19 Yet on the other hand he rejected not only Hilberg’s specific argument concerning the role Jewish responses to Nazi policies played in determining the course and results of the murder campaign but any argument positing any sort of a relation between victims’ behavior and their fate: “It is high time,” he urged, that “a halt were called to the oft-posed question, ‘Why did they not resist?’ Rather, we should ask: ‘Was resistance possible at all, and how, under the circumstances?’ (It is obvious that this question cannot be broached without first taking into account the entire historical situation and the reaction pattern of other peoples subjugated by the Nazis and their allies.)” 20 Like Melkman, Esh believed that the key to understanding how Jews behaved under the Nazi yoke lay in the specific features of the yoke itself, not in the earlier history of those who had been forced to bear it. In his view, too, Hilberg’s work would have benefited decisively by adopting this perspective. Thus two of the leaders of Holocaust research in Israel during the early 1960s, Melkman and Esh, held sequestration of the Holocaust from the rest of Jewish history, for all the intellectual difficulties it posed, to be not only a scholarly virtue but a civic and perhaps even a moral imperative for Jews as well. Hilberg’s book served only to deepen the fears Dinur had instilled in them over the potentially harmful consequences of mingling the two fields of study. As far as they were concerned, in the discussion surrounding Hilberg’s work the very notion of a unified Jewish people was at stake. ✻

The Zionist historians’ fears materialized in April 1962, when Commentary published an extensive review of Hilberg’s book by eminent British scholar Hugh Trevor-Roper. The reviewer lauded Hilberg for helping to explain “a social and political experience unique in history.” 21 Evidently Hilberg’s thesis about “the role of the Jews in their own



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destruction” made a powerful impression upon him, for the British historian devoted fully half his article to what he termed “the pattern of Jewish ‘appeasement’ ” and its role in allowing the Nazis to carry out their murder program.22 Not only did he accept Hilberg’s two basic contentions concerning the absence of any significant resistance by the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the existence of a diaspora tradition that determined the manner in which they responded to their oppressors, he expressed his agreement in the most acerbic fashion, assigning Jewish passivity equal weight to German actions in determining the extent of the slaughter: [T]here are always two parties to destruction: the destroyers and the destroyed. . . . [T]he Jews were not a few scattered people, easily rounded up by overwhelming force. They were numerous and intelligent. They far outnumbered their captors and their guards. They were millions, rounded up and slaughtered by thousands. At Auschwitz, the ratio of prisoners to guards varied from 20 to 1 to 35 to 1. And yet they went like sheep to the slaughter. The Germans themselves, who have long staggered the world by their ovine docility, were amazed. The Jews meekly accepted every successive order which rendered them impotent, they queued up for the deportation trains, they dutifully dug their graves and knelt down to be shot . . . , they fi led into the gas chambers. . . . [W]hen the Germans had done their worst, we cannot escape the fact that the Jews of Europe, obedient to their leaders and to their own habits of mind, collaborated in their own destruction.23

Trevor-Roper did not regard such “habits of mind” as an essential Jewish characteristic. Instead, like Hilberg, he attributed them to historical conditioning. Proof that the condition of diaspora was ultimately responsible for European Jewry’s passive behavior could be found, he suggested, in the strikingly opposite conduct of Jews in the newly established State of Israel: Today, as never before since the days of Bar Kochba, there are two Jewries: the Jewry of the Dispersion, continuing the inveterate traditions of the Dispersion, and the Jewry of Israel, resuming, after a long interruption, the traditions of military, nationalist resistance. This division, like Israel itself, was born out of the Nazi period . . . , and in

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this year it has revealed itself, appropriately, in the division of opinion over the trial of Eichmann. Once again, the Jews of the Dispersion urge compliance, compromise, oblivion. But the Jews of Israel, the activist heirs of the Warsaw [ghetto] rebels . . . , go back to Bar Kochba, or to those Zealots of Judea who, as Mr. Hilberg notes, were fighting their Roman conquerors when the “dispersed” Jews of Alexandria “had already unlearned the art of revolt.” Not the least of the contributions which Mr. Hilberg has made to history and sociology . . . is his illumination of this great gulf between those who continued and those who sought to reverse a long-successful but, in its latest and perhaps unique encounter with the German bureaucracy, ultimately disastrous tradition.24

If the views of Hilberg—then a virtual unknown whose work had appeared in a limited number of copies and in a format that did not invite a broad readership—made Zionist historians in Israel lose sleep, how much more liable were the words of Trevor-Roper—one of the best-known and most widely read historians in the English-speaking world, whose writings were noted and discussed seriously by academics, thinkers, and opinion makers around the world—to arouse the ire of Jewish intellectuals, Zionists and diaspora affirmers alike. Indeed, the storm was not long delayed. In August 1962 Commentary published lengthy responses from six prominent Jewish scholars representing a wide range of positions on the Jewish ideological and cultural spectrum.25 Four of them—Isaiah Trunk, Bernard Dov Weinryb, Saul Goodman, and Leon Shapiro—were East-European born and strongly identified with the mass Jewish culture associated with the Yiddish language. In their letters they railed bitterly against what they perceived as Hilberg and Trevor-Roper’s affront to the honor of Jews in the Nazi ghettos. As Melkman and Esh had done from their Zionist perspective, these diaspora Jews drew attention to numerous episodes of armed resistance by ghetto fighters and partisans that the offending historians overlooked. They also reiterated the argument that the extent of active resistance among Jews was no different from that among other occupied populations; in their view, like that of Melkman and Esh, it was the specific conditions of Nazi occupation that determined how the victims responded, not any particularly Jewish cultural baggage. On



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the contrary, they too noted a long tradition of Jewish military action in the diaspora from which the leaders of the ghetto revolts were supposed to have drawn inspiration. Some even warned against the damage to the Jewish people as a whole that was liable to ensue if the “dangerous and untrue . . . myth . . . that only in Israel can Jews fight” continued to spread.26 Should that myth become current, they argued, the already significant gulf separating the Jews of Israel and the diaspora would only grow. The other two writers, Hans Kohn and Max Gruenwald, both prominent members of the German-speaking diaspora, joined in the warning as well. According to Gruenwald, chairman of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York—a scholarly institution devoted to study of the German Jewish heritage—if Jews a century earlier had juxtaposed Palestine and the diaspora like Hilberg and Trevor-Roper, “then there would be today neither a Diaspora nor Israel.”27 Kohn took a somewhat different approach: he objected to the equation of heroism with armed resistance and attributed Jewish survival over the centuries precisely to those spiritual leaders “who did not wage a hopeless struggle against tremendous odds.”28 But in the final analysis he too rejected the view of history that posited fundamental opposition between Palestinian and diaspora Jewry. Thus, in the name of the unity and honor of the Jewish people, Hilberg’s critics from across the Jewish ideological spectrum joined together to reject attribution of the Holocaust’s frightful dimensions, in even the slightest measure, to Jewish historical conditioning. At the time, however, they must have felt their backs to the wall. Hilberg’s work was garnering praise in the leading American academic journals. Of the eminent scholars who surveyed the book in those fora not one questioned his representation of the Jewish victims’ behavior. On the contrary, several even repeated without objection the thesis that, as one favorable reviewer put it, “[the Jews’] reaction greatly facilitated their persecutors’ task.”29 In similar fashion, Midstream, a leading American Jewish monthly with a Zionist bent, published an article by the wellknown non-Zionist Jewish psychologist Bruno Bettelheim contending that “ghetto thought . . . destroyed [the Jew] as an autonomous human being,” giving the Nazis “time to develop a policy of physical annihilation.”30 Two years earlier, in what would become his best-known work,

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The Informed Heart, Bettelheim—who had been arrested by the Nazi regime in Austria in 1938 and incarcerated for several months in the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald before being released on condition that he leave the territory of the Third Reich—had ruffled the American Jewish community with the contention that “millions of European Jews . . . grovel[ed], wait[ed] to be rounded up for their own extermination, and finally walk[ed] themselves to the gas chambers.” 31 Now he explicitly attributed that submissiveness not to the victims’ objective situation but to a purported diaspora Jewish trait born of two millennia of wandering in foreign climes. Moreover, like Hilberg and Trevor-Roper, he posited an indelible antithesis between diaspora Jews and Jews in the new State of Israel.32 In sum, the blow to the unity and honor of the Jewish people and the value of its cultural legacy that many who helped shape academic discourse on the nexus between the Holocaust and Jewish history discerned in Hilberg’s book became even more pronounced in the months following the book’s publication. Accordingly, defenders of the Jewish heritage became more determined than ever to remove scholarly consideration of the Holocaust’s origins from the context of the Jewish past. ✻

In his article in Midstream Bettelheim repeated a story he claimed to have heard from the noted political phi losopher and public intellectual Hannah Arendt—at the time best known as the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, a celebrated 1951 study of the historical roots of Nazism and Communism. Arendt would soon infuriate Jews throughout the world with her reports from the Eichmann trial, published fi rst as a series of articles in the American magazine New Yorker, later as a book entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Her story, as Bettelheim related it, was supposed to demonstrate how “ghetto thinking” had influenced Jewish behavior during the Holocaust: Arendt . . . tells how several thousand Jewish women were rounded up in a French camp before being handed over to the Germans. On the second day . . . , French members of the underground entered the not



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yet walled-in compound, offering false papers and a chance to get away to all who wished it. Though what lay in store for them has been vividly described, the vast majority of the women were unbelieving and showed no interest in the chance to save their lives. Only a handful, less than five percent, took advantage of the offer, among them Hannah Arendt. All of them made good their escape and most are still alive. The rest wanted to think it over, were not so sure that escape was the best course of action, etc. A day later it was too late; the camp was encircled. All who had hesitated to take action and had not immediately escaped went to the gas chambers.33

Such was Bettelheim’s version. Arendt, however, declined to serve as a prooftext for his argument. In the following issue of Midstream she offered “some corrections of the story Mr. Bettelheim said he owed to me,” on the grounds that although it was “substantially correct . . . , it is altogether wrong in its details”: I was 5 weeks in [the internment camp at] Gurs (not 2 days); we had been put there by the regular French government during the last weeks of the war as “enemy aliens.” A few weeks after our arrival in the camp—which was a regular concentration camp, originally built for the soldiers of the Spanish Republican army—France was defeated and all communications broke down. In the resulting chaos, we succeeded in getting hold of liberation papers with which we were able to leave the camp. There existed no French underground at the time, of course (the French resistance movement sprang up much later, namely when the Germans decided to draft Frenchmen for forced labor in Germany whereupon many young people went into hiding and then formed the maquis). None of us could “describe” what lay in store for those who remained behind. All we could do was to tell them what we expected would happen—the camp would be handed over to the victorious Germans. (About 200 women of a total of 7,000 left.) This happened indeed, but since the camp lay in what later became Vichy-France, it happened years later than we expected. The delay did not help the inmates. After a few days of chaos, everything became very regular again and escape was almost impossible. We rightly predicted this return to normalcy. It was a unique chance, but it meant that one had to leave with nothing but a toothbrush since there existed no means of transportation.34

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Bettelheim’s inaccuracies were but one of several faults Arendt found with his article. The burden of her criticism was directed against his central thesis that the behavior of Jews who died at Nazi hands was conditioned by the legacy of diaspora. Like Melkman and Esh in their analyses of Hilberg’s book, Arendt denied that Jewish victims had acted any differently than others who had been subjected not only to Nazi terror but to any violently oppressive regime: “[I]t is surprising that Mr. Bettelheim . . . speaks about the behavior of Jews in concentration and extermination camps as though only Jews went there to their death like sheep to the slaughter house,” given the “abundance of evidence which proves beyond doubt that under these conditions all groups, social and ethnic, behaved alike.”35 In her view, Jews who did not flee the countries of Nazi domination in time could not have imagined the atrocities that awaited them: “[E]ven . . . when the ‘final solution’ was in full swing, it is very difficult to tell what an individual ordinary Jew . . . could or could not have known.”36 Bettelheim, she declared ironically, suffered from a kind of “inverted chauvinism”; he expected Jews to demonstrate a degree of perspicacity and spiritual fortitude that he did not demand of anyone else. In Eichmann in Jerusalem Arendt emphasized once again the similarity between the conduct of Jews and that of non-Jews in the face of imminent death. Citing with disapproval the questions put repeatedly by prosecutor Gideon Hausner to the Jewish witnesses against Eichmann—“Why did you not protest?” “Why did you board the train?”—she indicated explicitly that “no non-Jewish group or people . . . behaved different[ly]” in their final moments.37 She attributed the reactions of all the Nazis’ victims, of whatever ethnic identity or social class, primarily to universal human psychology: “There exist many things considerably worse than death, and the S.S. saw to it that none of them was ever very far from their victims’ minds and imaginations.” In her view camp prisoners, “literally tortured to death . . . , died a thousand deaths, and every single one of them would have envied his brethren in Auschwitz and even in Riga and Minsk,” where the end came quickly from a firing squad or in a gas chamber. All the victims, she declared, Jews and non-Jews alike, went to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter, for by its very nature the Nazi regime left no room for



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any other response. She cited the French writer David Rousset—like Bettelheim a political prisoner at Buchenwald—to underscore the impotence of anyone targeted by a totalitarian regime: “The triumph of the S.S. demands that the tortured victim allow himself to be led to the noose without protesting, that he renounce and abandon himself to the point of ceasing to affirm his identity.”38 Arendt thus did not share Hilberg and Bettelheim’s notion that Jewish reactions to the Nazi threat were to be attributed primarily to a twothousand-year history of exile.39 She even objected to the manner in which they juxtaposed the supposed submissiveness of diaspora Jewry with the heroic spirit of Jews in the new Israel.40 In this respect she occupied a position near that of Melkman, Esh, Gruenwald, and others who objected to what seemed to them the growing tendency to place at least some of the responsibility for the Holocaust upon the victims themselves. Yet that resemblance escaped most who read her account of the trial: from the moment her New Yorker articles appeared in 1963 she was branded a purveyor of what Nathan Eck contemptuously dubbed “slanders” about the alleged “ ‘passivity,’ lack of resistance, submission and acceptance of their fate by the Jews in face of the disaster brought upon them by the Nazis.” 41 A broad coalition of scholars and public figures, Jews and non-Jews alike, representing a full spectrum of political and ideological views, faulted Arendt along with Bettelheim and Hilberg for asserting “the Jews’ role in their own destruction” and launched a vocal, acrimonious campaign against what was quickly portrayed as an unholy trinity. The campaign was even louder than the one waged until then against Bettelheim and Hilberg alone; now all three were depicted not only as errant intellectuals but as self-hating Jews, enemies of Israel, and defilers of the honor of the Jewish people.42 Siegfried Moses, former president of the Association of German and Austrian Jews in Israel and the Jewish state’s onetime comptroller-general, even went so far as to present her with a formal “declaration of war” (Kriegserklärung) in the name of the Council of Jews from Germany, stating that his organization would “protest the description presented in Hilberg’s book, in Bettelheim’s public writings . . . , and [in] your articles as well.” 43

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Most of the shots were fired against Arendt,44 for she was better known than either of her two purported allies, and many observers feared that she was in the best position to shape still-malleable public ideas about the Holocaust and its significance.45 Indeed, her articles and book on the Eichmann trial were widely viewed as an onerous escalation of a process her predecessors had initiated—“the tasteless assault on the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi terror” 46— and the ensuing debate about them generated new arguments for separating study of the Holocaust from the history of the Jews. The vehemence of the reaction to Arendt is not self-evident. Nor is the effacement by critics of the substantial differences between her approach and those of Hilberg and Bettelheim, to the point where she quickly became a synecdoche for any argument that the Holocaust was in part a product of Jewish history. How can they be explained? Many of Arendt’s detractors found particular fault with her dissent from the widespread representation of Eichmann as a monster devoid of all humanity. Ever since the former S.S. officer had been captured in May 1960 he had been almost universally branded not only as “the Haman of our times, the number one murderer of Jews,” 47 but as a terrifying figure who “knew and collaborated willingly and took the initiative and did his work with joy and passion.” 48 Prosecutor Hausner presented this picture before the court in Jerusalem, using it to build its case against the accused.49 Arendt, in contrast, painted a portrait of a thoroughly rational human being, “terrifyingly normal,” “neither perverted nor sadistic,” nor even one who harbored any particular animus toward Jews.50 As she saw him, Eichmann had worked to implement the Nazi murder program not “out of base motives and in full knowledge of the criminal nature of his deeds” but in response to the prosaic impulse that motivates all employees in a modern bureaucracy to carry out their assigned task in the most efficient manner possible.51 This notion of “the banality of evil” infuriated many of her readers, for it violated, in the words of Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary and one of her more moderate detractors, “everything we know about the Nature of Man.”52 Another adversary, American jurist Michael Musmanno—a former member of the judicial panel at Nuremberg who had



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testified in Jerusalem about what S.S. officers told him of Eichmann’s role in the planning and execution of the murder campaign—saw no difference between Arendt’s claim that Eichmann did not hate Jews and a plea for his exoneration: “[Arendt] says in her book that Eichmann personally had nothing against the Jews, commenting . . . ‘Alas, nobody believed him.’ Is that not sympathizing?”53 A woman from New York even took Arendt to task on the grounds that her book “should give comfort to Eichmann’s family and his numerous accomplices.”54 A sizable proportion of Arendt’s adversaries also fumed over her portrayal of a specific feature of Jewish communal life under Nazi rule. Though Arendt explicitly distanced herself from Hilberg and Bettelheim with regard to the paucity of Jewish anti-Nazi resistance and the role of Jewish culture in encouraging passivity, she did not absolve all Jewish victims of responsibility for their fate. She drew a distinction between ordinary Jews and their leaders; the latter, in her view, not only failed to resist the occupiers but actually threw oil on the fire that consumed the people in their charge.55 In her rejoinder to Bettelheim she offered an acerbic judgment, which she repeated in slightly altered form in Eichmann in Jerusalem: “Without their leaders, the Jewish people would have suffered persecution, chaos, and great losses; but it would have been physically impossible to kill 6 million men, women, and children.”56 In her words, the people who staffed Jewish community councils, “the chosen leaders of the Jewish communities before the Nazis arrived . . . , continued to function everywhere even when they had received full information about all the gruesome and fantastic details of the ‘final solution’ ” instead of directing their full attention to rescue and resistance. Many readers took umbrage at those conclusions. Some objected on factual grounds, noting that the survival and casualty rates of Jews in different countries under Nazi rule did not vary directly with the nature of their internal organization.57 Others pointed out that the Nazi regime left the Jewish leadership no room to maneuver. They likened the heads of the Jewish councils to hostages under the gun, who could hope only “to buy time, to alleviate suffering, to save lives.”58 Yet another group of critics argued that the Nazis were determined in any event to annihilate all of the Jews of Europe and would have found a way to do so no matter how Jewish leaders behaved.59 To be sure, some

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of Arendt’s attackers distinguished between her brief against the Jewish leadership and the charges that Hilberg and Bettelheim directed against the Jews as a whole (although at least one termed Arendt’s position “an even more wicked fallacy” than Bettelheim’s and alleged that, whereas Hilberg’s errors stemmed merely from his defective research methods and analytical framework, Arendt “loses all sense of reality and proportion and passes beyond all bounds of scholarly propriety”).60 But the majority of those who found fault with this aspect of her presentation either attached no importance to the distinction or failed to note it. Indeed, critics found it easy to elide the differences between the two positions. Judge Mussmano declared that what Arendt had written about the Jewish leadership also impugned “the luster of martyrdom of the defenseless millions who marched bravely to their doom under the guns of the most satanic force that ever defiled the earth.” 61 Phrases such as “the victims of the Holocaust and the leaders of the Jews”; “the Jews, the institutions responsible for them, and their leading personalities”; “the Jews themselves, their leaders, their communities, their organizations, and their elders in the ghettos and camps”; and “the Jews of Germany, especially their leaders” regularly designated the objects of Arendt’s perceived scorn, as if throughout the Nazi orbit ordinary Jews and their leaders had displayed constant, unwavering solidarity.62 From that point it was but a small step to the patently false conclusion that according to Arendt “the Jewish people itself, leaders and masses alike, helped implement the murder of their fellow Jews” or that “the manner in which this people as a whole faced the Nazis was unique, exceptional . . . , different from that of other peoples.” 63 The article in which those mistaken characterizations appeared, published in the Yad Vashem Bulletin half a year after the appearance of Arendt’s book, posited virtually complete identity between her position and Hilberg’s, while another piece in the same number (whose cover announced three articles “against the slanderous writings of Hannah Arendt”) accused both Arendt and Bettelheim of an equally “necrophagous” approach to the Holocaust—one that simultaneously “castigated the victims” and “sympathized with the misunderstood murderers.” 64 One of the articles associated Arendt’s attitude with “Gogol’s famous story about murder victims who murdered themselves”:



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According to Ms. Arendt, the Jews themselves bear responsibility, as it were, for their tragic fate under Nazi rule. In her series of articles published in the New Yorker and compiled virtually unchanged in the book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, she drew the conclusion that the Jewish people was, in effect, a group of pro-Nazi “collaborators,” and the Nazi regime employed Jewish institutions and leaders as a tool for carrying out the “final solution.” 65

Arendt unquestionably approached certain central issues in the history of the Holocaust differently from her adversaries, and her different approach made it difficult for some of her critics to grasp her message with complete accuracy. Nevertheless, it could not have been her controversial statements alone that drew the vitriol, contempt, and derision so many of her critics showered upon her. Similar ideas concerning the mundane, nondemonic foundations of Nazi Jewish policy and the manner in which Jewish leaders related to the German authorities had been put forth by earlier writers whose intellectual honesty and good will toward Jews had never come under question. The French Jewish journalist and writer Léon Poliakov, one of the founders of the French Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation (Centre de documentation juive contemporaine) and director of its research division during its formative years, stressed in his pioneering 1952 study, Harvest of Hate, that the Nazi murder policy could not be explained solely as the product of diabolical intent. In his words, “the Nazis arrived at genocide . . . in spite of themselves, carried away by the demons they had unleashed. . . . When the accused at Nuremberg . . . cried out, ‘We did not want that,’ they were no longer lying. For such is the history of most crimes. It reminds us that the Nazis, however criminal they may have been, were only men.” 66 Poliakov also made incidental mention of the Jewish councils ( Judenräte) and internal police forces that had been established in most East European ghettos and did not flinch from assigning them a role in the destruction process.67 During the 1950s other historians expressed themselves frankly against the councils’ allegedly invidious behavior. Even Dinur, outlining his research program for Yad Vashem, defined the Judenräte as “the Jewish arm of the German administration” and labeled their history “one of the central problems with which we have to deal in our work.” 68 Philip Friedman spoke even

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more sharply: in his view the councils were “an instrument to weaken and destroy the Jews” that “degenerate[d] into a fatal oligarchy . . . of men entirely unfit to assume any social responsibility.” 69 Nor did Arendt’s evaluation of Jewish communal leaders under Nazi rule deviate substantially from mainstream Israeli public discourse during the 1950s, which routinely depicted the heads of the Judenräte as vile creatures who had made common cause with the Jews’ tormentors. Tuwia Borzykowski, a surviving hero of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising, expressed what was no doubt the view of the large majority of Israeli Jews when he stated in 1954 that the Jewish councils were “an arm of the Nazi regime, hostile to the people, from whose quarters emanated the fumes of treason.”70 Yet when Arendt expressed similar attitudes, many of her detractors condemned her views as not only mistaken but also illegitimate, perhaps even malevolent, at times expressing their opposition in highly personal attacks.71 The wrath poured out upon her must thus have originated in wellsprings that bubbled well beneath the intellectual plane. One such source was undoubtedly the tone in which she couched her arguments, one that many critics in both Israel and the diaspora thought arrogant, contemptuous, and inappropriate to a discussion of so weighty a matter. Gershom Scholem bemoaned her manner bitterly in an open letter he addressed to her in June 1963: Why . . . does your book evoke such a feeling of bitterness and shame . . . not for the author’s subject matter but for the author herself? . . . To the degree that I have an answer . . . , it is the heartless, the downright malicious tone you employ in dealing with a topic that so profoundly concerns the center of our life. There is something in the Jewish language that is completely indefinable, yet fully concrete— what the Jews call ahavath Israel, or love for the Jewish people. With you . . . there is no trace of it. An exposition such as yours demands . . . the old-fashioned kind of objective and thorough treatment—especially where, as in the case of the murder of a third of our people, such deep emotions are necessarily at work. . . . I haven’t the slightest sympathy for the lighthearted style, by which I mean the English flippancy, that you employ all too often in your book. It’s inappropriate for your topic, and in the most unimaginable way.72



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Arendt’s style, including her routine labeling of some of the Jewish world’s most revered figures with taunting epithets,73 was indeed often coarse, and her cynicism clearly deflected discussion of her work from what she had written to the writer herself—her biography, her personality, and especially her purported feelings about her own Jewishness.74 The poet Aharon Zeitlin, at the time a faculty member at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, provided perhaps the most extreme expression of this tendency when he branded her nothing less than Satan’s champion on earth.75 Yet even more moderate critics who professed readiness seriously to engage her arguments found themselves easily slipping into attacks upon her person. Ernst Simon, head of the School of Education at the Hebrew University, who published extensive and detailed critiques of her book in Hebrew, English, and German, claimed that Arendt’s formulations stemmed largely from the fact that around 1945 she had “declared war against Zionism” and turned her back on her own people. As a result, he proclaimed, in language no less sarcastic than the tone he condemned in Arendt’s work, “One does not need to be an Eichmann . . . in order to elicit Hannah Arendt’s sense of fairness. Anyone else will do so long as he is not a Jew.” 76 Israel Gutman, later to become chief historian at Yad Vashem, was even harsher: “Arendt states in all seriousness that Eichmann felt a special affinity for Zionism. . . . Any sane human being will conclude that only unbridled self-hatred can move a Jew to place a Nazi like Eichmann and Zionism on the same level. The entire matter does not warrant criticism or considered debate.”77 Still, some critics responded to more than rhetoric: the polemics that surrounded her book actually raised pivotal questions about how the Holocaust should be understood and represented. One that aroused particular controversy concerned the features of the Holocaust that merited greatest emphasis. In Arendt’s view, the chief shortcoming of the Eichmann trial (whose legitimacy and judgment she ultimately affirmed) was what she thought the prosecution’s exaggerated emphasis upon the suffering of the Jewish victims instead of the specific crimes of the accused.78 In his opening statement before the court, prosecutor Hausner declared that he would “be the voice” of “six million accusers.”79 That determination, he later testified, impelled him to construct

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the case against Eichmann in a manner that would not only secure his conviction but would also provide “a living record of a gigantic human and national disaster.”80 Accordingly he rejected the advice of Israel’s police to rely primarily on written documents, choosing instead to summon 110 witnesses to “the various stages of the destruction process from the beginning of the war, . . . the great Jewish centers and what had gone on in them, . . . the way the big communities had hoped to ward off the disaster and . . . on the extermination camps themselves in their different phases.” Hausner placed their testimony at the center of the trial even though most of the witnesses had never encountered Eichmann personally and could not speak of his actions firsthand.81 For Arendt, that decision threatened to turn the trial into theater and to push what ought to have been its sole purpose into the background: Justice demands that the accused be prosecuted, defended, and judged, and that all the other questions of seemingly greater import—of “How could it happen?” and “Why did it happen?,” of “Why the Jews?” and “Why the Germans?,” of “What was the extent of co-responsibility on the side of the Allies?,” of “How could the Jews through their own leaders cooperate in their own destruction?” and “Why did they go to their death like lambs to the slaughter?”—be left in abeyance. Justice insists on the importance of Adolf Eichmann, son of Karl Adolf Eichmann, the man in the glass booth built for his protection. . . . On trial are his deeds, not the sufferings of the Jews, not the German people or mankind, not even anti-Semitism and racism.82

Arendt was convinced, moreover, that “the deliberate attempt at the trial to tell only the Jewish side of the story distorted the truth, even the Jewish truth.”83 She contended that Hausner erred not only when he assigned himself the role of mouthpiece for the victims but also when he tried to link Eichmann’s crimes to the ancient phenomenon of Jew-hatred. The prosecutor’s opening statement was replete with a formidable list of hostile expressions toward Jews and attempts to exterminate them from the days of the Biblical Pharaoh, all meant to show, in Hausner’s words, that “the path of antisemitism led to Auschwitz.” 84 Arendt did not appreciate his speech: she regarded it as “bad history and cheap rhetoric” that was liable to transform Eichmann into “only



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an innocent executor of some mysteriously foreordained [Jewish] destiny.”85 Moreover, she warned, the stubborn adherence of Israeli and Jewish leaders to what she believed to be false history stood to impair their judgment: In the eyes of the Jews, thinking exclusively in terms of their own history, the catastrophe that had befallen them under Hitler . . . appeared not as the most recent of crimes, the unprecedented crime of genocide, but, on the contrary, as the oldest crime they knew and remembered. This misunderstanding, almost inevitable if we consider not only the facts of Jewish history but also . . . the current Jewish historical self-understanding, is actually at the root of all the failures and shortcomings of the Jerusalem trial. None of the participants ever arrived at a clear understanding of the actual horror of the past, because it appeared to the prosecution and judges alike as not much more than the most horrible pogrom in Jewish history. They therefore believed that a direct line existed from the early anti-Semitism of the Nazi Party to the Nuremburg [sic] Laws and from there to the expulsion of Jews from the Reich and, fi nally, to the gas chambers. Politically and legally, however, these were “crimes” different not only in degree of seriousness but in essence.86

According to Arendt, the essence of the crime for which Eichmann deserved to hang lay in the “attack upon human diversity as such,” expressed in “a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations.” 87 When the Nazis arrogated to themselves the “right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world,” she explained, they became not only hostis Judaeorum (the enemy of the Jews) but hostis generis humani (the enemy of the human race).88 Moreover, she argued, Eichmann’s crime had been committed “under circumstances that make it wellnigh impossible for [the perpetrator] to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.”89 The circumstances that had enabled the murder of millions without any criminal intent—a crime that as far as Arendt was concerned “could not be explained by any utilitarian purpose” 90—were, Arendt thought, inextricably imbricated in the fabric of modern mass society, in particular in “the frightening coincidence of the modern population explosion with the discovery of technical devices that . . . will make

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large sections of the population ‘superfluous.’ ” 91 Hence, she believed, the crime was likely to be repeated, especially since “it is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past.” 92 Her operative conclusion was thus that the practical challenge the Holocaust presented to humanity was to devise an effective international mechanism for neutralizing the threat: “If genocide is an actual possibility of the future, then no people on earth—least of all . . . the Jewish people, in Israel or elsewhere—can feel reasonably sure of its continued existence without the help and the protection of international law.” 93 Consequently Arendt insisted, as both human being and Jew, that the Holocaust be viewed as “a crime against humanity, perpetrated upon the body of the Jewish people,” not a crime against the Jewish people alone.94 She preferred a master narrative of the Holocaust that focused not upon the tribulations of the victims and how they withstood them, like the one Gideon Hausner had laid before the Jerusalem court, but upon the perpetrators’ distinctive universe of discourse, without which the essence of the Nazis’ unprecedented crime could not be grasped. Her preference was not shared, however, by the principal Jewish leaders, thinkers, and opinion makers in Israel and the diaspora. Most Jews who expressed an opinion about the trial praised it for strengthening morale and solidarity among the Jewish people, for increasing the Jews’ moral capital, and for helping them come to grips with painful episodes that had troubled them since war’s end.95 Arendt’s call to set aside the particularistic Jewish aspects of the Holocaust in favor of its universal ones was thus liable, in the eyes of many of her Jewish opponents, to rob Jews of the most significant benefits they had gained from capturing the Nazi criminal and bringing him to trial.96 Her comments on the Jewish leadership during the Holocaust could only have strengthened that impression, especially since they were offered in the context of a discussion about the failures of Eichmann’s conscience.97 Indeed, an argument raised against her was that “anti-Semites will point to this Arendt document as evidence that Jews were no less guilty than others” for the death of the six million.98



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Here, it seems, was the source of the alarm that informed much of the criticism of Arendt’s book; her apparent willingness to repudiate the gains that the Eichmann trial had reputedly brought Jews collectively was what in the end brought down upon her charges of lack of “love of the Jewish people,” of self-hatred, of malice toward her own kind. Here, too, it seems, lay the root of her critics’ inability to distinguish between her perception of the Jews’ situation and the factors determining its behavior under Nazi rule and the perceptions of Hilberg and Bettelheim. The latter, like Arendt, understood the Holocaust primarily as an episode in the history of the modern world as a whole and sought to clarify its significance for humanity at large. No doubt they, too, would have spoken about the Holocaust in much the same way no matter what the ethnic or religious identity of its victims.99 So thought most critics, at least. Jacob Robinson, academic adviser to Yad Vashem and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, legal adviser to the prosecution in the Eichmann trial, and one of Arendt’s most outspoken adversaries, complained already in 1962 that Hilberg’s book gave the impression that “the victims were selected for their fate by accident” and not “because they were Jews.”100 Similarly, Aryeh Kubovy, who succeeded Dinur as chairman of Yad Vashem, reproached Arendt and Bettelheim in the same breath for encouraging their readers “to regard the dangers awaiting Jews in the future as part of an overall, universal danger,” even though in truth “anyone who maintains that Jews are immune to any sort of special treatment in a time of general uncertainty deceives both himself and others.” Hence, he charged, “Arendt and Bettelheim have done great damage to the climate of guilt, remorse, and repentance that the Jerusalem trial helped create throughout the world and that is the best guarantee that the barbarism they fear will not recur.”101 In this fashion a new reason was adduced for approaching the struggle against all three scholars not as an academic matter but as a true moral imperative. ✻

For more than forty years the attack upon Hilberg, Bettelheim, and Arendt cast its shadow on the study of both the Holocaust and the

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history of the Jews. Yet the widespread rejection throughout the Jewish world of the manner in which the three authors accentuated the Holocaust’s universal human implications at the expense of its particularly Jewish aspects did not encourage historians of the Jews to integrate the Holocaust into their professional bailiwick. Quite the opposite: one of the most remarkable outcomes of the debate surrounding Eichmann in Jerusalem was that the wall of separation between the two fields actually grew taller and stronger. That result appears to have been a direct consequence of the failure to identify the fundamental differences between Arendt’s position on the one hand and that of Hilberg and Bettelheim on the other. In the atmosphere of defensiveness that permeated the Jewish world following publication of all three works in the early 1960s, critics evidently found it tactically advantageous to blacken all three with the alleged sins of any one. As a result, even though Arendt dissented from Hilberg and Bettelheim’s description of the Jewish masses’ behavior under Nazi occupation, and even more emphatically from their identification of that purported behavior with a generations-long tradition of submissiveness rooted in diaspora Jewish culture, the academicians and public figures who took it upon themselves to protect what they saw as the Jewish people’s collective interest from the potentially harmful implications of what all three had written saw fit to attack her with the same weapons they had already employed against her two alleged confederates. In par ticu lar they argued against her, as they had earlier against Bettelheim and especially against Hilberg, that she was insufficiently familiar with the Jewish way of life and with the history and culture of European Jewry, to the point where her assessment of Jewish responses to the Holocaust had been fabricated from pure ignorance.102 In Arendt’s case, however, such an argument was not easily sustained: unlike Bettelheim and Hilberg, who had never seriously involved themselves in the study of Jewish history, Arendt had begun to contemplate the Holocaust after a forthright, sustained, twenty-year effort to uncover the essence and dynamics of modern Jewish history through academic research. That effort began even before she left Germany in 1933: as early as 1926, while still a promising young doctoral



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student in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, she pondered the Jewish dimension of her personal identity, aided and encouraged by Kurt Blumenfeld, a senior figure in the Zionist Federation of Germany, who had introduced her to the Zionist movement and to the extensive literature on the history of the Jewish question in Europe.103 Her musings led her to the Prussian State Library in Berlin, where she examined the manuscript correspondence of the celebrated Berlin hostess Rahel Varnhagen (née Levin) with a mind to writing a biography exploring the nexus between her Jewishness and her role in society.104 Following the Nazi rise to power she returned to the same library, this time at Blumenfeld’s urging, in order to gather information on antiJewish activities by groups not officially connected with the new authorities. For this illegal activity she was arrested and interrogated for eight days; upon release she fled Berlin for Paris, where she worked for several Zionist organizations.105 Briefly interned at Gurs as an enemy alien by French officials in 1940, she escaped to New York, where she continued to work in Zionist circles. There she met Salo Baron, who encouraged her to prepare a research article on the Dreyfus Affair and its resonance in French politics through to the beginnings of the Vichy regime. Baron published the article in Jewish Social Studies in 1942.106 In 1944 she was named research director of the Conference on Jewish Relations and in 1948 executive director of the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction. In those capacities she traveled extensively in postwar Europe, tracking the tangible cultural legacy of destroyed Jewish communities and conducting extensive interviews with Holocaust survivors.107 During the same years she also worked as a senior editor at the American branch of Schocken Books, the famed German Jewish publishing house. There she edited the works of the French Zionist thinker Bernard Lazare and the second edition of Scholem’s classic, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.108 All the while she continued to write for Jewish Social Studies, also publishing scholarly and journalistic pieces on Jewish history and contemporary affairs for such prestigious Jewish periodicals as Menorah Journal, Commentary, and Jewish Frontier.109 In 1948 she proposed that the Conference on Jewish Relations undertake a research project on the Nazi concentration camp regimes and the life

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experience of inmates, based in part upon survivor testimony.110 Moreover, a major portion of her Origins of Totalitarianism, republished in an expanded edition five years before Eichmann in Jerusalem, analyzed the history of Jewish emancipation in Europe. In short, Arendt was well grounded in both the academic literature on Jewish history and culture and the cultural and organization world of West and Central European Jews, and she knew at least some of what Jews from those countries had lived through under Nazi rule. Claims that she was unfamiliar with things Jewish were thus easily refuted; she could marshal her personal and professional history readily against efforts to dismiss her arguments on the grounds of Jewish ignorance in a way that Hilberg and Bettelheim could not.111 As a result, those who sought to defeat Arendt’s arguments could only look back in anger, as it were, hoping to discover in her earlier writings some flaw in her understanding of Jewish history that might have generated the misstatements and distortions attributed to Eichmann in Jerusalem.112 That hope also proved elusive, however, for until she issued her provocative pronouncements about the Eichmann trial, many of those who became her critics had expressed profound admiration for her work.113 In 1944 Scholem had placed her among “the best minds who have come over from Europe” and had termed the review essay she had written about Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism “one of the two intelligent criticisms of my book I have seen.”114 Norman Podhoretz not only had invited her to play an active role in Commentary but also had heaped lavish praise upon her after reading her 1958 book, The Human Condition.115 Siegfried Moses, who presented her with a formal declaration of war in 1963, had earlier appointed her to the board of directors of the Leo Baeck Institute and pushed her to greater involvement with the organization, consulting her frequently for advice about its program and operation.116 Yet once Eichmann in Jerusalem appeared, former admirers suddenly found grievous fault in works they had lauded only a short time before. Most critical arrows were aimed at the “curious historical or historiosophical notions” allegedly expressed in several of her articles from the 1940s and even more emphatically in The Origins of Totalitarianism.117 Some detractors chided her for clinging to the “initial version”



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she had developed in those texts as a framework for analyzing the trial and the evidence presented at it,118 particularly to what they called the “sociological” method of Origins, which, they claimed, had produced a “Procrustean structure” into which she tried to force all that had befallen the Jews under Nazi rule.119 Indeed, that “initial version” was potentially unsettling to those who dismissed any possible connection between the behavior of Jews in extremis and their eventual fate. In the first chapter of Origins, where Arendt posed the problem of how, “of all the great unsolved political questions of our century, it should have been this seemingly small and unimportant Jewish problem that had the dubious honor of setting the whole infernal [Nazi] machine in motion,”120 the author aggressively rejected the notion that the Jews of Europe had fallen victim to an especially savage outburst of a blind hatred that had shadowed them from time immemorial. She also denied that the Jews had been selected arbitrarily as a scapegoat for all the ills of their surroundings. In her view, the reason that the Jews, and not some other social group, became a focus of Nazi ideology lay in the specific political and social functions they had fulfilled precisely in modern Europe. Jews had always been, in her words, “one group of people among other groups, all of which are involved in the business of this world.”121 Therefore, she inferred, they had always contributed actively to shaping their relations with the surrounding society; hence they bore some of the responsibility for the tenor of those relations.122 Furthermore, she maintained, the fact that in the twentieth century a political movement that found fundamental fault with those relations and placed the demand radically to alter them at the center of its platform attracted a mass following, enslaved Europe, and built “corpse factories and holes of oblivion”123 that claimed the lives not only of millions of Jews but of victims from all ethnic groups and social classes meant that Jewish history must be counted an integral part of the story of how the Nazis came to power: The simultaneous decline of the European nation-state and growth of antisemitic movements, the coincident downfall of nationally organized Europe and the extermination of Jews, which was prepared for by the victory of antisemitism over all competing isms in the preceding

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struggle for persuasion of public opinion, have to be taken as a serious indication of the source of antisemitism. Modern antisemitism must be seen in the more general framework of the development of the nation-state, and at the same time its source must be found in certain aspects of Jewish history and specifically Jewish functions during the last centuries. If, in the fi nal stage of disintegration, antisemitic slogans proved the most effective means of inspiring and organizing great masses of people for imperialist expansion and destruction of the old forms of government, then the previous history of the relationship between Jews and the state must contain elementary clues to the growing hostility between certain groups of society and the Jews.124

A hidden hermeneutic assumption informed this approach, one that conceived of history first and foremost as the product of encounters among human individuals or groups. This assumption would also be reflected, among other places, in Hilberg’s assertion ten years later that “it is the interaction of perpetrators and victims that is ‘fate.’ ” But unlike Hilberg, Arendt did not employ this postulate to explain the outcome of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews. On the contrary, in Origins she stated explicitly that “in Nazi Germany . . . full terror was directed against Jews, i.e., against people with certain common characteristics which were independent of their specific behavior”; the Jews who fell under Nazi control were “objectively innocent . . . , chosen regardless of what they may or may not have done.”125 Nevertheless she did suggest that the accomplishments and failures of European Jewry, especially its elite, during the two and a half centuries preceding the Nazi rise to power had helped shape that encounter to a degree. In Arendt’s view the Holocaust was not inevitable, if only because prior to consolidation of the Nazi regime it had been possible to prevent the conditions that had permitted it from coming into being. Until that time, she maintained, Jews, especially their leaders, had possessed the ability to influence the manner in which the surrounding society related to them to a significant degree; in that sense they bore a measure of responsibility (as opposed to guilt) for their fate both during the Nazi era and before.126 Arendt said little about the specific steps she thought Jewish leaders might have taken that could have altered their fate substantially. In one



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place, to be sure, she dubbed Zionism “the only political answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center of world events.”127 However, she offered that assessment only after breaking with the organized Zionist movement and becoming a fierce critic of Zionist policies in Palestine.128 In Origins she also briefly criticized the Zionist Organization for negotiating with the Nazi government in 1933 in an effort to obtain preferred conditions for Jews seeking to leave Germany for Palestine; those talks, she insisted, had been carried out “against the natural impulses of the whole Jewish people” and had “ma[d]e a mockery of the boycott against German-made articles” organized by Jewish circles throughout the world.129 Mostly, though, she resorted to sweeping, abstract generalizations, without firm empirical foundation, alleging lack of political experience or a political tradition among Jews, placement by Jewish leaders of excess faith in the modern state and its authorities without regard for a given regime’s ideological foundations, and the leaders’ greater concern for their personal social standing than for the general welfare of their people—all punctuated by vague hints that were it not for those qualities the Jews of Europe might have avoided the destruction that lay in store for them under the Nazis.130 Until the beginning of the modern era, she argued, the traditional Jewish notions of exile and redemption, which placed the Jewish people’s fate in the hands of God alone, encouraged Jews “to conduct their communal affairs by means of a politics that existed in the realm of imagination alone—the memory of a far-off past and the hope of a far-off future.”131 In that tendency she discerned an effort, perhaps even deliberate, to escape the hurly-burly of daily existence: “Jewish history offers the extraordinary spectacle of a people . . . which began its history with a well-defined concept of history and an almost conscious resolution to achieve a well-circumscribed plan on earth and then, without giving up the concept, avoided all political action for two thousand years.”132 The ominous consequences of that move became apparent, in her view, during the modern age, when confidence in eventual divine redemption wavered: where the old faith had imbued history with transcendent meaning, the new secular Jew was “robbed of all means of interpreting events” and “left with no sense whatsoever

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of reality.”133 In that situation, she explained, Jews began to regard themselves as “innocent victims of a hostile and sometimes brutal environment . . . , not history-makers but history-sufferers”;134 and because they no longer believed in their power to shape the world in which they lived, they “stumbled from one role to the other and accepted responsibility for none.”135 Arendt reserved particular disdain for a Jewish leadership that, she thought, had merely exacerbated the Jews’ lack of direction; the leaders, she charged, tried to persuade non-Jewish society to look upon them as exceptions worthy of elevated social status instead of fighting for political and human rights on behalf of their people as a whole.136 She claimed they did so by forging alliances with state authorities throughout modern times, especially after the French Revolution, when “only the combined wealth of the wealthier strata of Western and Central European Jewry . . . could suffice to meet the new enlarged governmental needs.”137 State authorities, she thought, had been willing to enter such alliances precisely because the Jews were an apolitical element unlikely to pursue any independent interest of their own.138 To her mind, that apolitical character set Jews apart from the non-Jewish bourgeoisie; the latter placed its class interests above those of the state, which “claim[ed] to be above all classes, completely independent of society and its particular interests, the true and only representative of the nation as a whole.”139 Thus the distinctive attitude of Jews toward the state joined together with their long-standing apolitical tendencies to create what Arendt characterized as their basic pattern of public behavior before the Holocaust: Had the Jews been bourgeois in the ordinary sense of the word, they might have gauged correctly the tremendous power-possibilities of their new function and at least have tried to play that fictitious role of a secret world power which makes and unmakes governments, which antisemites assigned to them anyway. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. The Jews, without knowledge of or interest in power, never thought of exercising more than mild pressure for minor purposes of self defense. . . . [T]heir detachment from power was so much taken for granted by Jewish representatives . . . that they hardly ever mentioned it except to express their surprise at the absurd suspicions leveled against them. . . . The Jews . . . never knew how to



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evaluate antisemitism, or rather never recognized the moment when social discrimination changed into a political argument.140

It is difficult not to detect a note of disparagement in such pronouncements or to avoid the impression that Arendt attributed the twentieth-century catastrophe of European Jewry in some measure to the naiveté and hypocrisy she saw as permanent features of the Jewish economic and intellectual elite’s public conduct in the modern era. Yet although she delivered this message quite clearly not only in Origins but in numerous articles on Jewish themes published between 1942 and 1952,141 and both the internal contradictions in her argument and the questionable empirical and methodological foundations on which they rested had been reported by several sharp-eyed commentators from the time the first edition of Origins appeared in 1951,142 neither her version of modern Jewish history nor the premises from which it was derived became targets of widespread criticism in the Jewish world until Eichmann in Jerusalem. Her report on the Eichmann trial, by contrast, turned not only her personally but her entire approach to the history of the Jews into an outcast in the Jewish world. And because that approach posited a measure of causal relationship between certain aspects of Jewish history and the Holocaust, demands by Jewish scholars in both fields for a clear line of demarcation between the two acquired greater resonance than ever before. ✻

The first person to object publicly to the conception of Jewish history that Arendt expounded during the 1940s and early 1950s and to posit a link between it and her interpretation of the Holocaust was Nathan Eck. In a short piece prepared for the Yad Vashem Bulletin he located “the roots of [Arendt’s] twisted views” and her “venomous diatribes against the murdered Jewish people” in two articles she had published in 1945 and 1946. In those articles she had criticized the Zionist Organization’s pursuit of a Jewish state in Palestine.143 According to Eck, it was there that Arendt first presented her hypothesis that antisemitism was not to be understood as an eternal expression of hatred for Jews but as a political movement born in a specific historical context out of the

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evolution of the relationship between Jews and the modern state. Eck attributed this thesis to a desire to undercut what she saw as the Zionists’ willingness to acknowledge the inevitability of antisemitism in the hope that it could be exploited to their movement’s benefit. From this exordium, Eck argued, Arendt concluded that in Israel Zionists had cultivated “the old mentality of enslaved peoples, the belief that it does not pay to fight back, that one must dodge and escape in order to survive.”144 It was but a small step, he argued, from this mistaken conclusion “to [Arendt’s] false charges concerning the disgraceful behavior of European Jewry, Zionists and non-Zionists alike, during the Holocaust, to [her] condemnation of the Jewish leadership in all countries under Nazi occupation for what she calls . . . ‘collaboration with the enemy,’ to [her] entire splenetic, contemptuous diatribe against the millions of Jews slaughtered and asphyxiated by the Nazis and their helpers.”145 Eck’s attempt to disqualify Eichmann in Jerusalem through a frontal assault on Arendt’s earlier writing was both shrill and crude, and Eck himself made no effort to hide his Zionist ideological motives. But the tactic appealed to more sophisticated, less ideological critics as well. In 1970 Benjamin Schwartz, a distinguished political scientist and China scholar from Harvard University and a highly regarded public intellectual with strong interest in and impressive knowledge of Jewish affairs, contended that “the Eichmann book can be understood only in terms of a certain preestablished conceptual framework”—one Arendt had developed long before attending the proceedings in the Jerusalem courtroom.146 That framework, he maintained, informed not only her Jewish writings but also her philosophical works, most notably The Human Condition and her 1961 collection of essays, Between Past and Future. In those books, Schwartz observed, Arendt posited a fundamental opposition between the political realm, which demanded constant action on behalf of the general welfare, and civil society, characterized by the self-centered pursuit of personal gain. He pointed out that the roots of that contrast could be found in the writings of Hegel and the young Karl Marx, arguing that Arendt was no more successful in proving its validity than her illustrious nineteenth-century



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predecessors. In his opinion Arendt was misled by Hegel and Marx also in her identification of the Jewish spirit with the despised civil society instead of with the Hellenic spirit that was supposed to have produced the exalted arena of politics. As a result, he maintained, Arendt saw fit to charge the Jews with “a willful indifference to life’s highest good” and their leaders with execrable behavior not only in times of crisis but throughout the span of Jewish history.147 Thus her faulty understanding of the Holocaust, as Schwartz represented it, was attributable to dubious philosophical foundations as well as to her allegedly distorted, one-sided view of the Jewish people, its history, and its cultural heritage. A similar argument was raised in Jewish Social Studies in 1981, this time by Sharon Muller, an aspiring young scholar from Columbia University who had studied with Paula Hyman and Ismar Schorsch.148 Like Schwartz, with whose article she was familiar, and Eck, whom she did not cite, Muller found that “[Arendt’s] analysis of Jewish behavior during the Holocaust was the fi nal expression of a vision of Jewish history and a critique of modern Jewish politics that extended back over three decades.” She also agreed that “Arendt’s interpretation of the modern Jewish experience . . . derived less from empirical historical research than from a set of preconceived categories of behavior which she imposed on the material of modern Jewish history.”149 Hence, she concluded, “if [Arendt’s] particu lar thesis about the Jewish leadership of the Holocaust era is to be refuted”—a goal she evidently espoused—it would not suffice merely to expose its shaky ideological and philosophical underpinnings; instead it was essential to challenge “Arendt’s larger interpretive framework for understanding Jewish history” through rigorous empirical examination of her statements about how Jews and their leaders had acted in the political arena over the centuries.150 As it happened, by the time Muller published her article such an examination had been underway for over a decade. In 1968 Arnold Paucker, director of the London branch of the Leo Baeck Institute, published a detailed German-language study of “the Jewish struggle to defend against antisemitism and National Socialism during the final years of the Weimar Republic,” in which he set out to prove that during

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the 1920s and 1930s “German Jewry did not sit idly by in the face of the dangers that threatened it.”151 The author, who had been a member of a socialist Zionist youth movement in Germany at the beginning of the Nazi period, traced the activities of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith)—the largest German Jewish civic organization, which since its founding in 1893 took upon itself to lead the country’s Jews along “the path of open, public self-help” and to teach them “to protect their position in their homeland through their own action”152—during the five years preceding the Nazi seizure of power. He found that in many respects this body took the growing threat to German democracy from the political right more seriously than most groups that backed the Weimar Republic.153 Furthermore, he demonstrated that the Centralverein undertook a broad range of actions not only on behalf of the civil, economic, and social well-being of Jews but in the overall struggle over the character of the German regime, including fi nancial support for prodemocracy organizations and intense advocacy for a broad antifascist coalition of all liberal and socialist parties.154 The portrait Arendt had painted of a Jewish leadership detached from the political arena, indifferent to the needs of the general public, and prepared to ally itself with any regime, whatever its ideological orientation, in hopes of preserving its own preferred social position did not chime with these fi ndings. Indeed, Paucker’s book depicted sober, dedicated, assertive leaders who constantly took the best interests of their Jewish charges and the surrounding society to heart. Paucker did not speak against Arendt directly; in fact, he did not mention her at all. Not so Ismar Schorsch, who a year after Paucker’s book appeared received his doctorate from Columbia University with a dissertation on the activities of the Centralverein and kindred organizations in Germany during the years 1870–1914. In 1972 the dissertation was published in book form. It included a frontal attack upon the thesis that Arendt had presented in The Origins of Totalitarianism: The . . . reaction of German Jewry [to the challenges it faced during the period in question] . . . serves to challenge the blanket judgment of



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Hannah Arendt that Jewish leadership steadily exhibited an amazing degree of political naiveté and submissiveness during the era of emancipation. She contends that the Jews’ long history of political powerlessness had destroyed any sense for the political realities of modern society. The only alliance they knew how to strike was one with the ruling authorities to whom they submitted unquestioningly. In the light of the history of the Centralverein before 1914, this evaluation certainly stands in need of revision. The politics and tactics of the Centralverein amount to more than an exercise in “mild pressure for minor purposes of self-defense.”155

Years later Schorsch testified that “behind my dissertation loomed the formidable presence of Hannah Arendt.” During the 1960s, he explained, “no book stirred me more than . . . The Origins of Totalitarianism.”156 Yet whereas in 1972 he argued only that Arendt’s model did not fit German Jewry following the establishment of the Centralverein (while speaking of French Jewry during the same interval in terms similar to hers),157 a short while later he lauded diaspora Jewry as a whole for its consistent political good sense throughout the middle ages and the modern era, attributing dissent from this representation to “ideological presuppositions and outmoded conceptualizations” nourished largely by Arendt’s historical outlook.158 As he explained in an influential lecture entitled “On the History of the Political Judgment of the Jew,” delivered at the Leo Baeck Institute in 1976, “survival as a dynamic, creative and cohesive minority evokes a presumption of political sagacity of a fairly high order.”159 He declared that if historians of the Jews had had difficulty discerning such political perspicacity and its positive manifestations over the centuries, their inability stemmed from their ongoing employment of “conceptual equipment . . . unsuited for the task” of empirical investigation that “serve[s] to distort” their vision. “In the field of historical inquiry,” he noted “accepted patterns of thought often interfere with new empirical research.”160 Schorsch himself appears to have worked in the opposite direction: on the basis of empirical research about German Jewry during the Wilhelminian era he developed a new paradigm and applied it to the whole of Jewish history.

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By his own testimony Schorsch considered his approach an extension of the path set by his teacher, Salo Baron.161 No doubt he felt Baron’s influence deeply. According to Schorsch, the myth of Jewish political passivity originated in the early nineteenth century, when the first generation of modern historians of the Jews portrayed the Jews exclusively as a religious community that had eschewed all political concerns following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 c.e. Those historians did so, he observed, in the ser vice of the struggle for civic equality then in full force in Western and Central Europe, which they believed required Jews to merge completely with the surrounding society and identify absolutely with the state that recognized them as equal citizens. Similar considerations ostensibly moved early historians to claim that the Jewish religious community had paid a heavy price for its withdrawal from the political arena: it had borne without question or complaint the obloquy and oppression that were ubiquitous before the age of enlightenment, with all Jewish history taking on the appearance of an unbroken chain of suffering and persecution. Here Schorsch identified the first instance of that “lachrymose conception of Jewish history” against which Baron had railed for over half a century.162 Thus, he claimed, by noting the existence of a continuous Jewish political history in the diaspora and highlighting the acuity and sagacity of Jewish political leaders he was answering his master’s call “to see Jews as subjects rather than objects, making the most out of the hand that history dealt them.”163 Arendt, on the other hand—so he maintained—not only remained captive to the lachrymose conception but also helped spread it in the United States, thereby setting back absorption of the Baronian paradigm “a generation or two.”164 The representation of the positions of Arendt and Baron as antithetical, to which a number of scholars and thinkers besides Schorsch appear to subscribe,165 is based primarily upon the apparent contradiction between the relatively mild criticism of his predecessors expressed in Baron’s admonition that “a more balanced view must . . . be taken by Jewish historians with respect to concerted Jewish political action”166 and Arendt’s sweeping generalization that the Jewish people “avoided all political action for two thousand years.”167 It appears, though, that



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critics who have interpreted the two statements as antithetical did not give adequate attention to the somewhat idiosyncratic manner in which Arendt employed the term politics in her writings. Whereas Baron and those who consider themselves his disciples have generally taken “Jewish political activity” to signify any action aimed at helping Jews “to identify their collective interests, to assess the possibilities for action, to locate allies, to organize and deploy their resources, and to learn from their failures and mistakes,”168 Arendt posited that “politics began where existential anxiety ended.”169 In her system, politics constituted a particular form of human relationship characterized by the common effort of different human groups to create a public space where each group can express its particularity while enriching humanity as a whole: “Politics is based upon the fact of human diversity” and “concerns itself with the ways in which different types of people coexist and live together.”170 As a result, precisely those deeds Schorsch celebrated as prima facie evidence of Jewish political activism throughout the centuries appeared to Arendt precisely the opposite—a selfish, particularistic concern for immediate Jewish group interests at the expense of action on behalf of humankind at large (which Arendt believed would have served the long-term Jewish interest in any case). Baron himself may well have understood that the difference between them was actually smaller than met the eye. Unlike most of the Jewish intellectuals Arendt had befriended before Eichmann in Jerusalem, Baron did not cut ties with her after the book appeared. Arendt continued to serve on the editorial board of Jewish Social Studies, and Baron made occasional positive reference to her work in his own writings.171 For her part, Arendt claimed to have learned much from Baron.172 Indeed, it is possible to cull from the copious writings of each far less extreme expressions of their views than those upon which the common juxtaposition rests, expressions that actually hint at a certain affi nity in their positions. As early as 1948 Arendt explicitly criticized “Jewish historians of the last century,” who, “consciously or not, used to ignore all those trends of the Jewish past which did not point to their own major thesis of Diaspora history, according to which the Jewish people did not have a political history of their own but were invariably the innocent victims of a hostile and sometimes brutal environment.” In this

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context she praised Scholem for directing attention to the political implications of Jewish mysticism (as she understood politics); through his efforts, she wrote, Scholem had “change[d] the whole picture of Jewish history.”173 As for Baron, in the same 1963 article in which he called for “a more balanced view” of Jewish political activity throughout the generations he also stressed that “since ancient times Judaism . . . glorified religious martyrdom” instead of political or military activism. In his formulation, the traditional Jewish response to the feeling of imminent catastrophe in exile was “acceptance of the divine will and . . . emphasis on the ultimate victory of meekness and passive resistance.” He refused to endorse unequivocally what he saw as a recent tendency of Jewish scholars to stress “the Jewish role in their countries’ revolutionary armies, their political struggles for civil rights, their endeavors to ameliorate the fate of the workingman and other phases of political and economic Jewish life.” “It is to be hoped,” he cautioned, “that this newer emphasis on politics, economics and military affairs . . . will not totally displace the understanding for the Leidens- und Gelehrtensgeschichte [history of suffering and scholarship] which had so completely dominated Jewish historical writing of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”174 Hence it appears quite possible that Baron may have counted Arendt’s efforts to fathom the thought patterns that guided Jewish leaders in modern Europe within the bounds of the “more balanced view” he endorsed. Whatever the case, the widespread perception of the historiographical approaches of Arendt and Baron as polar opposites helps explain how over the years the latter has been appropriated as the prime source and legitimator of the suggestion that the Holocaust be severed from the study of Jewish history, even though his antilachrymose credo could in theory have served with equal conviction as the exordium for a sustained historiographical effort to plumb the dark underside of the Jewish encounter with modernity. Such an effort turns out to have lain at the base of Arendt’s historiographical agenda. Indeed, the Western academy’s turn toward postmodern criticism of the modern project and the centrality of the Holocaust in the contemporary discourse of the humanities have been accompanied by growing interest in her work.175 Those trends, however, could only have strengthened the aversion



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demonstrated by many historians of the Jews, led by the generation that found its way into the North American academy during the 1960s and 1970s under the banner of social history, to any interpretation of history that cast aspersions upon the political legacy of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, including the Jews’ emancipation and integration into European society. To members of that generation, who fought to make Jewish studies a normal part of the curriculum in North American universities, Arendt—who some two decades before Arthur Hertzberg had located a significant portion of the ideological roots of the Holocaust within precisely that legacy176—appeared as a potential stumbling block, especially as their struggle reached its climax in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the academy at large was no longer as attuned to her message as it had been during the 1950s and her star had fallen considerably from its former heights.177 In any event, because members of that generation esteemed Baron as the one who blazed the trail they hoped to follow, both as the first historian of the Jews to succeed in the North American academy and as the standard bearer of the social history approach to studying the Jewish past, they appear to have already been inclined to conceive her as their master’s antithesis. In this fashion the juxtaposition of the two scholars could not but have gained momentum in Jewish historiography once Arendt became an outcast in the Jewish world following Eichmann in Jerusalem. Through the lens of that juxtaposition many historians inferred that if Arendt tended to criticize modernity’s influences on Jewish life, Baron must have regarded those influences positively, and his entire historiographical corpus must be read in light of that purported assessment. The juxtaposition also encouraged the assumption that if postmodernist scholars view Arendt as one of their intellectual forerunners, any concession to postmodernist influences in studying the history of the Jews must involve some departure from the Baronian legacy. That inference may well have encouraged many from the generation of the 1960s and 1970s to remain steadfast in their attachment to social history even after the cutting edge in North American historiography had passed to cultural history with a postmodernist inflection. Furthermore, because Arendt stressed repeatedly that what befell Jews under Nazi rule had played a significant role in shaping her thinking about the history of modern

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times in general and the history of modern Jewry in particular, and the impulse to disclaim even the slightest association with Arendt proved so powerful among most of Baron’s academic progeny, sequestration of the Holocaust from the bailiwick of Jewish historiography came to be viewed as an integral element in Baron’s teaching, even if Baron himself would not necessarily have affirmed it. The impulse to disavow Arendt was felt no less powerfully among historians writing from a Zionist perspective, and it has remained strong even in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Thirty-four years after he first pondered “Arendt’s curious . . . historiographical outlook,” Israel Gutman persisted in characterizing her statement that “if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless . . . , the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people” not only as misguided but as “unforgivable,” reducing her thesis to frivolous burlesque: “The Jewish people murdered itself.”178 The reasons for such ongoing revulsion among this branch of the Jewish historiographical establishment were less complex than among Baron’s acolytes: they were rooted first of all in the scabrous affront that her book on the Eichmann trial seemed to present to basic elements of Israeli Jews’ self-understanding. Because of that perceived insult, Arendt’s writings were taken as an example of how vulnerable that self-understanding was in the face of the notion that the behavior of Jews, whether before the Nazi rise to power or during the Holocaust proper, was implicated in the catastrophe. Consequently the reaction of Zionist historians who specialized in the history of the Jews during the three centuries that preceded the Holocaust was characterized less by attacks upon the empirical basis of Arendt’s interpretation of that history than by cautious, fastidious reformulation of earlier comments in their own corpus that could be taken as suggestions that certain Jewish behavioral patterns or ideological movements to which Zionists objected had hastened the destruction of European Jewry in any way.179 Signs of this reaction can be found in the writings of Jacob Katz, arguably the Zionist historian whose influence has been most powerfully felt beyond the Israeli academy. In his doctoral dissertation, presented at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt in 1934,



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Katz had warned that the spread of the ideology of assimilation among ever-widening circles within German Jewry from the second half of the eighteenth century had impaired German Jews’ capacity to identify and understand their particular collective interests, weakened ties of solidarity between them and Jewish communities throughout the world, and ultimately encumbered their ability effectively to confront the historical turn that had cut short the assimilatory process in 1933.180 In 1960 he had gone even further: in a brochure on the history of German Jewry prepared for soldiers in the Israeli military, he had indicated that during the years of the Weimar Republic, before the Nazi rise to power, many Jews “lacked any Jewish consciousness,” postulating that for that reason “the steps that the Jews took to defend themselves [once the Nazis had taken control] were extremely naive.” In the end, he advised, “when catastrophe came, this community could not rely upon its integration into the life of the country nor even upon the ‘certificate of complete assimilation’ and separation from the Jewish people that a portion of it had gained.”181 In general, the observations about the history of modern German Jewry that he offered before the Eichmann trial suggested that he attached a portion of the responsibility for the community’s tragic end to the manner in which it had chosen to approach the surrounding society and culture during the previous two hundred years. His tone changed, however, after the appearance of Eichmann in Jerusalem. From that point he took care to stipulate that German Jews’ conduct in the centuries before the Holocaust did not play a decisive role in determining their fate. It was impossible, he stressed, to foresee the final blow approaching, and when the blow fi nally fell, its force was so great that no Jew could have withstood its effects, no matter how firm his particularistic Jewish consciousness and commitments.182 In a 1967 article entitled “The German-Jewish Utopia of Social Emancipation” he even went so far as explicitly to reject the “assumption . . . that events can be sufficiently explained by their antecedents” and the belief “that the Hitler catastrophe was predetermined by latent forces in German or Jewish history or in the combination of the two.”183 In seeking to blend into the surrounding society, he hinted, German Jews may indeed have pursued an illusion, but the fact that

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they chased an unreachable goal did not mean that their history had to end in destruction.184 In his introduction to this article Katz set forth clearly what he believed was the fundamental difference between his approach to the study of German Jewish history and Arendt’s. He termed what she had written about Jewish history in The Origins of Totalitarianism “pretentious rambling” and upbraided her for allegedly claiming “to have found a predetermined historical law which necessitated the catastrophe.”185 In another article, published in 1975, in which he examined in detail the possibility that the Holocaust was predictable, he set forth an additional reason to reject her research and interpretive methods: The historian who wishes faithfully to record and judge the struggle of those involved has first of all to explain people’s behavior on the basis of what they themselves knew at the time; whether a particu lar decision was rational, judicious, moral must be determined by whatever yardstick the participants themselves would have been ready to submit to. Naturally, people will be found to have acted on different levels of rationality, and where moral considerations are involved, they will be found to have possessed different degrees of courage and character. But moral judgment can only be pronounced on individuals when we have fully imagined the plight they were in, and that is why any such moral judgment has to be preceded by a reconstruction of the situation as exact as the historical sources will permit. To my mind the basic fault of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem lies in her having skipped the stage of historical reconstruction in her rush to pass judgment on the actors. Lacking a concrete conception of what happened, and exploiting the wisdom of hindsight, she assumed a stance of moral superiority to which nobody who was not tested in the situation could possibly have a claim.186

Arendt would surely have denied all of Katz’s charges. In the event, she never argued that the fate of European Jewry had been predetermined by any “historical law.” Quite the contrary: the sound of anguished exhortation so prominent in her writings on the Holocaust stemmed in no small measure from her belief that the catastrophe was not inevitable. She was firmly convinced that it had been within the power of human beings to prevent it or at least to lessen its dimensions,



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and more than to judge those—Jews and non-Jews alike—who, in her opinion, failed to take the measures necessary to do so, she sought to lay bare the manner in which their choices affected how subsequent events unfolded. Nevertheless, Katz’s contention that Arendt’s empirical and interpretive errors stemmed from an anachronistic and deterministic approach to the past—that is, from a methodological failure originating in her insistence upon viewing the past from the vantage point of the Holocaust—fit in well with the thinking taking shape at the time among Baron’s disciples in the United States concerning the need to separate study of the Holocaust from the study of Jewish history.187 Katz’s criticism fortified many scholars in their belief that such a separation provided an essential methodological safeguard against distortion of past realities and misunderstanding of the nature of the encounter between Jews and the Third Reich.188 Katz suggested what he thought was the proper interpretation of that encounter in his 1975 article when he defined the Holocaust as “an absolute novum” that “transcended all the old, wonted concepts deriving from historical experience . . . , a trauma, a wounding experience beyond the reach of intellectual conceptualization.”189 In such a situation, he explained, no system of ideas or defense strategy proposed by any Jewish group could have saved the Jews from their fate.190 Arnold Paucker reached a similar conclusion several years earlier when he declared that “it was beyond the capacity of the tiny Jewish minority to cure the illness of German society”; that illness, he declared, could not but have forced Jews to succumb to its virulence.191 This interpretation has since emerged as the dominant paradigm in both Holocaust studies and Jewish historiography: the fate of the Jews under Nazi rule lay in the hands of non-Jews throughout, and during the Holocaust Jews were exclusively objects of history, not its subjects. Accordingly, the history of the Holocaust has been most widely figured as the story of those who perpetrated the murder (and, to a degree, of those among the populations of the German-occupied and German-allied states who aided them), and its study assigned primarily to historians of Europe, not of the Jews.

F o u r “What Is More Central Than

the Holocaust?”

Removing the Holocaust from the bailiwick of Jewish history presents a significant hurdle: works purporting to record the history of the Jews in modern times must note the twentieth-century loss of the large majority of the Jews of Europe to mass murder somehow. “Awareness of the Holocaust . . . has permeated all segments of Jewry,” noted Jacob Katz toward the end of his life;1 if only for that reason it is hard for historians of the Jews to ignore it altogether. No matter how determined they may be to “repel the noxious fumes of the Holocaust” from their professional concerns, those who profess to narrate the Jewish experience in modern times have to weave the Nazi period into their narratives one way or another. Many scholars have tried, explicitly or implicitly, to circumvent the hurdle by likening the Holocaust to a volcanic eruption, whose occurrence reveals nothing of the victims whose lives, culture, and values it obliterated. The analogy cannot hold, however, for a volcanic eruption is not a voluntary act, whereas the Nazi decision to murder the Jews of Europe was surely not forced upon them by nature. Moreover, like all aspects of the physical universe that impinge upon human life, the erupting volcano neither selects its targets nor distinguishes among them: where its lava cuts down every living creature in its path indiscriminately, the Nazis marked only some human groups for annihilation. The encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews of Europe ended in the death of two-thirds of the latter because the leaders of the Reich sought their deaths specifically. Thus the natural disaster analogy not


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only frees the perpetrators of mass murder from responsibility for their actions, it also strips the victims of their particularity, frustrating efforts to explain why the encounter produced its devastating results. The choice of Jews as a target was neither accidental nor arbitrary; Jews were a familiar element in the murderers’ universe, and the murderers’ attitudes toward them were shaped at least partly by a history of complex interactions between Jews in particular locations and their surrounding societies. Common sense recoils from the thought that that history was unrelated to the murder. Hence the earlier interactions between European Jews and their surrounding societies ought to help illuminate the Jews’ fate under Nazi rule. From the earliest days of the modern Jewish historiographical project in the nineteenth century, tracing the history of those interactions has been a central concern. Historians of the Jews have shown particular interest in them when considering violent and traumatic episodes in the Jewish past, like the slaughter of Rhineland Jewry during the First Crusade or of the Jews of southeastern Poland-Lithuania in the Cossack uprising of 1648–1649. For some historians those episodes have served as windows onto the character of relations between Jews and their neighbors in the decades before the violent outbreaks.2 In addition, one of the principal impulses driving modern Jewish historiography from its inception has been a perceived need to describe the history of relations between Jews and non-Jews from the Jews’ point of view, so that the representation of the latter’s role in the development of the surrounding society would not be left to those concerned only with the histories of other peoples. In other words, the Jewish historian’s toolbox contains a distinctive set of techniques, perspectives, and traditions capable of revealing links between the Holocaust and earlier periods in the European Jewish past, and contemporary Jews seeking to understand why their coreligionists were singled out for extinction not surprisingly expect those who wield those tools to employ them in the ser vice of such understanding. As a result, despite the dubious nature of the undertaking in the eyes of many of their colleagues, and at times without regard for doubts they themselves hold about its value, a few historians of the Jews, evidently attuned to the ongoing Jewish public conversation about the

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Holocaust and eager to bring their professional expertise to bear upon its future development, have probed for possible points of contact between the history of the Nazi catastrophe and the longer history of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, though their explorations have pointed to a number of weak spots in the wall of separation that has been erected between the two histories, they have not managed to bring the wall down or even to facilitate significant movement from one side to the other. ✻

Jacob Katz was among the most notable probers. To be sure, his anger at Hannah Arendt prompted him on one occasion to deny that the destruction of European Jewry could be connected with the experience of Jews in earlier generations, but not long thereafter he reconsidered his position. In fact, in the very article where he rejected the proposition that historical events could be adequately explained by their antecedents, he hedged his bets: These reservations . . . do not mean that I would deny the deep impact which certain events exert on the mind of the historian when he comes to examine ones which have preceded them. After the long interfusion of German and Jewish history dissolved under such frightful circumstances, it is natural that we should again have a look at its beginnings. We are certainly more apt to detect signs of deficiency and failure in the history of emancipation and assimilation than those historians who regarded these as the starting point of an everlasting symbiosis.3

Indeed, it appears that he was not unequivocally committed to the principle that the roots of the Holocaust were not to be located in the history of the relations between Jews and non-Jews. In 1968, in his review of Arthur Hertzberg’s French Enlightenment and the Jews, he actually expressed hope in the possibility of “fi nding in . . . the records of the past . . . some explanation for the terrible riddle of the Holocaust.” 4 In 1975, in the piece in which he took Hannah Arendt to task for her alleged methodological shortcomings and defi ned the Holocaust as an “absolute novum,” he also explained that “the fact that a later event is not the necessary result of previous ones does not mean there are no



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relations between them,” stressing that even though “the Holocaust [was] produced through [an] unforeseen and unforeseeable historical process,” it nevertheless “absorbed into itself all these previous elements, without whose existence the latter phases of the process would have been impossible.”5 In 1982 he repeated that “the key to . . . understanding . . . what happened in the 19th and 20th century in JewishGentile relations, including its catastrophic climax in the Holocaust, is not to be found in the immediate past but in the course of Jewish history, at least since its entanglement with the history of Christianity.” 6 And in an essay published in 1999, a year after his death, he proposed conceiving the Holocaust as “an incident stemming from a longterm factor,” whose understanding requires “detaching the longterm factors from their spatial contexts and following their evolution and development along the axis of time.” 7 Katz had no doubt as to the “longterm factor” that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust: it was “the hostile attitude of the Christian environment toward the Jews ever since the two religions diverged from one another in ancient times.”8 In his words, the emergence of Christianity out of “a theological battle . . . with its Jewish matrix” 9 created a permanent situation of “repressed antipathy among the adherents” of both faiths, for “the truth of one depended upon the falsehood of the other.”10 Once Christianity came to power in the Roman Empire in the fourth century, he explained, that antipathy found clear expression in the denial to Jews of any prescriptive right of residence in a Christian kingdom: although “the Church permitted rulers to settle Jews in their domains, it did not require them to do so,” and if a ruler decided to expel them from his realm, “Jews could appeal [the decision] to no one.”11 Thus, he maintained, the Jew “was considered a foreigner no matter how long he and his ancestors had been living” in the country. “This eternal foreignness” became for him “the first cause of all of the other deprivations and difficulties that weighed Jews down” throughout Christendom in every generation.12 Indeed, he declared, “in his perennial role as outcast, the Jew came to be depicted as an almost inhuman being.”13 To be sure, Katz acknowledged intervals of “economic gain and balance among the various sectors of the surrounding society,” in which

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“it seemed as if the religious conflict had been neutralized or had at least lost its power to excite [Christians] and endanger [Jews].”14 He believed that such an interval had been inaugurated on the eve of the French Revolution: The Jew’s pariah status seemed to come to an end when, in the wake of 18th-century rationalism and Enlightenment, as well as the ensuing social and political changes in European society, Jews were extricated from their peculiar position and included in the new category of citizens. With the subversion of traditional concepts of Christianity in the Enlightenment, the theological prop of Jewish exclusion also seemed to be broken. In a secularized state and society, so the prognosis went, not only would barriers to the economic, social, and political integration of Jews be removed, but all vestiges of prejudice would also evaporate in the sunlight of reason.15

But the promise did not materialize: according to Katz, although Christianity no longer shaped the thought of all strata of European society, “it still provided the universal discourse and spiritual atmosphere for some in society, for whom the traditional conception of the role of the Jew in history remained valid.”16 He asserted that during the 1870s the relatively small number of people who adopted the label “antisemites” formed a movement that “culminated in the Nazi period” by carrying out the program that it had espoused from the outset—to put an end to the continued existence of Jews on earth.17 Hence, he concluded, “the Holocaust marks the culmination of modern anti-Semitism, the roots of which hark back to . . . the Christian defamation and persecution of the Jews in the Middle Ages.”18 Katz devoted the final three decades of his professional life to exploring why rationalism and the European Enlightenment were unable to overcome the Christian heritage and banish the antipathy toward Jews it engendered. The explanation, which evolved gradually in his books Jews and Freemasons in Europe (1970), Out of the Ghetto (1973), From Prejudice to Destruction (1980), and the posthumously published Et lahakor veEt lehitbonen (A Time to Study and a Time to Observe, 1999), as well as in dozens of Hebrew, English, and German articles from the 1960s on,19 consisted of three primary elements, each emphasized variably in



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accordance with each book’s particular theme. One was socioeconomic. Katz noted that whereas the prophets of the new rationalistic order, Jews and non-Jews alike, anticipated radical change in the Jews’ occupational structure that would end their traditional concentration in commerce, peddling, and moneylending and prepare them to participate productively in the economic and social life of their non-Jewish surroundings, many non-Jewish farmers and artisans recoiled at the prospect of Jews invading their fields and raised barriers to their entry into guilds and acquisition of land even where state law forbade such discrimination.20 Katz counted such opposition among the reasons that “Jews did indeed expand the range of their activities, but their expansion still covered only certain areas of the economy,”21 so that in many places Jews continued to function as a distinct economic unit.22 As a result, he argued, many of the prejudices that had become attached to Jews during the Middle Ages because they pursued their livelihood in ways that the surrounding society regarded as morally dubious remained in force.23 Thus in Katz’s scheme the failure of efforts to bring the Jews’ occupational profile closer to that of their non-Jewish neighbors opened a channel through which the centuries-old Christian enmity toward them was brought forward into the age of emancipation under the aegis of the antisemitic movement, out of which the Nazi murder campaign would eventually emerge.24 The second element in the explanation concerned the political context in which Jews received emancipation and that context’s cultural implications. In Katz’s words, “the Jews of western and central Europe were admitted to citizenship in their countries of residence at the moment those states became national” in orientation.25 A fundamental characteristic of national states, as Katz understood the concept, was their elevation of “ethnical facts”—principally language, relationship to a homeland, and particular cultural practices—to the level of “ultimate values” that every citizen must cherish and cultivate as a condition of citizenship.26 Consequently, he surmised, if Jews were to be transformed into citizens of their countries of residence, they had no choice but to conform to the “ethnical facts” of the primary national group for whom the state was supposed to speak and to internalize its basic cultural values. He explained, however, that “if such was the condition of

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acceptance, it was one that could not possibly be fulfi lled.”27 It turned out that those European national states that attempted to use the offer of citizenship to bring about the Jews’ disappearance as a distinct social group, no matter how loudly they proclaimed their commitment to policies rooted in reason instead of faith, actually continued to avail themselves of traditional Christian myths and symbols, thereby establishing a firm connection between religion and national identity.28 In contrast, the Jews, most of whom were put off by myths and symbols that aroused in them difficult memories not easily dissipated, “strove . . . to be accepted as Jews . . . , expecting not only the continued existence of Judaism but its continued prosperity and renewal.”29 As a result, according to Katz, they found themselves barred from absorption into the nations of Europe as long as they insisted upon appearing as a distinct social unit: the non-Jewish expectation that Jews “would immediately, or at least over time, turn into members of the [dominant] nation . . . had no prospect of ever being realized”:30 Modern nationalism incorporated . . . elements of the nation’s religious tradition. The nation’s history greatly facilitated such incorporation. Even a thoroughly secular Frenchman could identify with figures from the distant past whose characters had been formed by the Catholic faith and whose lives had been dedicated to the supremacy and greater glory of Christianity. But Jews could not accept that aspect of national identity, even if they had become estranged from their own religion. . . . The Jews [appeared to] remain a tightly-knit community, clinging to the occupations that enriched them at the expense of others; in the final analysis they demonstrated neither the willingness nor the ability to set down roots in the surrounding society, which fostered doubts about their patriotism. The country in which they lived did not become their homeland.31

By presenting the problem in this manner Katz pointed to the third element in his explanation of the persistence of Christian hostility toward Jews: the manner in which European Jewry responded to the offer of civic equality. In Katz’s view, the Jews’ social isolation had not been forced upon them because of the surrounding society’s ongoing revulsion from Judaism; it had also chimed with many of the Jews’ own interests and desires. Hence, he explained, whereas the grantors of



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equality expected Jewish citizens to satisfy all their social, educational, and cultural needs with the aid of institutions maintained for the benefit of the general public, in many instances Jews continued to avail themselves of ser vices provided by the traditional communal organizations that had characterized Jewish life before the era of emancipation.32 Katz held that the continued operation of such exclusively Jewish associations not only antagonized even the most ardent non-Jewish advocates of emancipation33 but actually hindered the Jews’ social integration by attracting them to places where they were unlikely to interact with their non-Jewish neighbors.34 He also noted that West European Jews defied the surrounding society’s expectations by creating their own separate organizations to aid their coreligionists in states where they did not yet enjoy the status of equal citizens. The reason for establishing such organizations (under whose heading he included not only quasi-political bodies like the Alliance Israélite Universelle but also the major Jewish newspapers and periodicals in Western languages that had begun to appear during the 1830s and 1840s) was, he claimed, “egoistic” at bottom: the Jews who benefited from emancipation understood that one of the unspoken conditions for full social acceptance in their countries of residence was the assurance “that no new faces still bearing the signs of ghetto culture would join them.” 35 According to Katz, the Jews of Germany, France, and England—led by the wealthiest among them, who sought to ward off a large-scale influx of poor, unacculturated Jewish refugees fleeing political and economic hardship— organized “to remove [the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe] from their traditional forms of economic activity” and to promote “their absorption into the society and political community of the places where they lived.”36 By doing so, he noted, they hoped to explode the myth of the wandering Jew, lacking connection to their place of residence, who would abandon it at a moment’s notice for the sake of “easy profits at the expense of those who support their families by the sweat of their brow.”37 Ironically, though, he observed, they produced the opposite result: they reinforced the venerable belief in an international Jewish conspiracy poised to siphon resources from host societies for the exclusive benefit of members of the tribe.38

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Nevertheless, according to Katz, the separate organizations that so disturbed their neighbors actually originated in the Jews’ own stubborn refusal, common to orthodox and freethinkers alike, to renounce their religious identity in favor of the majority faith and intermarry with non-Jews. Their non-Jewish countrymen, he claimed, expected that “once Jews came into close contact with Christian society they would acknowledge the inferiority of their own religion and abandon it for Christianity,”39 yet Jews did not rush to the baptismal fonts; “overt and covert inhibitions, family ties, economic interests, and not the least the emotional difficulties associated both with leaving [the old community] and breaking into [the new one]” combined to impede formal disaffiliation from Judaism even among those who had ceased to believe in its basic tenets.40 The same considerations retarded intermarriage, Jewish opposition to which Katz termed “atavistic in that it represented an adherence to a pattern of behavior after the reason for it had disappeared.” 41 Such irrational conduct, he maintained, ultimately reinforced negative stereotypes of the Jews that medieval Christendom had bequeathed to the era of enlightenment and emancipation in a way that enabled a “diluted [rationalized] Christianity” to become “one of the most fertile grounds of anti-Semitic theories.” 42 The antisemitic movement, which broke upon the European political scene in the 1870s, was thus, in Katz’s reconstruction, primarily a means of “settling accounts with the Jews for violating the terms of the unwritten contract of emancipation.” 43 The reckoning received additional impetus, he suggested, from the spreading employment of “race” as a tool for interpreting various historical phenomena, including the process of social stratification,44 explaining that many of those who called themselves antisemites found in this concept the key to solving the otherwise inexplicable enigma of Jewish behavior: Once this word was thrown into the polemical arena it became possible to attribute to it all of the Jews’ real and imagined shortcomings. Indeed, it was held responsible for the Jew’s international character, which stood in the way of his loyalty to country, . . . [and] for his avoidance of manual labor and exploitation of others. Worst of all, his religion was defined as a tribal form of worship, lacking spiritual depth



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and a moral foundation. . . . In the past, calling a human group a “race” was not necessarily taken to disparage its character, because “race” was considered a purely anthropological category. But once the concept absorbed the poison of antisemitism it became a highly efficient propaganda tool. It may not have caused the general public’s alienation from the Jews, but it certainly brought about its expansion and intensification. And we know that that alienation was one of the conditions that made it possible for the Nazis to execute their evil plot.45

Clearly a search for the roots of the Holocaust played a central role in shaping the picture of the modern period in Jewish history that Katz presented from the 1960s onward. Indeed, Katz acknowledged this motivation repeatedly in various of his writings devoted to aspects of the modern era. It is possible, moreover, to discern a clear line of demarcation between his earlier conception of the processes of emancipation and assimilation—set forth in his doctoral dissertation and his first two books, Tradition and Crisis (1958) and Exclusiveness and Tolerance (1961), which were devoted largely to other themes and brought him world renown—and the one he developed after turning his attention firmly to those processes following the Eichmann trial.46 Most notably the former rested upon the idea of a “neutral society,” which Katz defined as “a new sort of encounter in which existing differences between Jews and non-Jews lost their divisive character because Jews and nonJews were supported by a new social foundation that showed regard for those differences.” 47 According to Katz, such a neutral society had arisen in Germany during the second half of the eighteenth century, when the estate structure that had characterized the medieval German state disappeared and a new social stratum arose, the “spiritual elite” (Geisteselite), championing a social hierarchy based upon “participation . . . in the world of ‘culture.’ ” 48 One of the outstanding features of this group’s program, as he described it, was the call to “detach the individual” from his traditional ascribed group identity and to determine his place in society solely according to his attachment to “civilization” (Kultur).49 That demand, he explained, created an opening for Jews to become part of a new society: “If a Jew was ‘enlightened’ (aufgeklärt), it was impossible to explain why he should not be counted among the enlightened elite.”50 In fact, it turned out that there were quite a few

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suitable Jewish candidates for inclusion in the new elite’s ranks, representing “a new social type, the maskil, who added such things as a command of the languages of the gentile environment, general erudition, and an interest in what was happening in the non-Jewish world to his knowledge of the Torah.”51 These maskilim, he claimed, were naturally drawn to the spiritual universe of the non-Jewish Geisteselite, and their affinity catalyzed a social revolution among the Jews: Jewish enlightened maskilim came to identify socially with their gentile intellectual counterparts. This was not the same as the earlier phenomenon of individual Jews, fully ensconced within the world of tradition, who admired and respected gentile intellectuals and differentiated between them and the masses of non-Jews whom they disparaged. This had been a purely intellectual identification that yielded no concrete social results. A true social reformation could occur only where enlightenment came to serve as a basis for social grouping. . . . Hitherto meetings between members of the two groups had been exclusively utilitarian and directed at some ulterior purpose. The meetings of these societies, on the other hand, were valued in their own right. They were intended to give the participants a feeling of belonging to a primary, intimate group. . . . Be that as it may, [the maskilim] found their chief satisfaction in the meetings themselves, and if they assigned other purposes—such as the fostering of learning or mutual assistance—to their societies, these were only secondary aims. The principal function and justification for these meetings was in the pleasure of the contact with kindred souls that they afforded. This was the surprising fact as far as Jewish society was concerned—that some of its members were, in some aspects of their existence, transplanted to a common sociocultural milieu with non-Jews.52

In his doctoral dissertation Katz proposed that the essence of assimilation lay in this displacement. Everywhere, in every generation, he stated, Jewish groups had adopted behavioral, expressive, and thought patterns from the surrounding society, but he employed the term assimilation only when “the absorption of ways of thought or life constitutes evidence of belonging to the groups from which those ways of thought or life were absorbed.”53 Katz had no doubt that such absorption became increasingly typical of German Jewry, to the point where he took



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it as the principal marker of the modern era. The disappearance of the old Judeo-German dialect ( Jüdisch-Deutsch), the far-reaching changes introduced in the Jewish educational system and curriculum, the replacement of the Talmud by the Bible as the Jews’ foundational text, and the emphasis upon its universal values instead of upon its particularistic Jewish ones—all of these, he declared, “must be seen as symptoms of an assimilation that had already been achieved” by the end of the eighteenth century.54 Since that time, he added, “assimilation managed to expand beyond the small circle of the Geisteselite in which it began.”55 To be sure, he acknowledged, “the progress of assimilation aroused simultaneous oppositional forces that cast doubt upon its validity, so that a new era arrived that preferred not to regard assimilation as the most favorable solution to the problems that had given rise to it.”56 However, in his dissertation and in the two books prepared for publication during the 1950s he continued to proclaim the ability of the assimilationist idea to bring Jews and non-Jews closer to one another.57 He also made no claim that the willingness of non-Jews to meet Jews within the framework of the neutral society and to extend them equal civic rights implied a concomitant demand to renounce all vestiges of a distinct Jewish identity. Indeed, the dissertation suggested the opposite: “The idea of eventual emancipation would seek complete assimilation no matter whether the Jews adopted Christianity or not.”58 In Tradition and Crisis he reemphasized that with the rise of the neutral society “the demand that one decide in favor of either Christianity or Judaism lost its urgency and acuteness.”59 Katz’s approach to these matters in his works from the mid-1960s onward was markedly different. In these latter works he no longer presented the neutral society and practical assimilation as the defi ning characteristics of the modern era, calling attention instead to the “mutual disappointment” of Jews and non-Jews alike over the failure of their common utopian vision, “which could never have materialized”:60 A look at . . . the activities of Jews . . . between 1848 and 1880 . . . shows that the picture is not a process of assimilation pure and simple. Assimilation, it is true, makes progress insofar as some Jews are

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coming into more intimate contact with non-Jews and all Jews more and more adopt the cultural patterns of their surroundings. But, at the same time, Jews also create the instruments that continue to hold them together and help them to maintain a separate social identity. . . . If the [Jewish] group was different from what it had been a century before, it certainly had not assumed the characteristics expected by those who propounded the idea of fusion with Christian society.61

Nor, he contended, did Christian society succeed in refashioning itself according to the principles of rationalism and universalism; consequently it did not withdraw the fundamental demand that Jews abandon their separate social existence.62 In light of his new view of the relations between Jews and non-Jews in modern times, Katz explicitly repudiated his earlier use of the term neutral society. At most, he proclaimed, one could speak of a “semi-neutral society”—one in which Jews with a European education maintained tenuous ties with their enlightened non-Jewish class counterparts but nevertheless “remained socially aloof” and devoted their greatest efforts to spreading their ideas within the Jewish community.63 Similarly, whereas prior to the mid-1960s Katz had devoted the bulk of his scholarly energies to demonstrating the power of rationalism and universalism to change the face of traditional society, Jewish and Christian alike, beyond recognition, after that time he gave more attention to probing the limits of that power, the partial nature of those ideas’ social influence, and the persistence of values drawn from earlier centuries. No doubt he hoped thereby to fathom what he later termed “the end of modern European Jewry.” 64 It is not certain what attracted Katz to this question at precisely this time. In his final book he hinted that not only he but all of his fellow historians of the Jews had initially shied away from it: “Following the end of the Second World War . . . there was a reluctance to examine matters with a historian’s critical eye; it seemed virtually impossible to describe the phenomenon to the full extent of its horror, let alone to understand and analyze it.” 65 The statement is factually inaccurate: even before the Nazi regime had fallen, historians of the Jews in many parts of the world had begun to assemble documents, formulate research programs, and publish academic investigations concerning various



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aspects of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews, and their activities had gained significant momentum during the 1950s.66 Katz, a member of Yad Vashem’s civic advisory council during that decade, was surely aware of those activities, but they escaped his memory in later years. It thus seems reasonable to take his comments as indicative primarily of personal anxiety over the implications of the Holocaust for his own historical outlook.67 If his anxiety abated during the 1960s, Katz did not differ from many in Israel for whom the Eichmann trial gave the Holocaust a more prominent place in their consciousness.68 Whatever the case, it appears that the timing of the change in the position Katz assigned the Holocaust in his professional agenda left its mark upon the manner in which he dealt with the subject and in which he presented his conclusions about it. In Exclusiveness and Tolerance, which he began writing during the 1956–1957 academic year, he had put forth the argument that the tenor of relations between Jews and nonJews depended largely upon an infrastructure of traditions, images, and cultural barriers that informed each side’s approach to the other. To be sure, he noted, “the behaviour of the Jews towards their neighbours is conditioned by the behaviour of the latter towards them,” but the opposite is also true, so that “real insight into this relationship can . . . be gained only by concentrating our attention simultaneously on both sides of the barrier.” 69 Even then that thesis had aroused apprehension in some Jewish circles, for in his book Katz had revealed that medieval Ashkenazic Jews regarded their Christian neighbors as idolators, despised their ceremonies and symbols, and assigned them an inferior position in the eyes of God—a representation that clashed with the customary thrust of Jewish apologetics since the eighteenth century, which depicted Judaism as a fundamentally tolerant religion that had always subscribed to the loftiest canons of universalist humanism.70 Katz, however, attributed the book’s success precisely to its forthright, unapologetic manner,71 which no doubt encouraged him to adopt the same approach in his later studies of the failure of the emancipationist utopia. That approach was clearly visible in his book, Out of the Ghetto, which he prepared in stages throughout the 1960s.72 In that book he

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argued explicitly that the responsibility for the failure did not rest upon the Christian side alone: “Viewed historically or sociologically, the share of Jews or Christians respectively in producing the phenomenon of social cleavage between them cannot be neatly apportioned.”73 As he wrote elsewhere, this ongoing social division, in opposition to the expectations of the early emancipation era, formed “the seedbed of [the Jews’] catastrophe.”74 In the wake of the Eichmann trial and the public and academic debates over the books by Hilberg, Bettelheim, and Arendt that raged in its shadow, any scholar who assigned even a portion of the responsibility for the Holocaust to the victims and their historical experience, no matter how delicately and indirectly, faced ostracism by the Jewish public and at least a portion of the academic community. Hence, evidently, Katz’s repeated emphasis on avoiding judgment of the victims’ behavior. The need to separate himself from the unholy Hilberg-BettelheimArendt trinity appears, however, to have induced him to introduce fine distinctions that at times generated internal contradictions in his assessment of emancipation and its results. For example, where he wrote on one occasion that the modern emancipatory utopia was “one conceived by Jews of Germany and Germans themselves” 75 and that both parties had pursued it enthusiastically but soberly, he insisted elsewhere that “as a negligible minority in a Christian world, the Jewish group was not master of its own fate, neither in the Middle Ages nor in the modern era, and just as separation from general society was forced upon it during the ghetto period, so too was the experience of integration imposed upon it by external agents.”76 Similarly, while he stressed repeatedly that “the Holocaust was not predictable,”77 because “except for the Holocaust we have not heard of any person or public body that decided to exterminate an entire people, including all who belonged to it, big and small, and was prevented from carrying its plot to completion only by an exogenous force,”78 he also declared more than once that the basic principles upon which the Nazis based their murderous attitude toward the Jews were “inherent in the [utopian] situation” that the emancipationist idea had envisioned and had found clear expression in public discourse already during the nineteenth century.79 And although



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from time to time he wondered, “given the radically transcendent nature of the Holocaust, what significance can there be to the mere historical recording of its events, let alone attempting to lay bare their roots in the more or less remote past,” 80 and even expressed doubt in the ability of the historian’s craft to illuminate a phenomenon without parallel in the annals of humanity, he ultimately overcame his skepticism and permitted himself to draw a line between “the end of Jewish life in Germany and all the countries of Europe as we had known them in the century and a half of the modern age” and “the beginning of that age” at the end of the eighteenth century—if only in order “to accompany [Europe’s Jews] along their path, with their hopes and disappointments, and, once what happened to them happened, to honor their memory.”81 In a keynote address to an international conference at Yad Vashem in 1989 Katz cautioned that “when we contemplate the lives of previous generations, we must disregard subsequent events and reconstruct the climate of the period that concerns us.”82 That comment paralleled many offered by fellow historians of the Jews who had pondered the difficulty the Holocaust posed to understanding and representing the experience of modern European Jewry. But unlike others, he was not put off by the challenge and did not seek to sequester the Holocaust from the scope of his professional concerns. His warning was aimed at the tendency of some scholars and commentators to express invidious judgment of Holocaust victims for not properly perceiving the impending danger or adequately resisting their fate, not at those who understood that “it is the allotted task of historians to record these events as completely as they can.” 83 He explicitly termed the events of the Nazi era “a part of Jewish history” 84 insofar as they marked the culmination of a process in which Jews played an active role, and he used those events as an aperture through which to observe how the relations between Jews and non-Jews had unfolded in the decades before the destruction.85 In the final analysis, he explained, “any historical research on European Jewry, even if several generations removed from the Holocaust, is by necessity influenced by the tragic demise of European Jewry.”86 For three decades he worked to channel the inescapable

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influence so as to lead both historians of the Holocaust and historians of the Jews in productive directions. ✻ His efforts bore little fruit, however, both among his contemporaries and in subsequent generations. On the contrary, most scholars appear to have ignored them altogether. Among the minority who acknowledged their existence, some (like the German scholar who praised him for what she saw as his determination to bracket off the Holocaust when examining the history of earlier Jewish generations87) did not understand his drift; others, while comprehending his message, took issue with it. In a fiercely critical review of From Prejudice to Destruction, Todd Endelman even complained that Katz’s concern with the evolution of anti-Jewish antipathy in the modern period, let alone his attribution of its persistence in part to Jewish actions, was simply not appropriate for a historian of the Jews: It can be argued that the history of modern anti-Semitism belongs more properly to the realm of American and European historiography than Jewish. Anti-Semitism, after all, reflects stresses and strains in the larger society in which Jews live and mirror actual Jewish behavior only in a limited and distorted way. Not surprisingly, then, historians outside the field of Jewish history proper have been attracted to the study of modern anti-Semitism and have produced, not coincidentally, some of the best writing on the subject. . . . [G]iven the critical impact of anti-Semitism on Jewish life since Emancipation, Jewish historians as well have sought to explain its character and tenacity, although their work, on the whole, has been less influential than that of their colleagues in European and American history.88

Endelman welcomed that state of affairs, for in his eyes Katz’s approach, based upon a view of Jewish history as incommensurable with the history of any other people, not subject to analysis with the ordinary tools employed in “other fields of historical research,” had spent itself long since.89 In his view, while Katz had been content merely to enumerate the expressions of hostility toward Jews and negative images of them that had filled European literature since 1700, historians of Europe and the United States had properly transferred emphasis to the



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manner in which those expressions and images found practical expression in “many spheres of life (politics, culture, the economy, social intercourse, and so on).” 90 Those historians, he declared, understood that “to discuss anti-Semitic ideas without full regard to their reception is an unprofitable undertaking,” for “anti-Semitic writings circulated widely in all European countries in the half century before the Second World War, yet only one country, Germany, made the extermination of the Jews an object of public policy.” 91 Therefore, he inferred, “the roots of anti-Semitism’s appeal” were best sought “in the tensions and turmoil of the non-Jewish world,” not in the Jews’ “refusal to disappear as a collective entity after Emancipation.” 92 In other words, readers who wished to know “how prejudice led to destruction” would find historians of Europe, who were accustomed to dealing with phenomena such as “the failure of democratic ideas and institutions, the political immaturity of the industrial and commercial middle class, [and] the intensity and rapidity of socioeconomic change after 1870,” 93 more reliable guides than historians of the Jews, whose vision was constricted by what he termed on another occasion “inward-looking tendencies” cultivated within “a ghetto of [their] own making.” 94 His criticism of Katz strongly suggested that the task of explicating the thoughts and feelings of those who perpetrated the Holocaust be left to the Europeanists, with Judaicists restricted to speaking about the behavior of Jews. In the event, Endelman did uncover one of the weak links in Katz’s approach. Katz placed the roots of the Holocaust in a discursive tradition from which, in his view, all of the peoples of Europe drew in more or less the same measure, whereas actual attitudes and behavior toward Jews in the twenty countries that fell within the orbit of the Third Reich were not uniform at all. Nevertheless, the solution Endelman proposed to this apparent contradiction—that variations in attitudes toward Jews reflected differences in the specific sociopolitical context of each country, over which Jews had no control—did not exhaust possibilities for resolving it, even in theory. Where Endelman assumed that a more or less homogeneous body of ideas was applied differently from place to place, he could also have posited differences in the way invidious ideas about Jews were formulated and propagated, even if the different

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formulations drew upon a common tradition. Moreover, in principle the possibility that different formulations of the common legacy were shaped to at least some degree by real differences in the character of the interactions between Jews and the various societies in which they lived— a possibility consistent with Katz’s overall approach—cannot be rejected a priori. Endelman, who defined himself as a social historian, dismissed this prospect out of hand, evidently out of commitment to one of the basic premises of his brand of historiography—one that minimizes the power of abstract ideas and the writers who give them voice to shape the behavior of entire societies.95 By contrast, Katz, even though he too identified with social history until at least the early 1960s, consistently refused to rank ideas against material, political, or social-structural factors as motivating forces of human action.96 On the contrary, it was precisely his effort to uncover the roots of the Holocaust that led him to ponder “whether we can produce a sufficient, exhaustive explanation [for outbreaks of anti-Jewish hostility in various periods] by taking note [exclusively] of conditions in the surrounding society, or whether doing so merely . . . exposes factors that may have intensified antisemitism but could not have generated it.” 97 In the course of his investigations he concluded that by ignoring the potential of anti-Jewish ideas to create a social reality endangering the Jewish people’s continued existence, historians miss “the preliminary question on which all other investigation hinges”:98 “why crises within the larger society should be particularly harmful to Jews.” 99 Still, even after Katz explained why he was not convinced by Endelman’s methodological argument, the empirical challenge his critic placed before him remained. Katz never systematically traced variations in the formulation of anti-Jewish ideas from country to country with a mind to explaining why those ideas found their most radical implementation in one country alone. That challenge was taken up by two of Katz’s colleagues and rivals at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shmuel Ettinger and Uriel Tal. Like Katz, Ettinger, who had devoted a significant portion of his research during the 1960s and 1970s to exploring the connection between modern European discourse about Jews and the Nazi murder campaign, believed that “all explanations of the Holocaust



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that place its roots exclusively in a par ticu lar sociopolitical context and not . . . in a constellation of ideas miss the mark,” for “they explain how individuals and groups exploit Jew-hatred in conditions of general spiritual or social distress or to achieve political aims, but they do not come to grips with . . . the reasons why Jew-hatred comes into being in the first place.”100 He also agreed with Katz about Christianity’s decisive role in “embedding intense hatred of Jews and Judaism” among all the peoples of Europe.101 Unlike Katz, however, he concerned himself explicitly with “the great differences in the way [different] peoples and states related to Jews” and undertook to explain how the variations had emerged.102 He concluded that they were created when “the medieval Christian stereotype of the Jew,” which identified Jews with the dev il and aroused “associations of revulsion and fear, magic and crime, and love of evil for its own sake,”103 underwent a series of mutations beginning in the sixteenth century “stemming from the contradictory emotions and thoughts that characterized the leaders of the Reformation.”104 In his view, those contradictions, which became increasingly pronounced from the seventeenth century onward as a result of snags in the process of secularization, were reflected in the variety of views about Jews and Judaism that formed gradually in different European states, so that by the nineteenth century it was possible to connect a particular set of anti-Jewish attitudes with certain intellectual tendencies typical of each country. Thus, he explained, the eighteenth-century English deists with their universalist ideals rejected the Jewish religion in part because of its ethnic particularism but were prepared to tolerate Jews who renounced those particularistic tendencies and proclaimed solidarity with humanity as a whole,105 whereas early nineteenthcentury German romantics, and even more the Young Hegelians of the 1830s and 1840s (who considered human experience to be the handiwork of individual nations, each possessing a unique, indelible collective character, working alongside one another for good or for ill), rejected the Jewish people in toto as the bearer of a dangerous essence that could not be shed nor its harmful consequences averted.106 According to Ettinger, this characteristically German mutation of the traditional Christian anti-Jewish stereotype served as an essential preparation for the Holocaust, for it gave rise to an idea central to Nazi doctrine—

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that even Christian baptism could not fi x what was wrong with Jews.107 No wonder, he concluded, it was precisely a German government that despaired of the possibility of neutralizing the Jews’ dangerous influence by peaceful means and took to extreme violence to liquidate it once and for all.108 Ettinger’s student, Uriel Tal, extended his teacher’s description of the German strain,109 hoping to solve a problem at whose existence Ettinger had hinted without pursuing it systematically: How did the traditional Christian stereotype of the Jews manage to survive in an intellectual climate that denied the ability of conversion to Christianity to purge Jews of their evil ways? In his doctoral dissertation and the acclaimed book based upon it, Christians and Jews in Germany, published in 1970, Tal wove an intricate narrative of “historical processes on the road to totalitarianism” that specified how “racial antisemitism in the Second Reich, which tried to incorporate Christianity into the framework of racist ideology and included non-Christian and anti-Christian strands, arose in parallel with Christian antisemitism.”110 His analysis reinforced the approach Ettinger had outlined during the previous decade: After the First World War and during the Weimar period, the mythological, un- Christian or even anti- Christian character of antisemitism became blurred, weakening one of the principal barriers that had held back the spread of racial antisemitism . . . during the Second Reich. . . . This . . . development, which became a political factor between the end of the First World War and the Nazi rise to power, was rooted in the process of secularization. Its beginning lay in the deistic rejection of positive historical religion . . . ; its main impetus came from Ludwig Feuerbach’s anthropologization of religion, continuing in the teaching of the Young Hegelians . . . ; it reached its apogee under Romanticism, with the return of the primordial pagan myth and especially the principle according to which empirical characteristics become ontological qualities. These streams influenced racial antisemitism via Nietzsche’s notion of the Antichrist, which led in turn to the pseudoreligious, pseudomessianic formation of Nazism. That formation was hardly accidental, the product of mass hysteria or demagogy. . . . It was a well-built ideological formation, systematic and consistent, supported by its own unique logic. The anti- Christian



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aspects of antisemitism were built so as not to appear to upset traditional Christian theology. They inverted the meaning of theological concepts while leaving the concepts themselves valid.111

In one sense the studies by Ettinger and Tal lent support to Katz’s method, which assigned priority to ideas over sociopolitical contexts in explaining the processes that led to the Holocaust.112 Yet unlike Katz, these two scholars assigned the actions of Jews themselves no role in the formation of the attitudes that were eventually supposed to have determined their fate. On the contrary, Ettinger painted a picture of ideas evolving immanently from the attenuation of Church domination of Eu ropean thought patterns at the beginning of the modern era.113 Tal actually studied the influence of factors originating among Jews on the development of German discourse about them and discovered a dialog of the deaf: because “within the general environment . . . religion, this time in secular garb, reclaimed a central role in shaping the ethos of the Second Reich . . . , with its normative authority no longer confined to the private sphere,” Jews gained no benefit from their frequent declarations that “their adherence to the Jewish religion . . . was the . . . sole component of their [Jewish] self-definition”— which according to “the rational foundations upon which modern society rests” ought to have entitled Jews to “full integration into the surrounding society along with a distinct status as Jews within that society.”114 Hence, although the emphasis they placed on ideas separated their approach clearly from that of Endelman, the two strategies converged in their representation of the conditions that generated the Holocaust as ones over which Jews had no control.115 At least that is how Katz understood their theses: he combined his response to Endelman with an attack upon three approaches to the study of antisemitism— “the socio-political, the psychological . . . , and the ideological”—all of which, he claimed, mistakenly “explain the ongoing hatred and persecution of Jews exclusively in terms of developments within the antiSemitic camp or in the larger non-Jewish environment.”116 In his opinion, such unidimensional explanations were to be expected from historians of Europe and the United States, who “know a good deal more about non-Jewish societies than about the Jews” and who thus

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regard the Jews as “shadowy and insubstantial figures, lacking not only initiative but any sign of ordinary human responsiveness.”117 From historians of the Jews, on the other hand, he hoped for a more sophisticated and balanced approach, not only because they purportedly knew Jews up close as flesh-and-blood human beings but also in response to considerations of both morality and self-interest: [H]istorians who focus exclusively on the personal traits of particular anti-Semites, or on the anti-Semitic personality in general, or on the social processes at work in a given situation, or on the psychoanalytic roots of anti-Jewish animosity . . . end in effect by severing antiSemitism from its connection with the Jewish people. In the interpretations of anti-Semitism produced from this standpoint, the fact that Jews were its victims becomes almost accidental. The current tendency to de-Judaize anti-Semitism is most evident in the many recent attempts to universalize the culminating event of historical antiSemitism—the Holocaust—by citing other examples of genocide and by pointing out that other groups also suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Up to a point, such comparisons are perfectly legitimate. Ultimately, however, the suffering of no other nation can compare with the uniqueness of the Jewish experience, and not just in the Nazi period. This is true not simply because of the amount of suffering entailed, but also because of its frightening recurrence over time, which lends it the character of utter inescapability.118

In the ensuing discussion, both Katz and Endelman moderated their positions to a degree.119 In the fi nal analysis, however, Katz’s moral argument fell upon deaf ears, for reasons that are not difficult to fathom. In the wake of the protracted debate over the theses of Hilberg, Bettelheim, and Arendt, it seemed only right to most historians of the Jews with a personal concern for the welfare of the Jewish people to distance themselves from any historical interpretation that appeared to place even the smallest portion of responsibility for the Jews’ fate during the Holocaust upon the cultural legacy that previous Jewish generations had bequeathed to the destroyed Jewish communities. An explanation like Katz’s, which attributed the enmity that found its most radical expression in the Holocaust not only to perversions in non-Jewish society and its world view unrelated to actual flesh-and-blood



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Jews but also to ways in which Jews and non-Jews interacted with one another over the centuries, clashed with the prevailing atmosphere among virtually all segments of the Jewish public during the final third of the twentieth century. No wonder that in the matter of the Holocaust’s place in Jewish history, Katz’s voice was relegated to the margins. ✻

Though historians of such diverse tendencies as Endelman, on one hand, and Ettinger and Tal, on the other, each located the source of the Holocaust exclusively in European history, they did not draw the same operative conclusions from their attribution. Where Endelman urged that historians of the Jews be absolved from investigating the sociopolitical processes that transformed unfavorable images into an exordium for genocide, Ettinger and Tal pushed them to broaden their purview to include such matters as “the role of the ‘Jewish question’ in National-Socialist ideology and praxis, Nazi policy toward the Jews, the attitude toward Jews and the Jewish question of representatives of government and society in Germany and the countries that collaborated with or were occupied by it, [and] the attitude of the Allies to the destruction of the Jews.”120 In Ettinger’s view, the fact that the ideas that gave birth to the Holocaust were fashioned by non-Jews alone did not exempt historians of the Jews from the obligation to expose their roots, trace their lines of development, and follow the long-term processes through which they struck root. After all, he stressed, those ideas had been “factor[s] of some consequence . . . in the life of the Jewish people throughout the world,” helping shape the context in which the internal life of the Jews unfolded.121 Clarifying and comprehending them, he insisted, were no less essential a task in the study of Jewish history than elucidating the legal status of Jews and their communities in their countries of residence—a problem that historians of the Jews had always included within their purview, even though in most cases it, too, reflected conditions in the surrounding society and bore little connection to the Jews’ own actual behavior.122 Moreover, he argued, the Holocaust exposed a dimension of traditional and modern anti-Jewish ideas and images not visible to scholars previously:

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Following the Second World War and the terrible Holocaust of the Jewish people, new approaches to the phenomenon called antisemitism began to develop. In the face of the attempt by Nazi Germany to give an abstract theory concrete political and social expression by annihilating millions indiscriminately, without regard for actual political and military requirements, the way Jews and non-Jews alike comprehended the world was shaken to its foundations. Everything related to the discussion about the roots and manifestations of antisemitism and its continuity throughout the centuries also changed. Until the Second World War antisemitism was regarded as a marginal phenomenon . . . , and beyond Zionist circles little attention was afforded it, especially among scholars. Whatever efforts were made to explain the phenomenon concentrated upon its individual occurrences, mainly in specific historical situations (persecution by the authorities or outbreaks of riotous violence); they concerned themselves with the situation of the Jews in such-and-such a country at such-and-such a time. After the Holocaust, psychologists, sociologists, and historians have come together and multiplied their efforts to grasp Jew-hatred as an overarching phenomenon—for some scholars even a universal one. Consequently they have brought to light the central, decisive problem for understanding the essence of antisemitism: the problem of its historical continuity. Is the hatred and rejection of Jews and Judaism, known as antisemitism since the final quarter of the nineteenth century, a single phenomenon in its various manifestations throughout the centuries, or is it nothing more than a common label for a variety of social, political, and psychological phenomena lumped together for terminological convenience?123

In other words, for Ettinger the Holocaust offered the most appropriate analytical framework for studying the history of the relations between Jews and non-Jews during the generations that preceded it. Tal’s position was even more emphatic. He regarded the study of the intellectual seedbed of the Holocaust as an area in which Jewish history and the histories of the European peoples were intimately intertwined. Accordingly he called for complete elimination of the boundaries that historians drew between what they customarily constructed as separate fields:



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Jewish history can serve as a mirror . . . not only onto itself but onto chapters in the history of the peoples and cultures in whose midst Jews lived. The human relationships between Jews and their neighbors . . . ; the degree of autonomy permitted Jews in determining their way of life . . . ; the Jews’ legal status and role in economic and cultural life; the extent to which they perceived themselves as at home or alien; [the degree to which] separation from the surrounding society was voluntary . . . or forced . . . ; [the degree to which] Jews could become integrated into the surrounding society while retaining distinctive Jewish characteristics . . . or had to renounce all Jewish distinctiveness . . . —all these reveal something not only about the fate of the Jews but about the non-Jews’ level of civilization.124

The opposite was also true, in his view: the histories of the European peoples embodied features that found expression in Jewish history as well. Hence, he reasoned, those who wished to delve deeply into what Jews had done throughout the centuries ought to learn something about how others related to them. He employed his chair in modern Jewish history at Tel Aviv University to promote study of Nazism and the Holocaust within a broad effort to shed light on the tense encounters between “tradition and modernity, religion and enlightenment, nationalism and humanism, emotion and reason, faith and critical thought, political myth and social history, particularism and universalism”—tensions that he found “not only among Jews but in Western political-religious consciousness altogether.”125 Similarly he defined his study of the Jewish question in imperial Germany as an effort “to learn about the history of Jewish-Christian interactions and about the links between Jewish and general history.”126 Tal found no contradiction in an approach to studying the history of the Jews that called special attention to non-Jewish hostility while simultaneously exploring the active role that Jews themselves played in creating their own fate. On the contrary, he conceived of all history as the outcome of an ongoing encounter between “an active subject . . . endowed with free will” and “the historical circumstance[s] into which he falls.”127 Hence he objected to historical representations that stressed one or the other party to the encounter excessively. On one hand he criticized the permanent exhibition of the Diaspora Museum in Tel

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Aviv for placing what he thought undue stress upon exilic suffering without sufficiently juxtaposing the impressive cultural creativity of diaspora communities over the centuries.128 In his opinion, a balanced presentation would show that “from the beginning of modern antiSemitism and racism in the last third of the nineteenth century . . . Judaism served as a symbol of nonsurrender to . . . the extinction of individual will by the will of the Reich and the Führer.”129 On the other hand his scholarly studies left no room for doubt that “in the historical situation determined by the main political forces and intellectual currents . . . the Jews’ ambition . . . to integrate themselves into the surrounding society while retaining a separate group identity . . . was not realized.”130 He maintained consistently that it was the unwillingness of non-Jews to validate that ambition that ultimately determined the fate of millions of Jews under the Third Reich; the grand values of Judaism could not save them. Thus, in his opinion, the study of the history of the Jews in modern times and the study of the Holocaust were inseparable.131 Tal’s life was cut short before he managed to offer a comprehensive statement of his approach. As a result, his views about the links between the two areas of research did not draw explicit comment. By contrast, Ettinger encountered opposition virtually from the outset of his academic career from teachers and colleagues who took umbrage at the thought that the attitudes of non-Jews toward Jews would occupy the attentions of a scholar trained to investigate manifestations of the immanent Jewish national spirit in the manner of the founding fathers of Zionist historiography who had bequeathed their outlook to him.132 Still, for all the objections that were raised to his expansive defi nition of the scope of research in Jewish history, his basic methodological assumption—that the sources of the Holocaust were to be sought in certain cognitive and emotional patterns whose existence long predated Nazism and bore no connection to the behavior of Jews—actually fit in well with a prominent stream in the study of the relations between Jews and non-Jews that formed before the Second World War came to an end. Ettinger formulated the question to which both he and the scholars from that stream sought an answer: “When did the specific, uniquely negative attitude toward Jews”—that is, the negative attitude that found unique expression in the Third Reich’s systematic murder of



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European Jewry—“first appear?”133 Indeed, many scholars began to detect a unique aspect to that attitude only after the horrors of the Nazi period came to light; it was those horrors that prompted them to search for the roots of the attitude in the near and distant past.134 Thus, for example, in 1943, before the full extent and horror of the Nazi murder campaign had become known but after it had become clear to virtually all observers that its dimensions exceeded any previous instance of persecution in Jewish history, a rabbi from Pennsylvania, Joshua Trachtenberg, undertook a search for “that element in the complex of anti-Jewish prejudice which renders it different, in expression and intensity, from other manifestations of racial or minority antipathy.”135 He began from the assumption that “in the matter of its Jewish policy [the Nazi regime] . . . harks back to the psychology of the Middle Ages.”136 Similarly, in 1955 German Jewish sociologist Eleonore Sterling wrote of the need to clarify how “the demand to destroy Judaism,” sounded frequently in German conservative circles during the first half of the nineteenth century, was transmuted into the Nazis’ “physical, cold-blooded destruction of the Jews.” She prepared a study of “the origins of political antisemitism” during the years 1815–1850 in order “to contribute to understanding the thought patterns that enabled the persecution and ultimately the destruction of the Jews of Germany during the years 1933–1945.”137 Later works presumed much the same connection between Nazi behavior toward Jews and stereotypes from earlier eras. The research that led to publication of English historian Norman Cohn’s influential 1967 book, Warrant for Genocide, began in the wake of the Eichmann trial, when the author, by his own testimony, was moved to search for “the origins of the myth” that had impelled the Nazis to “hunt . . . down [the Jews] with a fanatical hatred which was reserved for them alone,” and not any other human group.138 Cohn found what he sought in “a modern adaptation of [an] ancient demonological tradition” that came into being following the radical changes the French Revolution engendered in European society.139 Two decades later, a Canadian-American medievalist, Gavin Langmuir, published his initial fi ndings concerning the earliest appearance of that “unusual hostility” toward the Jews, of which “the irrational hostility of Hitler . . . is . . . the most undeniable

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example.”140 He identified that hostility with a set of “irrational beliefs that attribute to all those symbolized as ‘Jews’ menacing characteristics or conduct that no Jews have been observed to possess or engage in it” and determined that those beliefs first became noticeable in Europe during the twelfth century.141 Ten years later, Judaicist Peter Schäfer disputed Langmuir’s empirical finding, claiming that “according to Langmuir’s theoretical model, anti-Semitism predates Christianity.”142 Like Langmuir, however, he too proceeded from the assumption that “Hitler’s ‘Endlösung’ . . . makes it all too clear that there is, indeed, something unique about ‘hatred of Jews,’ ” defining antisemitism as “this unique ‘hatred’ which finally led to the ‘Endlösung.’ ”143 For all of these scholars, as for Ettinger, the very concept of antisemitism acquired its essential meaning solely in relation to the Holocaust.144 On the other hand, it does not appear that Ettinger played a significant role in shaping the approach to the study of antisemitism that he shared with them. Not only did the bulk of the articles in which he set forth his approach appear only in the Hebrew language, but even among historians of modern Jewry, including the relatively small number that devoted a significant portion of their research program to exploring the history of the relations between Jews and non-Jews in the different European states, they prompted no broad debate, whether concerning his general conceptualization of antisemitism or his specific research findings. Ettinger’s description of the Holocaust’s role in making the study of antisemitism a central academic concern may have fit the situation in several branches of the humanities and social sciences, but not in Jewish historiography: some historians of the Jews in the ancient and medieval periods joined the search to trace the evolution of mental configurations implicated in the Holocaust, but only a handful who specialized in modern times did so.145 The most notable scholars drawn to the question out of their interest in modern Jewish history were Jacob Katz and Arthur Hertzberg, both of whom were perceived by the bulk of their colleagues as deviant from the collegial consensus. Such has been the case not only with regard to scholarly consideration of antisemitism as a global phenomenon, as Ettinger understood it, but also in the ramified discussions of the specific forms in which enmity toward Jews found expression in modern Germany, Poland,



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France, and other European countries: the majority of participants in those discussions have taken up the subject out of interest in a particular state, not in the Jews as a transnational community.146 Endelman was correct: historians of the Jews have contributed much less to academic treatments of anti-Jewish sentiments and actions than have historians of the non-Jewish European societies among which Jews lived for generations. Moreover, few historians of the Jews display any pronounced aspiration to do so from their particular professional vantage point. In sum, the ostensible shared interest of students of the Holocaust and scholars of Jewish history in the development of the relations between Jews and non-Jews has not been sufficiently strong to breach the wall of separation between the two fields. ✻

Achieving any breach in the wall will be difficult. After all, if studying the actions of Jews is likely to illuminate neither the Holocaust nor the phenomenon of Jew-hatred, what do historians of the Jews have to contribute to the study of those subjects, and why should they devote time and energy to doing so? On the other hand, if the wall of separation can be sundered only by portraying the actions of Jews as a factor that had a hand, however indirectly, in creating the mentality that would one day regard their destruction as justified, how likely is it that historians of the Jews will assist efforts to move through it? More seriously, in recent decades the basic assumptions that have guided and continue to guide the few historians of the Jews who have sought to connect the Holocaust with earlier periods in the Jewish past have been shown to rest on shaky empirical footing. Indeed, those historians who believed they had managed, from the vantage point of the 1940s, to uncover hitherto imperceptible elements in the relations between Jews and non-Jews in earlier generations appear to have deceived themselves. In the event they knew little about the Holocaust itself. Israeli historian of Germany Shulamit Volkov suggested as much several times beginning in the 1980s: Accounts of the history of antisemitism in Nazi Germany have almost always taken the antisemitism of the nineteenth century as their point

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of departure. The opposite is true as well: accounts of the history of antisemitism in Germany during the nineteenth century have been written . . . from the vantage point of the Nazi period and customarily presented as a “general rehearsal” for the attempt made under [Nazi] rule to exterminate European Jewry. . . . At times the story seems like an infinite repetition of the same pattern; at others the process appears dynamic, growing in intensity and seriousness over time, constantly gathering momentum until the inevitable climax at Auschwitz. All seem to agree that even though such fanatical, dangerous, murderous antisemites as the Nazis had never before appeared on the scene, there was really not much new about them. They are no more than the outcome of a longterm historical process that developed in many stages. As a result, Nazi antisemitism is usually not figured as a foreign implant in either German or general European culture but as a phenomenon whose sources are quite familiar.147

Volkov explained that this approach, characteristic not only of Jewish historiography,148 depicts a long-standing hatred of Jews149 as both a necessary and a sufficient condition for the Nazi murder campaign and regards it as “a complete explanation” for the annihilation.150 She strongly disputed that representation, arguing that “the murderous rage that guided the Nazis themselves stemmed from different sources and belongs to a different category of motives” from the antipathy that fed pre-Nazi Jew-haters of all stripes: The prose of antisemites before the First World War was as far from the marching columns of the S.S. as the language of angry children is from the violent behavior of adult criminals. The crime of extermination can be explained only with reference to the exceptional conditions that prevailed at the time, not as a product of longterm preconditioning proceeding gradually from the distant past. This crime must be discussed and investigated in terms of its own particu lar characteristics and dynamic, not of its “sources.”151

Indeed, whereas until the late 1970s a dominant theme in the historiography of both Nazi Germany and the Holocaust was the search for “the intellectual origins of the Third Reich”152 and its murderous antiJewish hostility in German society and culture as they had evolved over



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the long term, predicated on the assumption that Germany had somehow deviated from the path of development taken by the Western democracies, beginning in the 1980s scholars from both fields began to consider why the Nazi dictatorship assumed its specific form as a “racial state”153—one that, unlike the other European states that spurned liberal democracy for dictatorship between the two world wars (including Italy, Spain, and the Soviet Union), “plunged Europe and the world into a war of unparalleled ferocity that ended in its own cataclysmic collapse”154 and presided over “genocidal campaigns which involved the deaths of millions of Slav civilians, some six million Jews and hundreds and thousands of Romanies.”155 Among historians of Germany (especially of the Third Reich) the conviction grew that searching for the distant philosophical and cultural foundations of an antiliberal “German ideology”156 might contribute at most to clarifying the collapse of the Weimar regime in 1933 but not to explaining why that regime was replaced with the Third Reich and not some other form of authoritarian rule.157 Growing numbers of scholars began to proclaim “the primacy of the First World War and the trauma of revolution and military defeat in 1918/19 rather than the ‘misdevelopment’ of the Kaiserreich as the appropriate explanatory context for thinking about the rise of Nazism.”158 That, after all, was the specific context in which the Nazi party arose, and only the “experience of crisis drove the mass of the population into the arms of the National Socialist movement” from 1930 onward.159 In similar fashion the attention of many historians of the Holocaust was drawn to the distinctively murderous character of Nazi anti-Jewish policy. Those scholars posited a sharp division between that policy and any of the many programs for action against Jews that had been set forth in the voluminous body of European antiJewish writing prior to the 1940s.160 Surveys and analyses of earlier anti-Jewish literature and of the behavior of individuals and organizations that had undertaken to translate that literature’s basic principles into political action served them as an indicator of at most “the essential opening conditions for what would come later” and the factors that “prepared bystanders to the Nazi extermination campaign to acquiesce to it,” but not “the manner in which [the content of anti-Jewish rhetoric] . . . changed once the Nazis consolidated their power as the rulers

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of Germany.”161 It has thus increasingly become the conclusion of historians of both Nazi Germany and the Holocaust that the system of ideas that justified not only the persecution of Jews but also their systematic murder must have been based upon more than traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes. Proceeding from this premise, scholars have sought to identify the additional elements that moved the Nazi state from oppression to destruction. For the most part they have concentrated their search upon the decades immediately preceding the murder campaign.162 Some scholars have noted the presence of unprecedented ideas in the writings and speeches of Hitler and other Nazi ideologues and have traced their development during the 1920s and 1930s.163 Others have identified certain common social experiences that veteran members of the Nazi party endured during the First World War and its aftermath, which may have lent the highly original Nazi doctrine special credibility in their eyes.164 Those lines of inquiry were so firmly established in the scholarly community by the end of the twentieth century that studies positing direct continuity between distant German attitudes toward Jews and the Holocaust, like Daniel Goldhagen’s 1996 best seller, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, were roundly rejected as outdated by virtually all academic experts in the field.165 In short, scholars of the Holocaust tend today to regard the murder of European Jewry as something incomparably more complex than “the culmination of modern antisemitism.” Ironically, Ettinger’s statement that the Holocaust offers conclusive proof of the continuity of “a Jew-hatred that had manifested itself literarily and socially as early as antiquity”166 stands in stark opposition to the view that most Holocaust historians have developed during the thirty years since he published his conclusions.167 According to the latter view, the answer to the question Ettinger posed to historians of the Holocaust and of the Jews simultaneously—“When did the specific, uniquely negative attitude toward the Jews [that underlay the Nazi murder program] first appear?”—is not to be located any earlier than the lifetimes of those who carried out the murder themselves. Perhaps, as Amos Funkenstein, one of the few historians of the Jews who consistently kept abreast of developments in Holocaust research and incorporated them



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into his overall historiographical outlook,168 put it, “a clear line leads” from the first appearance of the blood libel in the twelfth century to “the images invoked in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion” of the early twentieth;169 but few contemporary historians of the Holocaust would extend that line to Nazi teaching itself. As a result, the studies of Ettinger and Tal, Katz and Hertzberg, Langmuir and Schäfer, rich and sophisticated as they were, can at most elucidate only the evolution of ideas and stereotypes hostile to Jews over the centuries; they cannot explain why two-thirds of European Jewry was destroyed. Indeed, any attempt to trace a path “from antisemitism to Holocaust” (or “from prejudice to destruction,” in Katz’s phrase) must necessarily fail, at least insofar as the current state of understanding of the Holocaust can serve as a measure of success. Such is the case no matter whether the attempt is made on the ideational or the sociopolitical plane, whether it supposes or does not suppose that the behavior of Jews played a role in shaping attitudes toward them, or whether it is undertaken by historians of the Jews or by historians of Europe or the United States: neither Katz’s approach, nor Ettinger’s, nor even Endelman’s is likely to contribute anything substantial to elucidating the Holocaust’s roots. With regard to that goal all are barren: despite their seemingly conflicting positions concerning the connection between the Holocaust and Jewish history, all demonstrate the practical separation of the two fields and offer nothing that might surmount it.170 It appears, then, that the roots of the Holocaust are most likely to be clarified as a result of the in-depth, comprehensive, multifaceted description of the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews being prepared and progressively refined by Holocaust historians. By the same token it appears that only such a description, generated out of the workshop of Holocaust scholars, is capable of providing a useful exordium for producing new insights about the experience of Jews in earlier decades and centuries, who could not have imagined the annihilation that would eventually befall their descendants. ✻

Little wonder, then, that most efforts to breach the wall of separation and to locate fruitful new research directions in Jewish history consistent

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with the fi ndings of Holocaust historiography have been made by a handful of Holocaust scholars initially trained to study the history of the Jews. Those scholars came to Holocaust studies out of the conviction that the experience of the Jews in modern times cannot be properly comprehended without understanding how European Jewry was destroyed at Nazi hands. The most prominent among them, Yehuda Bauer, whose first academic writings concentrated upon aspects of the immediate prehistory of the State of Israel, noted retrospectively that he transferred his professional focus to Holocaust studies during the 1960s following a conversation with the poet Abba Kovner (one of the fi rst Jews under Nazi rule to sound the call to armed resistance, who after the war became a leader in Israeli efforts to commemorate the Nazi destruction). As Bauer recalled, Kovner presented him with a challenge: “What do you want to be—a historian of the Jewish people in this generation? If so, what is the central thing that happened in the life of the Jewish people during the most recent generations if not the Holocaust?”171 Bauer answered Kovner’s question with a series of scholarly studies published during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s exploring the connection between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel and between those two great events of the midtwentieth century and what he called “the Jewish emergence from powerlessness”—a complex, convoluted process that, as he presented it, encompassed a number of diverse developments in the history of the Jews from the second half of the nineteenth century onward. In those works Bauer drew multiple lines from the Nazi period to other eras in Jewish history, earlier and later, in order, among other reasons, to determine how the Holocaust might best be integrated into the Jewish historical narrative. Bauer began from the observation that “from 1945 to 1948, the consequences of the Holocaust were decisive in the struggle to establish Israel” (even though he insisted the State of Israel was “emphatically not . . . history’s answer” to “the murder of [the Jewish people’s] sons and daughters”).172 However, in his view the Holocaust could have played this historic role only as a result of a ramified set of developments and events that began in the midst of the era of emancipation. “It is well known,” he declared, “that, since the ‘Emancipation,’ a considerable



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number of Jews have spurned specifically Jewish aspirations, claiming citizenship in a rather nebulous internationalism. Unfortunately,” he continued, “modern internationalist movements did not reciprocate; ultimately they would not agree to make Jews equal to others in their scheme of things.”173 According to Bauer, widespread despair over the prospects of acceptance and integration into a world that transcended particular national identities—prospects that appeared to decrease with the spread of nationalist movements throughout Europe, some of which constructed themselves explicitly or implicitly against an ostensible Jewish enemy—left a growing proportion of Jews throughout the world feeling that they must “create some base for the exercise of political power which would extricate the Jewish people from their peculiar dilemmas.”174 Efforts to create such a base assumed many forms, he explained: a plethora of political movements—secular and religious, bourgeois and socialist, some rejecting the diaspora, some affirming it, some aspiring to territorial concentration in one corner of the world or another, some rejecting concentration out of hand—along with seemingly nonpartisan political activity, like quiet intervention in the diplomatic arena undertaken by Jewish leaders in the United States, France, and Britain on behalf of oppressed Jewish communities throughout the world, and the formation of Jewish pressure groups like the American Jewish Congress—all of these strove in his view to guarantee “the continued existence of a Jewish people and . . . a collective place for it in the modern world.”175 Bauer noted occasional successes for such efforts along with more common failures, which became devastating once the Nazis came to power and fatal after the outbreak of the Second World War; the Holocaust proved the impotence of all diaspora politics in time of mortal danger. Nevertheless, he argued, during and immediately after the Holocaust period certain new Jewish political formations came into being, in the United States, Palestine, and later even among Holocaust survivors in Europe, that managed to gain access to the centers of power in the postwar world by uniting around the idea of a Jewish state. By doing so, he declared, Jews fi nally began to extricate themselves from the condition of powerlessness into which they had fallen in modern times: “[T]he emergence . . . was . . . the

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direct result of the dynamics within the Jewish world as a whole which the Holocaust set in motion.”176 Bauer’s thinking about the relationship between the Holocaust and the broad flow of Jewish history thus differed from that of his colleagues Katz, Ettinger, and Tal. Unlike the latter, Bauer did not undertake to explain how the ideas that prompted the leaders of the Third Reich to seek the death of each and every Jew came into being. He was more concerned with a different question: What might be learned from studying the Holocaust about the conditions under which Jews in the modern era worked to promote their physical security and collective interests and about the relative efficacy of the various strategies they tried for coping with those conditions? The primary task Bauer set himself was to account for the dramatic swings in the success and failure that different strategies brought between the mid-nineteenth and midtwentieth centuries, with the Holocaust marking that period’s nadir. In order to fulfill this aim he followed the development of the different mechanisms through which Jewish communities endeavored to aid themselves, to maintain links with Jews in other countries, and to defend themselves and Jews elsewhere in times of trouble. He examined the means those mechanisms were capable of deploying in changing historical contexts and traced the ongoing internal Jewish debates over how best to deploy them, all within a general examination of what he called “the [Jews’] emergence into the world of political power” in the nineteenth century.177 Bauer understood that entry as the result of a conscious, voluntary collective decision taken despite “a traditional Jewish de-emphasis on secular political power.”178 Hence, he suggested, assessing the results of that decision constituted a task of great public importance for Jews, one to which Jewish scholars seeking to recount the history of their people ought to devote significant labor. There can be little doubt that Bauer’s research agenda was shaped in large measure by insights gleaned from studying the history of the Holocaust. At a relatively early stage of his work he determined that “the massive terror of the Nazi machine failed to destroy independent Jewish communal activity and to discourage Jewish attempts to save significant sections of the community.”179 Indeed, he could point to a



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wide range of activities undertaken by Jewish groups and communities across occupied Europe for purposes of material self-help, individual and collective morale boosting, locating hiding places and escape routes, sabotaging enemy operations (with or without the assistance of firearms), lobbying states at war with the Nazis to intervene on behalf of threatened Jews, and seeking rescue through negotiations with Reich authorities.180 Observing such activities prompted him to ponder a range of “questions that are almost the opposite of those customary in most discussions until now: What made it possible for Jewish groups to grasp realities that had been deemed unimaginable and impossible? How did they organize, and on what principles? What is the historical background to this kind of active response?”181 In searching for the conditions that enabled Jewish society to withstand the pressure of the Nazi regime and not crack under it, Bauer noticed that behind many of the self-help, rescue, and resistance actions stood “an American agency led by . . . benevolent philanthropists,” virtually all of them members of the so-called assimilationist American Jewish elite—Jews of German ancestry far removed from both the material and the spiritual experience of the masses of European Jews on whose behalf they labored. That organization was the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee [JDC].”182 Bauer used the history of this organization, which began operations during the First World War, as a window for viewing not only the problem of how Jews endeavored to withstand the Nazi war against them but also the broad question of the extent to which Jews possessed the ability to affect their situation in times of crisis. His investigation suggested to him that the lives Jews led under Nazi occupation and their chances to extricate themselves from mortal danger were shaped in no small measure by JDC actions on both the philanthropic and political levels. Bauer found that during the late 1930s, and a fortiori the early 1940s, “welfare and emigration touched . . . inevitably . . . upon political issues.”183 In his view, JDC funding of Jewish communities’ self-help programs, shipment of food and medicine to Jews in labor and internment camps, and support for efforts to help Jews escape from countries under Nazi domination or find them safe hiding places went hand-in-hand with boycotting German products, organizing actions to influence public opinion and government policy

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in the Allied states, backing armed and unarmed Jewish underground organizations, and negotiating with Nazi officials to rescue Jews through bribery or payment of ransom: all belonged to a single campaign to provide a people facing annihilation with vital resources, if not for defeating their would-be murderers’ scheme, then at least for holding on until Germany was defeated. Bauer further noted that the activities that constituted that campaign were either initiated or catalyzed by Jews who did not face the Nazi threat directly and did not subscribe to an ideology positing the existence of a single, worldwide Jewish nation. That fact suggested to him that a nonideological feeling of solidarity existed among Jews, one that transcended political boundaries and connected the histories of European and American Jewry with one another. He presumed that that feeling was not born under Nazi impact. Neither, he stressed, was the relationship between money and power in Jewish history: the manner in which the JDC operated during the 1930s and 1940s was rooted in the way American Jews had thought about and engaged in politics and philanthropy during earlier decades. Hence, he concluded, a longer-term historical perspective was essential for proper understanding of the JDC’s actions during the Holocaust period. It is thus not surprising that one of his first works after he turned to study of the Holocaust examined the history of the JDC before the Second World War. In his introduction to that book he advanced the novel (and somewhat ironic) notion that “in many ways the history of JDC held the key to the story of European Jewry in the first half of [the twentieth] century.”184 In any event, it is clear that he regarded the book as an integral part of his research program on the Holocaust, just as he saw that research program as an integral part of his effort to fathom the history of the Jews in the modern era. Bauer’s research agenda suggested how to overcome two difficulties that had contributed to the establishment of the barrier between Holocaust studies and Jewish historiography. First, it did not depict the Jews who lived and died under Nazi rule as having submitted to their fate passively, let alone as having collaborated in their own destruction through slavish reenactment of a traditional “Jewish reaction pattern.” Bauer’s approach thus did not convey the derogatory attitude toward Holocaust victims that many readers detected in the works of Hilberg,



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Bettelheim, and Arendt and that leading critics attributed in some measure to those authors’ alleged violation of the boundary between the Holocaust and Jewish history. Second, it defined modern Jewish history inclusively, as the story of all who felt any sort of connection with some overarching Jewish entity, instead of in a manner that excluded all those who had not played an active role in the “rebellion against exile,” as Ben Zion Dinur had delimited the field in 1949. However, Bauer did not stick to the program he set forth in the 1970s; except for a brief essayistic sketch entitled “Zionism, the Holocaust, and the Road to Israel,” which appeared in 1979,185 he did not publish any comprehensive study detailing the successes and failures that stemmed from “the Jewish emergence into the world of political power,” let alone accounting for them. It appears that the more he delved into the activities of the JDC during the Second World War, the more he found his attention drawn to other issues in Holocaust research related less to the more distant Jewish past than to contemporary developments in the internal German military, diplomatic, and political arenas. Thus, for example, after he described efforts by the JDC and other Jewish elements operating within and beyond the area of Nazi occupation to rescue Jews through payment of ransom, he raised the question of the extent to which those efforts had any real chance of success. In order to answer that question, he had to learn not only about the financial resources that stood at the disposal of the Jewish organizations but even more about the readiness of German officials to permit Jews to escape their control for a price and of Allied authorities to allow the transfer of funds to the enemy. Discovering those things required extended exploration of the voluminous German, British, and American documentation indicating how Nazi and Allied leaders perceived the Jews and their situation against the background of developments on the battlefield and the two sides’ definitions of their war aims. Bauer took up the task with alacrity. In his 1981 book on the JDC during the Second World War he set forth some preliminary conclusions: “It appears that at times the Nazis were really expecting to sell at least some Jews for their own advantage. But the negotiations had no chance of success because the Allies were not willing to buy.”186 Thirteen years later he presented a subtler, more complex version of his thesis, along with the many

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archival discoveries upon which it was based.187 In following the actions of actors whom historians of the Holocaust have labeled “perpetrators” and “bystanders” Bauer fulfilled one of the overarching tasks he assigned to Holocaust research in general: to “throw light on human motivations and . . . questions of personal and public ethics with which we grapple in the generations after the Holocaust.”188 But the more he contributed to illuminating these (and other) universal aspects of the Holocaust, the more he moved away from the task he had set himself when he first took up the field—to place the Holocaust at the center of the modern Jewish historical narrative and to present it as “a turning point into and out of which flow other events . . . that have determined and will continue to determine how Jewish history unfolds.”189 Still, though he did not complete the labor he initially set out to perform, Bauer made a contribution of the first order toward constructing a durable paradigm for the study of Jewish history into which the Holocaust could be productively integrated. He depicted the Holocaust not as an irresistible, unidirectional force majeure that indiscriminately destroyed everything in its path but as an encounter between two human communities—the Third Reich, its agencies, and its allies on the one hand and the Jews of the various countries of Europe and North Africa that fell within the Nazi orbit on the other—whose outcome was determined by the nature of the physical, political, economic, and spiritual resources standing at the disposal of each party and the ability of each to deploy its resources to best effect. According to Bauer, both factors were the product of each group’s earlier history; hence no thorough explanation of the Holocaust could be undertaken without considering carefully the history of the Jews in the decades that preceded it. Similarly, he proposed, the extent and efficacy of the Jews’ resources were most clearly revealed in extremis, when Jews were compelled to marshal and activate them with the greatest possible urgency and force. Since the 1990s a few historians of the Holocaust whose interest in the subject was stimulated during their training as historians of the Jews have taken up this paradigm and applied it in different ways. The paradigm stands, for example, at the foundation of Dan Michman’s 1997 call to explore “the Jewish dimension of the Holocaust.”190 Michman,



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like Bauer a graduate of the Hebrew University’s Department of Jewish History, employed it to explain, among other things, why “the lot of the Jews in the various occupied countries was not identical.”191 Indeed, mortality rates among Jews in those countries varied from approximately 90 percent in Poland and the Baltic States to nearly zero in Denmark and Bulgaria (excluding Thrace and Macedonia, annexed to the Bulgarian kingdom in 1941). “[T]hese differences in outcome resulted not only from factors relating to the Germans,” Michman argued, “or to the varying interactions between the Nazi perpetrators and the local bystanders, but also from the specific ‘input’ of the Jews themselves”—behavior that stemmed from “major developments in modern Jewish history” before the Holocaust.192 Among those processes he identified “the well-known schism between Westjuden [West European Jews] and Ostjuden [East European Jews], which reflected “the different pace of emancipation” in the two regions,193 along with “migration within Europe from the east westwards,” which brought to “Germany, Austria, Belgium, and France . . . Ostjuden . . . with different traditions and experiences different from those of the Westjuden in their relationship with the authorities.”194 That divergent attitude toward state authorities signaled for him a profound mental divide between West and East European Jews, one that acquired life-or-death significance during the Nazi period. In the countries of Western Europe, he argued, Jews tended “to cling fiercely to their newly-acquired status as citizens, identifying with their states and/or societies even when they encountered the demise of democracy and liberalism.”195 That inclination to regard the state itself as the source of emancipation instead of certain political ideas that not all members of society actively espoused made it difficult, he thought, for many Jews in those countries to come to grips with the fact that under Nazi rule they no longer enjoyed the status of citizens: “[I]t was simply hard for Jews to believe that a modern government . . . had so firmly turned its back on a group that was so anxious to integrate.”196 For him, this difficulty retarded Jewish emigration from Germany and Austria before the outbreak of war and perpetuated an obedient attitude toward authority even during more advanced stages of the destruction process: “Western Jews generally

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found it psychologically difficult to transgress laws and decrees, even if these were openly anti-Semitic and decreed by the Germans.”197 In contrast, he declared, Jews from Eastern Europe, who had long been involved in an ongoing struggle with the states in which they lived over how their formal civil equality was to be implemented in practice, were “traditionally suspicious of authorities” and often demonstrated “a greater level of alertness and more efficient modes of evasion” during the Nazi years.198 Michman saw in this fundamental cultural difference a partial solution to a puzzle that had baffled a number of his colleagues: how to explain the different percentages of Jews who perished in Belgium (40 percent) and the Netherlands (70 percent) despite the close similarity between the two neighboring countries in political tradition, type of occupation regime, and historic tenor of relations between Jews and non-Jews.199 Michman noticed that the Jewish population of Belgium consisted almost entirely of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, whereas in the Netherlands such Jews were considerably less visible. This difference was reflected, he maintained, in the different ways in which the two Jewish communities responded to attempts by the German occupation authorities to compile lists of their members: “In Belgium . . . a considerable portion of the community did not show up for the obligatory census of the Jews,” whereas “in . . . the Netherlands . . . those few Jews who did not appear also tended to be of eastern European origin.”200 Those divergent responses, he hinted, were born of the suspicion that East European Jews had become accustomed to attach to all state authorities compared with the basic faith in the state that was the heritage of West European Jewry. In other words, according to Michman, Jews from the two halves of Europe came to their encounter with the Nazis bearing two different sets of cultural resources, one of which proved of greater value than the other in the struggle to survive. Hence he concluded that “Jewish life during the Holocaust, as well as the varied responses to it then and later, can be properly understood only in the context of two hundred years of profound change.”201 The opposite was also true in his view: knowledge of how different Jewish communities acted in the face of the Nazi threat served him, like Bauer,



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as a window through which to understand basic developments in the history of the Jews and to consider their significance. Indeed, Michman viewed the Holocaust as “a sort of laboratory where the results of modern Jewish history came into play on different levels and in different settings.”202 The complex story of how those processes unfolded in different ways thus constituted for him the central problem in studying the history of the Jews in modern times, in the same way that Bauer regarded “the Jewish emergence from powerlessness”; reconstructing that story from the vantage point of the Holocaust was the first task of the historian of modern Jewry. The insights of Michman and Bauer concerning Jewish behavior during the Nazi era that catalyzed their respective research agendas were different, to be sure, but the agendas themselves displayed many common concerns. Another historian, Shimon Redlich, known chiefly for his studies of Soviet Jewry during the Holocaust period, employed a different insight to direct scholarly attention to another long-term problem for students of Jewish history. He observed that in the town where he was born, Brzez˙any, at the time in Polish eastern Galicia, Jews’ chances to escape the death sentence that the Nazis placed upon them depended in significant measure upon the nature of their relationships with their Polish and Ukrainian fellow townsmen. That discovery prompted him to reconstruct the complex web of Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish relations in the town during the decades before German rule and to follow the subsequent development of those relations under the various regimes that governed it from the beginning of the Second World War to the end of the twentieth century. His work resulted in one of the few scholarly analyses of the experience of Jewish shtetl-dwellers—residents of the thousands of small market towns that dotted the East European landscape, where millions of Jews made their homes before the Nazi catastrophe. The analysis showed how those Jews had lived, in the author’s words, “together [with their neighbors] and apart” from them simultaneously.203 Recently the experience of shtetl Jews has occupied Bauer as well, in a way that added a dimension to the respective approaches of both Michman and Redlich. Where Michman used differences in death rates

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among Jews in different states within the Nazi orbit as an opening through which to explore the formation and development of the cultural divide between Eastern and Western Europe, Bauer was inspired to think about another set of processes in modern Jewish history (unrelated to emergence from powerlessness) following close examination of local differences he observed in Jewish patterns of response to Nazi rule within Eastern Europe itself. Similarly, where Redlich concerned himself with factors that contributed to the survival of individual Jews, Bauer took up the behavior of Jewish communities. Microhistorical studies conducted with the assistance of colleagues and students from the Hebrew University since the late 1990s have shown that a certain pattern of behavior, which Bauer designated by the Hebrew term amidah (literally, “displaying durability”),204 was more widespread in the cities of Lithuania and the larger ghettos of central Poland and Galicia than in the smaller ghettos in those regions and in Volhynia.205 In order to explain this difference Bauer proposed to examine, among other things, the particular histories of each community since its establishment; he wondered whether certain long-term patterns of development could be traced that corresponded to the geographical distribution of amidah. That curiosity has resulted in the first substantial academic monographs on the history of several prominent and obscure East European Jewish settlements.206 Bauer has still not progressed sufficiently in his program to establish any firm connection between local history and collective behavior in the face of mortal threat; on the contrary, his initial findings suggest rather that actions by Germans in the first stages of the occupation of each studied location had greater influence on the manner in which local Jews organized to confront the occupier than any particular features of local Jewish life in earlier decades.207 Yet even if further research strengthens this preliminary conclusion, it is clear that Bauer has subjected the question of whether earlier eras in the history of the Jews can be productively illuminated from the vantage point of the Holocaust to an unprecedented empirical test. Bauer has also placed great value upon broader comparisons of the order suggested by Michman. In a lecture entitled “The Responses of Jewish Communities to Nazi Policy during the Holocaust in Light of



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Their Particular Legacies,” delivered at Yad Vashem in 1999, he outlined a comprehensive research agenda incorporating both synchronic and diachronic perspectives: Methodologically it would be desirable to examine whether the responses of Jews in each country were the product of internal Jewish development or of external conditions. Among external conditions one should certainly mention the variations in the character of the Nazi occupation from place to place, the course of the war, and the information available to Jews about Nazi policy. Nor should one forget the influence of a possible link with the neutral or Allied countries, local economic conditions, and especially the relations between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors before the war. To variations from country to country one must add internal developments and the influences upon them, although this is but one of the components or variables that comprise the picture, not the sole factor. Consequently there is a need to rank it and its importance among the various factors that serve to distinguish one location from another.208

Bauer suggested that such a project ought to be of paramount importance not only for historians of the Holocaust but for the very conceptualization of the field of Jewish history: The question is extremely important, for it possesses a certain subtext: if Jewish responses [to the Holocaust] differed from country to country, and the differences depended, if only partially, on the history of the Jews in each location, then it is doubtful that one can speak of the response of a [single] people; perhaps one ought rather to speak of the responses of separate groups of people whose connections to one another were quite tenuous. On the other hand, it may turn out that responses were similar in the various countries, despite different external conditions and different forms of Nazi rule. If so, then there is no need to take the non-Jewish environment into account; the Jews are a uniform people, separate and distinct, connected to their surroundings only in ways that are not of fundamental significance.209

Bauer made it clear that he was “not satisfied with either of these extreme positions”; he imagined that once the necessary research was completed, it would turn out that “the non-Jewish environment increasingly

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exerted influence upon the . . . specific [local] Jewish heritage that contributed to the behavior of Jewish communities during the Holocaust, not only upon that of . . . secular Jews . . . but upon the Orthodox as well.”210 However, he cautioned, he could as yet neither affirm nor refute that hypothesis, for “the effects of local communal heritage upon the behavior of Jews in various countries during the Holocaust have yet to be discussed by scholars.” 211 Nor, it appears, are they likely to be discussed and examined seriously until the wall of separation that divides Holocaust studies from the study of Jewish history is brought down.


A Final Word

The relatively few scholars who have sought connections between Holocaust studies and the study of Jewish history have yet to identify all possibilities for mutually fruitful interaction between the two fields. Enough has been written, though, to make clear the extent to which the latter field stands to benefit from removing the wall that has separated the two from one another for so long. Indeed, in recent years historians of the Holocaust with a particular interest in the history of the Jews have suggested ideas capable of invigorating academic discussions of several fundamental Jewish historiographical problems, including the relative significance of the Jews’ own distinctive religious and cultural heritage, on the one hand, and the surrounding society, on the other, in shaping the lived experience of Jewish communities; the nature of the ties linking Jews in different parts of the world to one another and to their non-Jewish neighbors; the influence of both sorts of ties upon the spiritual development, personal identity, physical security, and material well-being of Jews in different places; and even the very legitimacy of the concept of “Jewish history” as an autonomous subject for research separate from the histories of the broader societies in which Jews have been embedded for centuries. The principal paradigms that direct the study of Jewish history today begin from clearly asserted positions on those issues. However, those paradigms were forged during the 1920s and 1930s, before the deadly encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews of Europe presented historians with a myriad of data that ought to put earlier historiographical schemes to a severe test. Those data can and should kindle renewed debate over precisely those questions that so animated the paradigms’ architects.

A Final Word

The demand that historians of the Jew “sequester the Holocaust,” which has become a veritable orthodoxy within the Jewish historiographical guild, rests upon the shakiest of intellectual foundations. It is the product neither of logical inference nor of sober reflection about what has transpired in the Jewish world since the prevailing paradigms acquired their hegemonic status. Instead its roots lie chiefly in the politics and sociology of the twentieth-century Jewish historiographical enterprise. As a result of those political and sociological considerations, that enterprise continues in the twenty-first century to conceptualize the Jewish past with the assistance of models that have long since demonstrated their inability to offer a satisfactory account of the disappearance of one-third of the Jewish people during the 1940s. Hence its practitioners bracket off that disappearance, remove it from their purview, and continue to narrate the Jewish past as their predecessors did, as if the catastrophe never happened at all. The stubborn retention of ineffectual explanatory models is no doubt connected to the lack of impact of the enterprise as a whole, whether upon broader humanistic and social scientific discourse in the academy or as a shaper of Jewish public consciousness. By refusing to take up the Holocaust and to consider its impact upon the subject they study, historians of the Jews effectively cut themselves off from the vigorous, vital discussion of those issues that occupies some of the most inquiring minds among historians of other areas and groups (not to mention philosophers, theologians, literary critics, anthropologists, sociologists, and other Western humanists and social scientists), as if their particular perspective and knowledge can contribute nothing to it. They remain similarly silent regarding the continuous stream of statements by Jewish communal leaders and thinkers about the Holocaust and its significance upon which contemporary Jewish public policy is often based, even when, as is frequently the case, such statements display serious lack of knowledge or historical understanding. The feeling that those who write the history of the Jews professionally have become irrelevant to the concerns of the broader Jewish public led one of the great historians of the Jews of recent decades, Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, to ponder “the lack of resonance that modern Jewish historiography has encountered” among contemporary Jews despite



A Final Word

their profound desire to learn about their collective past. As an example of such irrelevance he cited the Nazi era and its role in Jewish civic discourse: “The Holocaust has already engendered more historical research than any single event in Jewish history, but I have no doubt whatever that its image is being shaped, not at the historian’s anvil, but in the novelist’s crucible.”1 This was one of the few mentions of the Holocaust in his penetrating reflection on the role history writing has played in Jewish cultural and intellectual life over the centuries. The lack of concern for the Holocaust reminded him of an earlier era: “For all of one’s justified mistrust of historical parallelism, it is hard to escape the feeling that the Jewish people after the Holocaust stands . . . at a juncture not without analogy to that of the generations following the cataclysm of the Spanish Expulsion.”2 Indeed, as he put it, though “much has changed since the sixteenth century, one thing, curiously, remains. Now, as then, it would appear that even where Jews do not reject history out of hand, they are not prepared to confront it directly, but seem to await a new, metahistorical myth, for which the novel provides at least a temporary modern surrogate.”3 The comparison of the atmosphere in the Jewish world after the Holocaust with the one following the decree that destroyed the Jewish center on the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century brought Yerushalmi to a different forecast from the one Gershom Scholem presented in 1959. Yerushalmi’s words implied that Scholem had been naive when he assigned Jewish studies, and especially academic Jewish historiography, a leading role in what he believed would be the coming intellectual revolution that he expected would reshape Jewish thought and consciousness in a manner similar to what had transpired, in his view, following the “the great catastrophe . . . of 1492.” Yerushalmi pointed out that following the Spanish expulsion it had not been history writing that emerged as the Jews’ preferred vehicle for making sense of their recent catastrophe. Upon reflection, though, it appears that the attempt at historical analogy misled Yerushalmi no less than it did Scholem. Indeed, there was at least one significant difference between sixteenth-century Jewish historical writing and contemporary academic writing about the Jewish past. According to Yerushalmi, the historians of the sixteenth century—Solomon ibn Verga, Samuel Usque,

A Final Word

Joseph Hacohen, and Azariah di Rossi, among others—sought to provide “a ramified Jewish historiographical response to a major historical event.” 4 Far from portraying that event as an impediment to proper understanding of what had transpired in earlier centuries or a radical deviation from the Jewish historical mainstream, as recent historians of the Jews have figured the Holocaust, they placed it at the center of their concerns. Certainly they did not call upon their colleagues, as their latter-day successors have done, to refrain from any effort to offer the broader Jewish public a “ramified Jewish historiographical response.” Yerushalmi did not take note of this difference. However, the credo he put forth toward the end of his book might well have moved him to reject the current situation out of hand. “The burden of building a bridge to his people remains with the historian,” he declared. “Above all, the historian must fully confront a contemporary Jewish reality if he is to be heard at all.” 5 Perhaps the paralysis of the academic historiography of the Jews in the presence of the Holocaust will ultimately turn out to be an unavoidable consequence of the “overwhelming significance” of the catastrophe. Perhaps imaginative literature will indeed prove itself the most potent mode of expression for confronting the volcano, with the voice of historians relegated to the background. But if historians of the Jews decline in advance to make their voice heard, if they refuse to consider soberly, with an open mind, how the Holocaust might alter reigning scholarly and popular understandings of their subject, Yerushalmi’s prediction will never be put to the test, Scholem’s will never come to fruition, and the impressive accomplishments of the Jewish historiographical enterprise will be consigned to a distant corner of academic and Jewish communal consciousness.


Reference Matter


Introduction 1. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 2:385–403. 2. Ibid., 387, 396– 97. 3. Ibid., 402. 4. Ibid., 402–403. 5. Scholem, Messianic Idea, 304–13. 6. Ibid., 310–11. 7. Ibid., 310. On the significance of Scholem’s view of Jewish history as “the continuity of a social whole,” see Chapter Two. 8. Scholem also assigned a major role to the establishment of the State of Israel, for “taken together, [the Holocaust and statehood] represent two sides of a single vast historical event.” Ibid., 311. 9. Ibid. 10. In the Hebrew text of the lecture, prepared in 1961, Scholem used the word sho’ah—for which the English Holocaust has served as a parallel since the early 1960s—for “catastrophe.” Scholem, Od davar, 140. Employing the Hebrew word in that general sense antedated the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews. Scholem had described the Spanish expulsion as a sho’ah as early as 1934. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 2:263. Clearly Scholem did not mean to equate the Jewish experience of 1492 with that of 1942, only to suggest resemblance in the ways Jews responded after the fact to the former and were likely to respond to the latter. 11. Biale, Gershom Scholem, 156– 65. 12. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 1:265. 13. Cf. Scholem, Messianic Idea, 311. 14. Weitz, “Itsuv zichron haSho’ah,” 475– 76; Friedländer, “Die Shoah als Element,” 13–15; Diner, “Post–World-War-II American Jewry,” 455– 66; Baumel and Schachter, “The Ninety-three Bais Yaakov Girls,” 109–11. 15. Schweid, Ma’avak ad shahar, 162– 65; Gorny, Bein Auschwitz liYrushalayim, 263; Meyer, Jewish Identity, 56– 57; Wasserstein, Vanishing Diaspora, 29–30; Liebman and Cohen, Two Worlds of Judaism, 43–45.


Notes to Introduction 16. Liebman and Don Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel, 137–38; Woocher, Sacred Survival, 73; Neusner, Stranger at Home, 71– 73; Trigano, L’idéal démocratique, 48.53. The expression civil religion first appeared in Rousseau’s Social Contract as a designation for certain “sentiments de sociabilité sans lesquels il est impossible d’être bon citoyen ni sujet fidèle.” For its application in modern sociological research see Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” 8–11. 17. See Gorny, HaHipus ahar haZehut haLe’umit, 193–214; idem, Bein Auschwitz liYrushalayim, 154–58; Liebman and Don-Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel, 145; Neusner, Death and Birth of Judaism, 273. In public discourse the feeling is also voiced at times that the Holocaust proves there is nothing new in Jewish history and that indeed, in the words of the Passover Haggadah, “in every generation [the nations of the world] rise up against us to destroy us.” For examples see Woocher, Sacred Survival, 134–35. Nevertheless, those who offer this view generally appear to affirm that something fundamental did change with the Holocaust, for in earlier generations “the Holy One save[d] us from their hand,” whereas from Hitler’s day forth salvation has come not from heaven but only through the might of the State of Israel, which itself stands ever in danger of extinction. For further discussion of this theme, see below. 18. For expressions of criticism see, inter alia, Segev, HaMilyon haShevi’i, 469– 73; Gorny, Bein Auschwitz liYrushalayim, 193– 215; Novick, Holocaust and American Life, 6–11; Goldberg, Why Should Jews Survive? 3– 8. 19. Condition of Jewish Belief, 200. 20. Bereishit Rabba, 41. 21. Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 111a. According to this tradition, Israel swore in return “not to ascend [to the Land of Israel] en masse” and “not to rebel against the nations of the earth.” 22. Jeremiah 31:26– 27. 23. Fackenheim, “Holocaust,” 407. 24. Fackenheim, To Mend the World, 304. 25. Fackenheim, Jewish Return, 282. 26. Berkovits, Crisis and Faith, 128. 27. Greenberg, Third Great Cycle, 3. 28. Greenberg, “Voluntary Covenant,” 91– 95. 29. S. Katz, Post-Holocaust Dialogues, 174–286; Braiterman, (God) after Auschwitz, 87–178. 30. S. Katz, “Editor’s Introduction,” 1. 31. Ibid. 32. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 1:169. 33. Woocher, Sacred Survival, 72– 76; Liebman and Don-Yehiya, Civil Religion in Israel, 143–44. Theological underpinning for the centrality of those seemingly secular values has been provided by Fackenheim’s “614th commandment . . . forbidding the post-Holocaust Jew to give Hitler posthumous victories.” Fackenheim, To Mend the World, 299.

Notes to Introduction 34. Greenberg, Third Great Cycle, 15, 27. 35. Eisen, Galut, 120ff. The messianic stream in contemporary religious Zionism, which gained momentum precisely on the heels of the two wars, must be excluded from this generalization. 36. Additional influences were no doubt at work as well. In the United States the “death of God” debate, which occupied Protestant theological circles during the 1960s, played a significant role. Hints of a connection between the two phenomena can be discerned in the comments by Berkovits, Fackenheim, and Rubenstein in The Condition of Jewish Belief, 29, 58, 200– 201. 37. Adorno, “Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft,” 30. 38. Steiner, Language and Silence, ix. 39. Rosenberg and Watson, “Introduction,” 18. 40. Lyotard, Le différend, 91. 41. Kren and Rappoport, Holocaust and Crisis, 137, 176. Emphasis in source. 42. The following discussion makes no pretense to represent postmodernism in full complexity or even to summarize its most characteristic postulates. Its purpose is solely to note the points at which the Holocaust plays into postmodernist sensibilities, in order to explain why, “when we survey the current philosophical scene, it is often those thinkers who are identified with poststructuralism, deconstruction, or postmodernism who are most insistent on the centrality of the Holocaust to the experience of modern humankind.” Milchman and Rosenberg, Postmodernism and the Holocaust, 1. 43. Gurewicz, Postmodernism, 11. 44. Jenkins, Postmodern History, 4. 45. Along with what follows, see the discussion in Sicher, “Holocaust in the Postmodern Era.” 46. Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, x. 47. Ibid., 87. 48. Ibid., 94, 106. 49. Ibid., 106, 111. 50. Ben-Naftali Berkowitz, “HaFilosofim haYisra’elim,” 70. 51. Ibid. 52. Handelman, Fragments of Redemption, 189. 53. Jean-François Lyotard even defi ned “the postmodern condition” as “disbelief in master narratives.” Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, 7. 54. Ankersmit, “Historiography and Postmodernism,” 148. 55. Ibid., 153. 56. Jenkins, Postmodern History Reader, 9– 21. Similar arguments have been advanced from positions other than postmodernism as well; see especially Novick, That Noble Dream, 133– 67, 206– 78. 57. Ankersmit, “Reply to Professor Zagorin,” 195– 96. 58. Berkhofer, “Point of View on Viewpoints,” 189– 91.



Notes to Introduction 59. Ankersmit, “Reply to Professor Zagorin,” 293– 95; Scott, “History in Crisis,” 691– 92. 60. White, Tropics of Discourse, 122. 61. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies, xi. 62. Ibid. See also Friedländer, Memory, History, 43, 118–34. 63. Young, “Between History and Memory,” 54. See also Felman and Laub, Testimony, 59– 60. 64. Milchman and Rosenberg, Postmodernism and the Holocaust, 14–15. 65. Hartman, Longest Shadow, 134– 35. Other postmodernists have linked their criticism of modern historiography to the Holocaust in other ways. For example, Robert Braun, observing the public debates associated with the trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961–1963), the memorial ceremony for SS soldiers held at the Germany military cemetery at Bitburg (1985), and the German Historikerstreit (1986), came away with the impression that even those historians who claimed to speak in the name of “historical truth” actually hope to shape representation of the Nazi era in accordance with contemporary political, ideological, or moral considerations. Actually, he argued, those historians “invented . . . the facts of the narrative”; they did not “discover” them. Hence, he concluded, “the realism of historical representation itself may be called into question.” Braun, “Holocaust,” es181. According to Hans Kellner, it is precisely the professionalization of modern academic historiography that threatens “ ‘responsible’ representation of the Holocaust,” because the academy strives constantly for innovation, meaning that the day will surely come when all possibilities for studying the Holocaust innovatively will have been exhausted, and historians will no longer gain any professional advantage from thinking about it. Kellner, “ ‘Never Again’ Is Now,” 139. 66. Such is the implication of the word testimony itself as a designation for the statements of those who claim to have played some role in the encounter between the Third Reich and the Jews. According to common understandings, the value of a testimony is measured by its correspondence with some external reality. Absence of such correspondence exposes testimony to the label “false witness.” Similarly, the expression oral history implicitly endows spoken words with documentary significance, as if the very act of speaking them confirms that a par ticu lar event occurred. The French word témoinage, the German Zeugnis, and the Hebrew edut— all used to designate statements of witnesses concerning the Holocaust—convey much the same sense. But the use of those par ticu lar words to signify that referent is not inscribed in nature. In Polish, for example, the most common designation for such statements is relacja, which, as its Latin root suggests, conveys the sense of “story” or “report,” with no advance indication of veracity. The Polish language contains several words—s´wiadectwo, zas´wiadczenie, zeznanie—closer to the sense of the English “testimony.” The use of relacja stresses the subjective and constructed

Notes to Introduction aspects of what is related. English and other Western languages offer similar possibilities; it is surely possible to speak of the “reports,” “accounts,” “stories,” or “versions” of survivors (or perpetrators). The fact that “testimony” has been preferred to those alternatives suggests a preference to emphasize objective, nonconstructed qualities. 67. Such a scandal occurred, for example, when a book originally published in German in 1995 under the title Bruchstücke (Fragments), which claimed to present the war time memories of a Jewish child from Riga named Binjamin Wilkomirski, was revealed to have been the product of the imagination of a non-Jewish clarinetist from Switzerland, Bruno Dösseker. Virtually all critics who commented on the book acknowledged that their readings had been influenced by revelation of its fictional character. Suleiman, “Memory and Factuality,” 551– 54; LaCapra, Writing History, 207– 9. Even those commentators who persist in labeling the book a truthful testimony qualify their label with the observation that although it faithfully represents some trauma, that trauma was not necessarily produced by the Holocaust. Bernard-Donals, “Ethos, Witness, and Holocaust ‘Testimony.’ ” On the author, the book, and its history see Mächler, Der Fall Wilkomirski. 68. See especially the discussion in Clendinnen, Reading the Holocaust, 169– 72. Some critics regret this phenomenon and inveigh against it, but they acknowledge that even they themselves are subject to it. See, for example, Alter, “Wilkomirski Affair,” 37. 69. Hartman, Longest Shadow, 138–39. 70. Langer, Admitting the Holocaust, 75– 87; Lang, Act and Idea, 125–40; Young, Writing and Rewriting, es51– 80; Ezrahi, By Words Alone, 24– 66a. 71. Lang, “Is It Possible to Misrepresent?” Friedländer, “Introduction,” 4– 9, 20; Vidal-Naquet, Rotsehei haZikaron, 139–45. 72. The indispensability was evident at an April 1990 conference entitled “Nazism and the Final Solution: Probing the Limits of Representation,” held at UCLA. Most participants were senior scholars from various academic disciplines who did not specialize in the history or literature of the Holocaust or even in other aspects of the study of Nazi Germany. According to its orga nizer, Saul Friedländer, the conference was not meant “to deal with a specific historical aspect of [the murder of European Jewry] or with their par ticu lar expression in literature, in the arts, or in philosophy,” but to stimulate “a general reflection on the difficulties that are raised by its representation.” Friedländer, “Introduction,” 1. The conference proceedings, published in 1992, have become a central reference point in the humanities. 73. One of the few is David Myers, professor of Jewish history at UCLA, who specializes in Jewish historiography and the place of history in modern Jewish thought. In a lecture delivered in Munich in July 2000 he maintained that the youngest generation of historians of the Jews displayed a degree of self-reflexivity



Notes to Introduction engendered by discussions of the Holocaust among humanists in general that have been taking place since the 1970s. Myers, “Selbstreflexion,” 61– 64. 74. Of the twenty participants in the conference mentioned in n. 72 above, only three were associated primarily with a field of Jewish studies; three others specialized in the history of Nazi Germany, particularly its policies toward Jews. Of the remaining fourteen, three were scholars of European literature (French and English as well as German), five intellectual historians, one a historian of science, one a historian of Renaissance Italy, and one a philosopher. Within this latter group, at most nine had devoted significant attention in earlier professional writings to any aspect of the Holocaust. 75. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 2:388. 76. Ibid., 398. 77. On Scholem’s understanding of the concepts external-academic and internal-Jewish, see Aschheim, Scholem, Arendt, Klemperer, 23– 27. 78. Scholem, Od davar, 145. 79. Yahil, “Holocaust in Jewish Historiography,” 661– 62. 80. Ibid., 660. 81. Ibid., 660– 61. 82. Ibid., 660, 661. 83. Ibid., 666, 667 (with changes in the order of the quoted fragments). 84. Ibid., 662. 85. Yahil, “HaAntishemiyut,” 191. 86. Michman, Holocaust Historiography, 61. 87. Zipperstein, Imagining Russian Jewry, 95, 97. 88. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 151– 52. 89. “Holocaust in Jewish History.” 90. Hyman, “Trends,” 347. 91. A total of 142 articles were published in the journal Jewish History from its 1987 founding through 2000; only one (concerning an aspect of American Jewish history during the Second World War) involved the Holocaust period. In Zion, the journal of the Historical Society of Israel, only two articles devoted chiefly to the history of the Holocaust appeared between 1990 and 1999. In Jewish Social Studies, which launched a new series in 1994, four articles on the memory and literary representations of the Holocaust appeared in its fi rst four volumes, as opposed to one historical study (on Jewish resistance in France). The Association for Jewish Studies Review did not publish an article on Holocaust history during its first quarter century. The same is true of Revue des Études Juives since 1945. Of 230 articles published in European Judaism before 2001, only two dealt with historical aspects of the Holocaust, with seven more devoted to philosophical or religious aspects, two to Holocaust literature, and three to the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors. The only general Jewish studies journal that appears to devote significant

Notes to Introduction space to Holocaust history is Modern Judaism, which published 14 articles related to the subject (out of 329) between 1980 and 2001, along with another 17 concerning other aspects of the Holocaust. 92. From 2001 to 2004, 491 sessions were held at the annual meetings of the Association for Jewish Studies. Of these, 14 (2.5 percent) were dedicated to the history of European Jewry under Nazi rule, another 15 to Holocaust-related literary, philosophical, artistic, or psychological issues. Compare the situation in the German Studies Association, which during the same interval devoted 15– 20 percent of its sessions to the topic of Nazi destruction of European Jews. 93. For example, The Modern Jewish Experience presents six outlines of undergraduate-level surveys of modern Jewish history, each adapted to the needs of a particular country (Argentina, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and the United States). In none does the Holocaust occupy more than 10 percent of the syllabus. The course designated for the United States allots one session of twentyeight to the subject. The South African course devotes one of thirteen weeks to “Germany and the Jews, 1918–45,” as opposed to two weeks devoted to twentiethcentury Jewish thought and three to the history of Jews in South Africa. The course for Germany assigns one session of nineteen to the Holocaust—an allocation equal to that for the eighteenth-century debate between Christian Wilhelm Dohm and Johann David Michaelis over Jewish emancipation. Another article in the same anthology suggests that “the instructor who wants to include the Holocaust in a course on the Modern Jewish Experience” should require students to read “only one book,” because “the Holocaust will probably be treated in two or three lectures.” The book, it is recommended, should not be a scholarly work or historical survey but the memoir of a survivor, because “reading a memoir will leave a more lasting impression” than anything a historian might write. Rozenblit, “Holocaust,” 146–47. 94. In his recent survey of modern Jewish history, Lloyd Gartner asserted that “the fundamental subject of the murder of Eu ropean Jewry . . . cannot be other than the mass murder itself and how the Germans carried it out. Rescue efforts, Jewish resistance, religious and philosophical interpretations, the diplomacy and policies of other governments, and the reactions of Jews outside German control are significant but of secondary or tertiary importance.” Gartner, History of the Jews, 349. Indeed, the book devoted fewer than 30 of 437 pages of text to the Holocaust. Cf. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought, which allocates to the Holocaust 6 of 766 pages of text. That book presents the Holocaust in the context of European history, while adding incidentally that “seen in the perspective of Jewish history, the Holocaust stands at the end of a chain going back much further: defects built into the emancipation process, Judeophobia built into medieval religion, the tragic dilemma of a people through whom ethical monotheism came to a humanity all too willing to hate and all too eager to destroy (671).” However,



Notes to Introduction the text itself does not develop these ideas. Similarly, Shmuel Ettinger, in his chapters on the modern period in the classic 1969 Hebrew University history of the Jews, did not include the Holocaust among his central themes. Even in a section entitled “The Holocaust in Jewish History” he stated only that the Holocaust constituted the single greatest collective blow ever suffered by the Jews; the rest of the section actually dealt with attitudes of Germans, other Eu ropean peoples, and the Catholic Church toward the murder of the Jews. Ettinger, “Modern Period,” 1033–35. 95. From the museum website: http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/site/ pages/page.php?id=52& live _stats=ShortHistory. 96. http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/site/pages/page.php?id=72& live _stats =PermanentExhibition. 97. Gorny, Bein Auschwitz liYrushalayim, 21. 98. From the panels headed “Antisemitism” and “Enlightenment and Emancipation.” Neither of the two interwar Polish constitutions, from 1921 or 1935, referred specifically to the civil status of Jews; the latter document promised “freedom of conscience and religion” to all citizens, so that “no citizen will be deprived of rights granted to all other citizens on account of his religion.” To be sure, those guarantees proved insufficient to protect the physical security and economic well-being of many Polish Jews, but it was gross government violation of those provisions, not the provisions itself, that created that situation. Melzer, Ma’avak medini. Romania signed the Treaty of St. Germain (not Versailles) on 9 December 1919 along with an appendix providing for “recognition of the Jews living in all Romanian territories who are not entitled to another nationality as [Romanian] nationals with full rights, without the necessity for any formal procedure.” In March 1923 the Romanian government incorporated that provision into the kingdom’s constitution. Although successive governments systematically undermined its application, the status of Jews in Romania was never officially defi ned as “provisional.” Iancu, Le combat international, 35, 296. Other cited statements are also imprecise. There is no evidence that “entire Jewish communities” were massacred before the Second World War, and since the 1970s it has been well established that in most cases pogroms in the Russian Empire were not government inspired. 99. “Holocaust in Jewish History.” 100. Ibid. 101. Ibid. 102. Undated internal center memorandum entitled “The Jewish Study Source Initiative: Integrating the Jewish Perspective into Holocaust Studies.” Copy in author’s possession. 103. Bauer, HaSho’ah, 7– 8.

Notes to Chapter One

Chapter One. Negating Lachrymosity 1. “Holocaust in Jewish History.” 2. Birnbaum and Katznelson, Paths of Emancipation, 12, n. 23. Though both trained in the social sciences, Birnbaum and Katznelson took it upon themselves to supervise a thoroughly historical research project and to speak on behalf of the principles of the historical discipline. Ibid., ix. 3. Ibid., 12. 4. Kieval, Languages of Community, 8. 5. Ibid. 6. Löwenthal, Die historische Lücke, 4. 7. Meyer, “Preface,” x. 8. Hundert, Jews in Poland-Lithuania, 4. 9. Cohen, “Petah davar,” 7. The words “and not as a period in its own right” (velo keTekufah bifnei atsmah) appear only in the Hebrew version, not in the parallel English text. 10. Shurkin, [Review]. 11. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 118– 21. Cf. Löwenthal, Die historische Lücke, 36–38. 12. Brenner, Renaissance, 1, 5. 13. Ibid., 219. 14. Ibid., 1. 15. Pickus, Constructing Modern Identities, 9. 16. W. Johnson, University of Chicago, to the internet forum h-judaic, 30 June 1999 (subject: “Holocaust Obsession”). Emphasis in source. A similar argument has been addressed to the broader public, whose growing interest in the Holocaust is often said to lead to “the marginalization of the study of Judaism within ‘Jewish Studies.’ ” D. Aaron, Wellesley College, Letter to the Editor, Times Literary Supplement, 21 June 1996. 17. Aaron letter (see previous note). 18. S. Fruitman to h-judaic, 11 July 1996 (Subject: “How central is antisemitism?”). According to the writer, “ ‘mainstream’ historians” (that is, those who teach European history in the twentieth century) are the ones who should “be giving top priority” to the Holocaust, not those who study “Jewish thought, culture, and history.” 19. Shapira, “He’arot,” 20. 20. D. Frank to h-judaic, 12 July 1996 (Subject: “Reply to Stephen Fruitman”). 21. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 129. 22. Wisse, “A Debate.” 23. C. Chiswick, University of Illinois, Chicago, to h-judaic, 12 July 1996 (Subject: “How central is antisemitism?”). 24. Kochan, “On Jewish Studies,” 3–4.



Notes to Chapter One 25. Kieval, Languages of Community, 8, 235–36. The fi rst such monograph was published in 2005: Rothkirchen, Jews of Bohemia and Moravia. 26. Löwenthal, Die historische Lücke, 2. 27. As of 2001, this statement applied to the following institutions: United States—Columbia, Harvard; United Kingdom—Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, School of Oriental and African Studies (London), and the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies (London); Germany—Freie Universität Berlin; Austria—University of Vienna. Data for the United Kingdom compiled from “Jewish Studies in the UK” (http://www.mucjs.org/jsstats01.htm). Since then Harvard (Divinity School) and London (Hebrew and Jewish Studies) have added courses on Holocaust history. 28. “The Jewish Study Source Initiative: Integrating the Jewish Perspective into Holocaust Studies,” 2 (copy in author’s possession). 29. And not only modern; sensitivity to anachronism is one of the foundations of historical consciousness in general, and it is evident even in ancient writings, including the Hebrew Bible. The connection asserted by some postmodernist thinkers between historical consciousness and modernity lacks a solid empirical base. See Funkenstein, Tadmit veToda’ah historit, 19–30. 30. One of the assumptions inherent in rejection of anachronism is that chronological context limits the range of possible actions. If so, then the range of possible actions must be constrained to a degree by impersonal, hidden, guiding factors. 31. See, inter alia, Tholfsen, Historical Thinking, 2– 7; Mason, “Ends and Beginnings,” passim. According to Amos Funkenstein, that faith is fundamental to all historical consciousness; Funkenstein, Tadmit veToda’ah historit, 20– 24. 32. Dutch historian Johan Huizinga commented on this phenomenon in 1934. On one hand he insisted that “the historian . . . must always maintain towards his subject an indeterminist point of view. He must constantly put himself at a point in the past at which the known factors still seem to permit different outcomes.” But this demand for historicization notwithstanding, he declared history to be “the teleologically-oriented discipline par excellence”: “The historical context we posited, the creation of our mind, has sense only insofar as we grant it a goal, or rather a course toward a specific outcome, whether that outcome be glorious perfection or decay and ruin, whether that goal be thought of as set by human will, by blind necessity, or by God’s providence and continual act of creation. Therefore historical thinking is always teleological. Though the past supplies our material and compels our attention, though the mind realizes that not one minute of the future can be predicted, none the less it is the eternal future that moves our mind. . . . For history the question is always ‘Whither?’ ” And lest he be reproached that these two conceptions of history are contradictory, Huizinga explained that historical thought must necessarily operate between a “series of polarities.” Huizinga, “Idea,” 292, 293, 297.

Notes to Chapter One 33. On the two approaches see Volkov, “HaYehudim beHayei haAmim,” 95– 98; Birnbaum and Katznelson, Paths to Emancipation, 11–12, 15– 20. 34. To name a few: Shohat, Im hilufei haTekufot; Hyman, From Dreyfus to Vichy; Kieval, Making of Czech Jewry; Berkovitz, Shaping of Jewish Identity; Lederhendler, Road to Modern Jewish Politics; Sorkin, Transformation; Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I; Albert, Modernization; J. Katz, Toward Modernity. 35. Baskin, Jewish Women, 15. See also Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 147–48, 150– 51. 36. Mendelsohn, “Al Moshe Mishkinsky,” 24. 37. H. Goldberg, Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries, 39– 51. 38. See, for example, the personal testimony of Paula Hyman on the connection between her involvement in the feminist movement and her choice of research topics. Hyman, Gender and Assimilation, xi, 3–4. 39. Bloch, Apologie, 15. 40. Thus, for example, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave rise to a parallel revolution in writing about the histories of Russia and the other former Soviet republics. Instead of figuring communism as a triumphant, permanent feature of those states’ existence and searching for the sources that lent the communist regime its long-term stability, as normal practice had been during the 1970s and 1980s, scholars began to regard it as a failed, transient ideology lacking deep roots in the local landscape. Accordingly, emphasis shifted to exploring the fissures in the communist regime’s foundations that might have led to its collapse, along with durable precommunist political traditions upon which the postcommunist regimes might have been established. On the other hand, the economic crisis that struck Russia in 1998 and the nostalgia for the benefits of communism noted among a portion of the population generated a series of studies of the history of Soviet political culture aimed at bringing to light the factors that led many to regard the Soviet state as legitimate for more than eight decades; communism suddenly appeared a bit less transient and foreign. In both cases the evaluation of the results of the Bolshevik Revolution was at stake, with the balance moving in accordance with events that took place long after the fact. See Rieber, “From Reform to Empire”; Freeze, “Recent Scholarship”; Landis, “Clinging to the Wreckage?” es173– 75. 41. See, for example, the testimony of Natalie Zemon-Davis of Princeton University, a premier historian of early modern Europe, according to which it was “the terrible violence against the Jews during the Second World War” that directed her attention to interreligious communal violence during the sixteenth century, a subject on which she published several pathbreaking studies during the 1970s. PallaresBurke, New History, 61. For additional examples see Katznelson, Desolation and Enlightenment. 42. See, for example, Heilbronner, “Republikat Weimar,” 7: “If we ignore the question of continuity in German history . . . and if we skip over 1933 as the starting



Notes to Chapter One point for studying the Weimar Republic, we find spread before us a different picture from the one commonly accepted.” Cf. Rechter, Jews of Vienna, 3: “[I]t is clear that the Holocaust has cast a giant shadow over the decades that preceded it. By examining the . . . history of Viennese Jewry, one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities, [during the First World War], this book begins to correct this historiographical imbalance, hoping at the same time to ‘rescue’ the Great War as a historical experience for European Jews by cutting it adrift from the teleological moorings of the Holocaust.” 43. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews, 4– 5. 44. Ibid., 256. 45. Such, at least, was the opinion of one reviewer, who noted considerable resemblance between Schechter’s conclusions and those of other scholars over the past half century who had not adopted his nonteleological approach. Albert, “[Review].” 46. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews, 257. 47. Ibid., 256. 48. Ibid., 260. 49. Willard, “Discussion of Diversity.” 50. Cf. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews, 259– 61. 51. The Hebrew title was somewhat different: “HaAntishemiyut ‘haNe’orah’: Mabat al haYehudim mehaMe’ah ha-18 ve’ad leFarashat Dreyfus” (“Enlightened” Antisemitism: A Look at the Jews from the Eighteenth Century to the Dreyfus Affair). Conference program: http://research.haifa.ac.il/~french/colloques/ Perspectives (18 June 2008). 52. Birnbaum and Katznelson, Paths of Emancipation, 3. 53. The connection was clear to at least one observer: http://www.h-france .net/vol4reviews/sepinwall.html (August 2004). 54. Birnbaum and Katznelson, Paths of Emancipation, 3. Cf. “Discours de Monsieur Jacques Chirac, Président de la République, lors de la remise des insignes de Grand officier de la Légion d’honneur au Professeur Adolphe Steg,” 26 February 2001, http://www.elysee.fr/elysee/francais/interventions/discours et declarations/2001/fevrier. 55. Birnbaum, “Introduction,” 4– 5. 56. See Birnbaum, Un mythe politique; idem, Destins juifs; idem, Les fous de la Républic. 57. Birnbaum, Destins juifs, 4. 58. Systematic comparison of the ways in which historians of the Jews and other historiographical communities have dealt with the Holocaust exceeds the bounds of this investigation. A recent exhaustive study of West German historiography and the Holocaust provides a basis for comparison with that country. Berg, Der Holocaust.

Notes to Chapter One 59. See, inter alia, Stone, Constructing the Holocaust; Friedländer, Memory, History; LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust; Maier, The Unmasterable Past; Marrus, “ ‘Good History.’ ” 60. A few have anchored their refusal less in methodological considerations than in broad ethical ones. Thus, for example, Michael Stanislawski explained in introducing his series of essays on autobiographies written by Jews over the centuries, “I have very deliberately not included in this book any autobiographies written by victims or survivors of the Nazi ghettos, concentration camps, and death camps. . . . This is mostly because I have not (and probably never will) resolved for myself the profound moral dilemmas associated with subjecting the murder of European Jewry to the self-consciously detached scholarly methodology to which I am committed.” Stanislawski, Autobiographical Jews, 10. That position, however, does not appear to have found wide resonance even among historians of the Jews. Compare the words of Stanislawski’s teacher, Yosef Haim Yerushalmi; Yerushalmi, “Jüdische Historiographie,” 81–82. Most historians of the Jews who call for the Holocaust to be sequestered from their field do not argue that the Holocaust should not be studied at all using the accepted tools of academic research or that reflexive examination of those tools and the representations of the Holocaust that they produce, in light of what scholarship reveals, should not be undertaken. They maintain only that historians of the Jews ought not take part in such efforts. 61. Aaron letter (above, n. 16). 62. “Holocaust in Jewish History.” 63. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 386. 64. Ibid., 376– 77. 65. Ibid., 386. The words are Schorsch’s, not Baron’s. 66. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:31. 67. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 376– 86. Schorsch entitled the chapter in which he urged sequestration of the Holocaust “The Lachrymose Conception of Jewish History,” arguing that Baron undertook revision and expansion of his Social and Religious History in 1952 in order to combat the allegedly widespread tendency among Jews of the time to understand all of Jewish history through the prism of the Nazi era. 68. Ibid., 376. 69. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:31. 70. Ibid. 71. Baron, Social and Religious History, Second Edition, 6:194. 72. Ibid., 4:146. 73. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 524– 25. 74. Ibid., 516. 75. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:31. 76. Ibid., 2:40–41.



Notes to Chapter One 77. Nathans, Beyond the Pale, 9. 78. Baron, “Newer Emphases,” 25–35. 79. Baron, Social and Religious History, 1:4. 80. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:364– 65. 81. Ibid., 365, 369. 82. Ibid., 371– 76. 83. Ibid., 387– 97. 84. Ibid., 418–19, 421– 22. 85. Ibid., 398. 86. Ibid., 398– 99. 87. Ibid., 403. 88. Ibid., 461. Emphasis in source. 89. Testimony at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, in Baron, “Kavim,” 168. 90. Quoted in Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 279. 91. Baron, Social and Religious History, Second Edition, 1:vii. 92. Ibid., viii: “Remarkably, it was the first introductory chapter which underwent the least change. The fundamental aspects of Jewish history have changed somewhat less than the approach to and appreciation of individual links in that millennial evolution.” 93. Ibid., 11:388, n. 24: “The ‘lachrymose conception of Jewish history’ . . . to which most Hebrew chroniclers of the Late Middle Ages and early modern times belonged, also found eloquent representatives among leading modern Jewish historians, including L. Zunz and H. Graetz. The Holocaust under the Nazis necessarily reinforced this point of view.” 94. Baron, “Kavim.” 95. In the event, the first attestation of his use of the phrase is from 1928, thirty-five years earlier. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 526. 96. Baron, “Newer Emphases,” 240. 97. Genesis Rabbah 78:9. 98. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 377. 99. Ibid. 100. Ibid., 379. 101. Ibid., 380. 102. Ibid., 386. 103. Devarim Rabbah 1:20; cf. Numbers 24:17. 104. Quoted in Ayoun, Juifs de France, 72. 105. Ibid. 106. Ibid. 107. For an alternate explanation of how diaspora became conceived as not necessarily exilic, see Raz-Krakotzkin, Yitsugah haLe’umi shel haGalut, 12–19. 108. Quoted in Feiner, Haskalah veHistoriyah, 27.

Notes to Chapter One 109. Rivkin, Leon da Modena, 18–39. 110. For additional examples of stereotypic characterizations of exile, see BenSasson, Perakim, 255– 63. 111. Quoted in Dubnow, Divrei yemei am olam, 8:62. See also Chouraqui, “L’émancipation,” 91– 96. 112. Quoted in Mahler, Divrei yemei yisra’el, 2:164. 113. Quoted in Mevorach, Napoleon, 156. 114. Luzzatto, Ketavim, 45–46. Cf. Isaiah 53:7. 115. Jost, Geschichte, 9:2, 13. Emphasis in source. 116. Graetz, Volkstümliche Geschichte, 3:520. 117. Graetz, Darkei haHistoriyah haYehudit, 105. 118. Dubnow, Divrei yemei am olam, 8:3, 53. 119. Cf. Raz-Krakotzkin, Yitsugah haLe’umi shel haGalut, 4ff. 120. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 516, 526. 121. Ibid., 516. 122. Ibid. 123. Ibid., 517, 521, 523. 124. Ibid., 519, 520. 125. Ibid., 524. 126. Ibid., 526. 127. Ibid., 525. 128. Ibid., 526. 129. Ibid. 130. In his words, “This conception of modern Jewish history is indispensable neither to Reform nor to Zionism.” He was encouraged that “each [of the movements] has begun to shift its ground” and hoped that they would continue to do so. Ibid., 525. 131. Baron, Social and Religious History, 1:16–17. 132. Ibid., 23. 133. Ibid., 1:26. 134. Ibid., 2:249– 60. 135. Ibid., 2:364. 136. Ibid., 2:364– 65. 137. Ibid., 365. 138. Ibid., 2:451. 139. Ibid., 2:381– 97, 453– 55. 140. Ibid., 457. Emphasis in source. Midrash is a Jewish homiletic genre developed in late antiquity. 141. Cf. Baron, “Emphases,” 15: “[T]he main purpose of history is . . . to serve as . . . an applied social science which is of practical significance to statesmen, men of affairs, and the intelligent public at large.”



Notes to Chapter One 142. Ibid., 37–38. 143. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:365. 144. Ibid., 1:23. 145. Ibid., 1:17. 146. Ibid., 1:375, 377. 147. Ibid., 2:87. 148. See, for example, ibid., 1:307: “Under these circumstances [of the decline of the Roman and Persian Empires], it is doubly astonishing that Hellenistic and Roman pessimism, pagan and Christian alike, so slightly affected that inveterate Jewish reliance in a better future which permeates all talmudic literature. When the downfall finally came, the Jews recoiled, to await in their sheltered corner those better times which, they confidently hoped, were soon to come.” And, according to Baron, better times came under Islamic rule. 149. Ibid., 1:23. 150. It may even be that he had begun to think in this direction while writing his doctoral dissertation on the Jewish question at the Congress of Vienna. In his fi rst book, published in 1920 on the basis of the dissertation, Baron termed the interest that that international gathering had shown in Jewish matters “a powerful weapon,” especially in the hands of Jews from the Germanic lands, “who began their struggle for emancipation then.” “Through the Congress of Vienna,” he explained, “the question of the Jews in Germany acquired continentwide significance; from that time it was impossible to exclude [the Jewish question] from the ranks of the most important problems, until [the Jews of Germany] . . . acquired full equality of rights. The Congress of Vienna constitutes only one stage on the long road that [the Jews of Germany] had to travel to reach that point, but it was one of the most important ones.” Baron, Judenfrage, 206. 151. On attitudes in the Jewish world toward the league and the minorities treaties, see Engel, “Manhigim yehudim.” For Baron’s observations on the subject, see Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:423– 26. 152. Baron, Social and Religious History, 2:39. For him this lesson held the status of a “historical law.” Ibid., 2:424. 153. Cf. Shatzmiller, “Salo Wittmayer Baron,” 457– 58. 154. Meyer, Response to Modernity, 302–303. 155. Schiff, Yehudim mishtalvim, 77– 78. Cf. Wise to Nathan Kaplan, 28 December 1914: “It is the business of strong and self-respecting people to help themselves, and that is perhaps the first lesson which Zionism teaches.” Wise, Servant of the People, 65. 156. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 525– 26. 157. Wise, Challenging Years, 128–34. 158. Baron, Jews in Roumania, 3.

Notes to Chapter One 159. Baron was born in the West Galician town of Tarnów and studied at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków before completing his higher education at the University of Vienna. He came to the United States in 1926, on an invitation from Wise to teach at JIR. It appears that only thanks to Wise’s intervention was Baron able to obtain an Austrian passport, without which he would not have been able to accept Wise’s offer. Engel, “Crisis and Lachrymosity,” 262. 160. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 33–36. 161. In 1928 Majer Bałaban had been appointed to a lectureship in Jewish history at Warsaw University, advancing to professorial rank in 1936. Yitzhak (Fritz) Baer fi rst came to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1930 as a visiting lecturer. He was appointed professor two years later, with a portfolio that included the history of the middle ages in general as well as the history of the Jews. 162. Michael, HaKetivah haHistorit, 466– 72. 163. On the contrary, Baron drew attention precisely to the distinctive features of medieval Jewish life, evidently with a mind to pointing out the advantages of distinctiveness. He termed the modern demand that “the Jewish religion . . . must be stripped of all Jewish national elements” a departure from the Jewish people’s unique history. Baron, “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 524. 164. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 88– 92. 165. Henry Graff (1969), quoted in Ritterband and Wechsler, Jewish Learning, 176. 166. Novick, That Noble Dream, 89. 167. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 63, 89, 204. 168. Novick, That Noble Dream, 265, 272. 169. “[Among] our present generation of scholars and students there is a growing feeling that the historical explanations of the Jewish past must not fundamentally deviate from the general patterns of history which we accept for mankind at large or for any other par tic u lar national group.” Baron, “Emphases,” 27– 28. 170. Graetz, Geschichte, 4:1. 171. Baron, Social and Religious History, 1:40. Cf. his comment on Graetz: “He interpreted the history of the Jews in the Diaspora almost exclusively in terms of a ‘history of sufferings and scholars’ and hence paid little attention to economic and social history.” Baron, History and Jewish Historians, 267. 172. Novick, That Noble Dream, 320–48. 173. Band, “Jewish Studies,” 9–11, 16–19; Janowsky, “Jewish Education,” 152. 174. The American Historical Association began to include Jewish history in its list of recognized specialties only during the 1980s. 175. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 170. See also Endelman, “Response,” 158. 176. Baron, “At the Turning Point,” 7– 8.



Notes to Chapter One 177. Ibid., 2–3. 178. Ibid., 7. 179. Quoted in Langmuir, Toward a Definition, 48. 180. Baron, “Newer Emphases,” 240. 181. Baron, “Modern Age,” 316. 182. Baron, “Kavim,” 167– 68. His remarks were offered in response to the question, “Were there differences between the ways the Nazis treated the Jews and earlier known forms of antisemitism?” 183. Ibid., 167. 184. Baron, “Modern Age,” 316. 185. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 221–42. 186. Among the articles that appeared in that publication during the first postwar decade: Adolf Kober, “Jewish Communities in Germany from the Age of Enlightenment to their Destruction by the Nazis” (v. 9, 1947); Zosa Szajkowski, “The Orga nization of the UGIF in Nazi- Occupied France” (ibid.); Samuel Gringauz, “The Ghetto as an Experiment in Jewish Social Orga nization” (v. 11, 1949); Philip Friedman, “Research and Literature on the Recent Jewish Tragedy” (v. 12, 1950); Joshua Starr, “Jewish Cultural Property under Nazi Control” (ibid.); Hannah Arendt, “Social Science Techniques and the Study of Concentration Camps” (ibid.); Samuel Gringauz, “Some Methodological Problems in the Study of the Ghetto” (ibid.); Solomon F. Bloom, “Toward the Ghetto Dictator” (ibid.); Abraham G. Duker, “Comment [on S. F. Bloom]” (ibid.); Philip Friedman and Koppel S. Pinson, “Some Books on the Jewish Catastrophe” (ibid.); Bruno Blau, “The Jewish Population of Germany, 1939–1945” (ibid.); Felix Gruenberger, “The Jewish Refugees in Shanghai” (ibid.); Léon Poliakov, “An Opinion Poll on AntiJewish Measures in Vichy France” (v. 15, 1953); Joseph Tenenbaum, “Auschwitz in Retrospect” (ibid.); Philip Friedman, “The Jewish Ghettos in the Nazi Era” (v. 16, 1954). The articles that appeared in volume 12 (1950) were adaptations of papers presented at the first North American scholarly conference devoted entirely to the Holocaust, sponsored by Baron’s Conference on Jewish Relations and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Additionally, beginning with volume 8 (1946) Baron regularly published lists of prewar Jewish cultural treasures, educational institutions, periodicals, and publishing houses in the countries that fell under Nazi occupation. 187. Baron, “Introduction” (Roads to Extinction), 1– 2. In Poland Friedman had pushed the Central Jewish Historical Commission, orga nized by Holocaust survivors, to document both the losses incurred during the recent catastrophe and the history of the Jewish communities that had been decimated by it. At Columbia he taught the Holocaust as part of a course entitled “European Jewry since 1914.” He also taught courses on Jewish migration during the modern era in which he incorporated material on such Holocaust-related topics as the problem of Jewish refugees

Notes to Chapter One during the 1930s and Jewish efforts to escape Nazi-controlled regions during the Second World War. It appears that he planned his courses in close collaboration with Baron. See the syllabi, examinations, and correspondence with Baron concerning his teaching in Baron’s personal archive, Stanford University, Division of Special Collections, M580, box 42, folder 7. 188. Baron, “Introduction” (Roads to Extinction), 5. Baron was also the one who procured the special funds that enabled Friedman to teach at Columbia; Baron to Friedman, 5 June 1947, 22 February 1948, Baron archive (see previous note), box 28, folder 5. 189. Baron, “Introduction” (Roads to Extinction), 6. 190. Ibid., 1. 191. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 269– 74. 192. Baron, “Introduction” (Roads to Extinction), 5, 7. 193. Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 525. 194. Ibid., 518. 195. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment, 5– 6. 196. Ibid., 7, 367– 68. 197. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 146. 198. Leon Apt in Journal of Modern History 42 (1970):249. 199. Jeffrey Kaplow in New Republic 159 (10 August 1968):17. 200. Max Geltman in National Review 20 (31 December 1968):1331. 201. Saturday Review 51 (22 June 1968):53. See also Peter Pulzer in Economic History Review 22 (1969):612–13; also above, nn. 198– 99. 202. Political Science Quarterly 86 (1971):145–46. 203. Commentary, October 1968, 94, 96. On American Jewish neoconservatism and Commentary’s role in its spread see Gorny, HaHipus, 193– 214. 204. Endelman, “Introduction,” 10–11. 205. There is no single, stable, universally accepted defi nition of social history. For various characterizations, each emphasizing a different aspect, see Bezucha, Modern European Social History, ix–xvi; Appleby et al., Telling the Truth, 147– 51; Thompson, What Happened to History? 34– 60; Endelman, “In Defense,” 54– 57. 206. Hyman, “History of European Jewry,” 305–306, 313–19. 207. Thompson, What Happened to History? 44– 50; Himmelfarb, New History, 1– 5. 208. Endelman, “In Defense,” 55. 209. Hyman, “History of European Jewry,” 306. 210. Ibid., 307. 211. Ibid., 306. 212. Hart, Social Science, 34–47. 213. Endelman, “Legitimization of the Diaspora Experience,” 197. 214. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 147, 149.



Notes to Chapter One 215. See above, nn. 198, 199, 201. 216. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 152. 217. Jewish Social Studies 32 (1970):73. 218. J. Katz, “Roots of Anti-Semitism,” 94. 219. Above, n. 53; David Bell, “Has France Always Been Antisemitic?”; Dubin, “Social and Cultural Context,” 646–48. 220. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews, 2; Albert, “[Review],” 1654. 221. On the transition see Appleby et al., Telling the Truth, 198– 237. 222. For characterizations of this generation, see, inter alia, Myers, “Selbstreflexion,” 69– 74; Yerushalmi, “Jüdische Historiographie,” 90– 93; Endelman, “In Defense,” 60– 65. 223. Zipperstein, “Home Again?” 436. 224. Ibid. See also the observations of David Biale and Deborah Dash Moore in the same volume in which Zipperstein’s remarks appear. 225. Yerushalmi, Zakhor, 81. 226. Jenkins, Postmodern History, 4. 227. Moore, “On the Necessity,” 506. 228. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews, 4. 229. Endelman, “In Defense,” 63, 65. Cf. Yerushalmi, “Jüdische Historiographie,” 81, 86– 90. 230. Schechter, Obstinate Hebrews; Nathans, Beyond the Pale; Dubin, Port Jews; Shurkin, “French Nation Building.” 231. Dubin, Port Jews, 210, 212. Cf. Dubin, “Social and Cultural Context,” 646– 48; Shurkin, “French Nation Building,” 8– 9. 232. See, for example, Brenner, Renaissance of Jewish Culture; Meir, “Jews in Kiev”; Pianko, “Jewish Diaspora Nationalism”; Malinovich, “Le Reveil d’Israel.” 233. Pianko, “Diaspora Jewish Nationalism,” 12– 22; Nathans, Beyond the Pale, 7–11. 234. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 146. 235. For example, Baron, Russian Jew; Baron, Jews in Roumania. 236. Ismar Schorsch, for example, attributed to Zionism a central role in transmitting the lachrymose conception to twentieth-century Jews, offering examples to rebut the notion that “Jewish political sagacity emerged first in 1897 [the year of the First Zionist Congress].” The examples were drawn not only from the middle ages but also from the history of nineteenth-century anti-Zionist organizations. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 118–32 (citation from 129). Similarly, Paula Hyman excluded Jacob Katz from the ranks of those Israeli historians whose Zionist commitments she believed lent bias to their interpretations of the past. Katz appears to have merited such treatment because of his association with social history. Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 146–47. It is doubtful, however, whether Katz would have received her praise without second thought.

Notes to Chapters One and Two Frequently during his career he defended such unabashedly Zionist historians as Gershom Scholem and Ben Zion Dinur against charges of ideological bias. To be sure, he found fault with some of what they wrote, but he never attributed those defects to their Zionist outlook. See J. Katz, Le’umiyut yehudit, 213– 24, 230–38. Moreover, he defi ned the leitmotiv of his own writing as an effort to understand the “significant events in Jewish history that gave rise to the wonderous phenomenon in which a people that had been exiled from its land remained bound to it mentally, so that after forty generations a notable portion of it would make real efforts to return there.” J. Katz, Et lahakor, 10. Nor is there any basis for the notion that Katz’s affi nity for social history caused him to reject the fundamentals of Zionist historiography or brought him near to Baronian principles. In the event, his idea of social history found expression in a complex attitude toward all of the major trends in Jewish historical writing. See J. Katz, “Concept of Social History,” 304–12.

Chapter Two. Rehabilitating Exile 1. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 161– 62. 2. Quoted in Krapf, Yehezkel Kaufmann, 123. 3. [Baer and Dinaburg], “Megamatenu,” 2. 4. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 2:398– 99. See also Myers, “Was There a ‘Jerusalem School’?” 68– 69. 5. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 2:398– 99. Cf. Psalms 118:22. 6. [Baer and Dinaburg], “Megamatenu,” 1. 7. Baer, Mehkarim, 1:18. 8. Kaufmann, Golah veNechar 1:v. Cf. Joel 3:3. 9. Baer, Mehkarim, 1:26. 10. Rein, “Ben Zion Dinur,” 380– 83. 11. Dinur, Zachor, 57– 58. 12. Ibid., 61. 13. Ibid., 52– 53. 14. Ibid., 53– 54. 15. Ibid., 54. 16. Ibid., 60. 17. Ibid., 52. 18. Baer, Mehkarim, 1:16. 19. Dinur, Zachor, 51. 20. Porat, Hanhagah beMilkud, 46–47. 21. Dinur, Zachor, 19. 22. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 175. 23. Ibid., 182. 24. Ibid.



Notes to Chapter Two 25. Ibid., 183. 26. Ibid. 27. Ibid., 188. 28. Ibid., 187– 88. 29. Ibid., 188. 30. Ibid., 190. 31. Ibid., 190– 91. 32. Ibid., 191. 33. Ibid., 175. 34. Ibid., 191. 35. Ibid., 175. 36. The reference is to the scheme of Simon Dubnow, who divided Jewish history into periods based upon geographical shifts in the hegemonic cultural center of the Jewish world. Dinaburg had criticized this scheme as early as 1926; Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 19– 22. 37. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 175. Cf. Leviticus 26:38. 38. Ibid., 176. 39. Ibid., 177– 78. 40. Ibid., 181. 41. Ibid., 191. 42. Baer, “ ‘HaHistoriyah haHevratit vehaDatit,’ ” 280. 43. [Baer and Dinaburg], “Megamatenu,” 1. 44. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 25. Emphasis in source. 45. Ibid., 12. 46. Scholem, Devarim beGo, 3:386–89, 395– 97, 399; idem, Od davar, 119, 122–24. 47. See Raz-Krakotzkin, Yitsugah haLe’umi, 107– 9. 48. Cf. Kaufmann, MiKivshonah shel haYetsirah haMikra’it, 12–13. 49. Baer, Galut (1947), 120. 50. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 11. 51. Ibid. 52. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 190– 91. 53. Ibid., 175. 54. Ibid., 92. 55. Cf. the words of Yitzhak Gruenbaum, head of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem, which were published in the same volume of Knesset as “Galuyot veHurbanan:” “The history of exile is nothing but the history of destruction and intervals of rejuvenation between one destruction and another. Each period of our history ends in holocaust (sho’ah)—total, comprehensive destruction. The periods of enslavement in Palestine, Babylonia, and throughout the Near East; in Northern Europe and Spain; and in Poland and throughout Europe in our own day—all have ended in holocaust and destruction. It is as if

Notes to Chapter Two there is a law concerning our exilic life that our communities cannot prosper on foreign soil, and all are ultimately doomed to extinction. And if we thought that this law applied only in times of ignorance and barbarism, the present war has proven to us how mistaken we were. It has brought holocaust and destruction not only to the Jews of a single country but to those of an entire continent, the bulk of the entire [Jewish] people. This, then, is the outstanding characteristic of exile.” Y. Gruenbaum, “MiHurban leHurban,” Knesset: Divrei Soferim leZecher H. N. Bialik 8 (1943–44). 56. Ettinger, Historiyah veHistoriyonim, 132. 57. Baer, Galut (1980), [vii]. 58. Yuval, “Yitzhak Baer,” 80. 59. Baer, Galut (1980), [vii]. 60. Baer to Father H. A. Reinhold, 18 January 1948, quoted in Myers, ReInventing the Jewish Past, 120. 61. Beinart, “Kitvei Yitzhak Baer,” 324– 26. Of publications listed for the years 1931–1937, 65 were published in Hebrew, 3 in German. 62. Baer, Galut (1947), 114, 117–18. 63. Ibid., 118–19. Cf. Judah Loew bar Bezalel, Netsah Yisra’el, ch. 1: “Exile itself is clear proof of redemption, for there is no doubt that exile is a deviation from the order according to which God set every nation in its proper place and set Israel in its proper place, which is Palestine. Thus exile from their places is a complete deviation, and whenever something leaves its natural place . . . it cannot exist in its unnatural place and must return to its natural place.” 64. Baer, Galut (1947), 119– 20. Emphasis in source. 65. Ibid., 122. 66. Ibid., 121. 67. Baer, Mehkarim, 2:17. 68. Baer, Galut (1947), 24– 26, 122. 69. Baer, “ ‘HaHistoriyah haHevratit vehaDatit,’ ” 291. He specifically rejected “Baron’s optimistic song of exile, full of the sound of numbers and commercial and intellectual achievements” (299). 70. Raz-Krakotzkin, Yitsugah haLe’umi, 176; Yuval, “Yitzhak Baer,” 80ff. 71. Baer, Galut (1947), 121– 22. 72. Ibid., 122. 73. See above, Introduction, n. 21. 74. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 192. 75. Dinur, Sefer haTsiyonut, 1:12–14. On the representation in general see RazKrakotzkin, Yitsugah haLe’umi, 70– 74; Zerubavel, Recovered Roots, 18–19. For a more extensive discussion of Berdiczewski’s attitude toward the exilic Jewish past see Almog, Tsiyonut veHistoriyah, 86– 94. 76. Baer, Galut (1947), 122.



Notes to Chapter Two 77. [Baer and Dinaburg], “Megamatenu,” 1. Perhaps at some point Baer realized the magnitude of his deviation, for not until he approached his ninetieth year, in 1978, did he authorize a Hebrew translation of Galut. As he explained toward the end of his life, “I feared that the conclusion I expressed at the end of my book about the need to eliminate the phenomenon of exile altogether might encourage some people to try to achieve a goal that is neither appropriate to current political realities nor justified by the moral character of our people and our state.” Baer, Galut (1980), [v, vii]. 78. Dinur, Zachor, 64. Emphasis in source. 79. Ibid., 62– 63. Emphasis in source. Dinaburg had expressed this view as early as 1934, evidently in light of heightened negation of the diaspora in Palestinian Jewish schools in response to the Nazi rise to power in Germany. See Firer, Sochenim, 94– 96. 80. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah, 1:12. 81. Dinur, Zachor, 36–37. 82. Ibid., 36. 83. Ibid., 40–41. 84. Ibid., 41. In contrast with his argument in his Knesset article, here Dinaburg acknowledged the possibility that in modern times Jews could be absorbed into their surroundings. Evidently he drew the conclusion that in the modern state the stereotype of foreignness that had characterized exilic existence in earlier times no longer served as an effective brake upon this process. 85. Ibid., 38. 86. Quoted in Rein, Historiyon beVinui Umah, 230. 87. Quoted in ibid., 234. “Israel among the nations” was one of Dinaburg’s designations for Jewish history in the diaspora. 88. “Kitvei Ben-Zion Dinaburg,” 444–45; D. Cohen, “Kitvei Ben-Zion Dinur,” 169– 72. 89. In 1954, after assuming the chairmanship of Yad Vashem, he initiated a large compilation project called Pinkas haKehilot (Registry of Jewish Communities), which embodied his postwar conception of the linkage between the Holocaust and Jewish history. For further discussion, see below. 90. In 1949 Dinaburg wrote that he was working on “a general historical survey of Jews and Jewish civilization in the modern period, 1700–1948, to appear in English in a collection edited by Prof. L. Finkelstein,” as well as on a book to be entitled Mavo leToledot Yisrael baDorot haAharonim (Introduction to Modern Jewish History). Dinaburg, “Ha’Zemanim haHadashim,’ ” 60. Neither project ever saw the light of day, although a twelve–page article appeared in the second edition of The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion, edited by Louis Finkelstein, in 1955. 91. Dinur, Sefer haTsiyonut, 1:14.

Notes to Chapter Two 92. Ibid., 1:xx–xxi. 93. Dinur, BeMifneh haDorot, 18. 94. Dinur, Sefer haTsiyonut, 1:3. 95. Dinur, BeMifneh haDorot, 9. 96. Ibid., 9–10. 97. Ibid. 98. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 1:xii, xxv. Emphasis in source. By “static” features Dinaburg meant “common cultural conditions prevailing in all parts of the diaspora, the Jews’ socioeconomic position in the lands of their dispersion, the Hebrew language . . . and Jewish literature, domestic arrangements and mores, [and] patterns of divine worship and religious observance.” “Dynamic” features, in contrast, were “events resulting from the ability of the nation to engage in collective action.” Ibid., xxiv. 99. Dinur, Israel and the Diaspora, 79. 100. Ibid. 101. Ibid., 79– 80. 102. Ibid., 86. 103. Ibid. 104. Dinur, BeMa’avak haDorot, 283. 105. Ibid., 271. 106. Dinur, Israel and the Diaspora, 90. 107. Ibid. 108. Ibid. 109. Ibid., 91, 95– 96. Emphasis added. 110. Ibid., 96–100 passim. 111. Cf. ibid., 142: “The torchbearers of this revolt seemed, at first, to be only a few ‘faithful remnants,’ the thinly scattered members of a kind of underground movement whose whole existence was, so to speak, purely marginal to the mainstream of modern Jewish history. The course of this mainstream flowed through the movements for Enlightenment and Emancipation, the firm establishment of the Jews in their countries of residence, and their integration into the cultural and social life of the gentile nations.” 112. Ibid., 94. 113. Ibid., 161. 114. Ibid., 100. 115. In the essay on “modern times” he mentioned “the holocaust of European Jewry” in half a sentence, as a precursor to the establishment of the State of Israel. The essay also made fleeting mention of “those who fought the Nazis as partisans in the forest or defied them in the ghettos” as two examples among many of the new Jew who rebelled against exile. Dinur, Israel and the Diaspora, 94, 146. In a 1955 article on “the historical foundations of the rebirth of Israel” (Dinur, BeMa’avak



Notes to Chapter Two haDorot, 271–83) he did not mention the Holocaust at all. A short piece entitled “Rebellion against Exile Is the Foundation” (HaMered baGalut hu haYesod), published in 1957, stated that “we gained [independence] after the struggles of three generations, beginning with a ‘rebellion against exile,’ which is the essential characteristic of Hibbat Tsiyon [an immediate forebear of the Zionist movement], and ending with a ‘holocaust’ that destroyed the great centers of Jewish civilization.” The article also raised the question “whether after the experience of this generation, the generation of the Holocaust, one can or should give up the ‘rebellion against exile’ as the ‘organizing ideology’ of active Jewry, of Zionism.” Ibid., 284, 286. Even in the expanded introduction to the second edition of Yisra’el baGolah, published in 1958, the Holocaust was mentioned only in the observation that “the fundamental character of the period [1881–1958] lay in the cruel and violent war that was waged against the Jews . . . , which, with the Nazi assumption of power, brought about the destruction of European Jewish civilization and the extermination of six million Jews.” Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1958), 1:xlv. The one significant exception to this trend was the 1955 article, “Basic Problems in Contemporary Jewish Historical Research” (Ba’ayot yesod baHeker haHistori haYehudi beYameinu), discussed below. 116. Dinur, Israel and the Diaspora, 156. Cf. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1958), 1:xlv. 117. Dinur, Israel and the Diaspora, 156. 118. Ibid., 158. 119. Ibid., 142. 120. Ibid., 141. 121. Dinur, Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 1:xxix. Emphasis in source. 122. Dinur, Zachor, 94. 123. Ettinger, Historiyah veHistoriyonim, 119. 124. Dinur, BeMa’avak haDorot, 287– 89. 125. Ibid., 36, 78. See also Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 80– 82; Bartal, “ ‘Yishuv’ ve’Golah,’ ” 379. 126. Dinur, Zachor, 82. See also Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 82, 95. 127. Dinur, Zachor, 82. 128. Ibid., 83– 84. Dubnow reportedly told witnesses to “record everything” as he was taken to his death in Riga in 1941. Emmanuel Ringelblum directed an underground archive in the Warsaw ghetto. 129. See above, nn. 21, 52. 130. Quoted in Dinur, Zachor, 99. 131. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 127–46. 132. Daniel Marom, “Gishato shel Ben Zion Dinur laSho’ah,” lecture at the Thirteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, 2001. 133. From a description by the project’s director, Israel Halpern. Halpern to Philip Friedman, 23 August 1954, YIVO Archive, New York, RG 1258, box 2, folder 98.

Notes to Chapter Two 134. Ibid. 135. Dinur, Zachor, 117, 122. 136. Ibid., 121. 137. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 175. 138. Dinur, Zachor, 122. 139. Even today scholars have difficulty detecting it. The prevailing view is that Dinur remained faithful to the scheme he had outlined in his Knesset essay while directing Yad Vashem and based the institution’s research program upon it. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 53; Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 74– 78, 172; Kenan, Between History and Memory, 151. However, from Dinur’s comments on Pinkas haKehilot it is clear that he did not seek to demonstrate the Holocaust’s origins in the situation of exile but at most to indicate specific conjunctural and environmental factors, both exogenous and endogenous, that made the Holocaust possible: “How did Hitler manage to carry out his plot? How was the ‘Hitlerite’ climate created throughout the world? How did it happen that a people that had dwelt among other peoples for centuries was murdered by its neighbors . . . ? And how did this people fi nd itself so devoid of elementary instincts that it failed to sense what was in store?” Dinur, Zachor, 122. In the event, the principal aim of Pinkas haKehilot was not to explain what had caused the Holocaust but to point out the cultural and spiritual values that had shaped how Jews had confronted exile throughout the centuries and contributed mightily to the struggle waged by the Holocaust’s victims to preserve their lives. It was not the Holocaust that was supposed to illuminate diaspora Jewish history; rather diaspora Jewish history was supposed to illuminate the rebellion against exile, including its final chapter, the movement from destruction to independence. 140. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 147– 68; Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 173; Kenan, Between History and Memory, 152– 54. 141. Natan Eck, testimony before the Yad Vashem Council, 16 July 1958, quoted in B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 182. 142. Quoted in ibid., 130. 143. See, for example, the remarks of Avraham Harman, Yosef Weitz, and Mark Dworzecki before the Yad Vashem Council, April–May 1956, quoted in ibid., 156– 57 (also in Kenan, Between History and Memory, 155– 56). Cf. Gruenbaum’s comment: “We [at Yad Vashem] do not need to study all of Jewish history; we must confi ne ourselves to the Holocaust period. . . . Even Pinkas haKehilot is getting us into too broad an area.” Quoted in Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 177. ˙ ydów w Polsce w 144. “Sprawozdanie z działalnos´ci Centralnego Komitetu Z roku 1945,” Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Prezydium 1, 31. Two of the internal challengers, Józef Kermisz and Nachman Blumenthal, had headed the commission; they had begun to work at Yad Vashem in 1954. Other challengers included writer and journalist Natan Eck, holder of a master’s degree



Notes to Chapter Two in history from Warsaw University and a doctorate of laws from the University of Vienna, who had directed an underground Jewish high school in the Warsaw ghetto; and journalist Rachel Auerbach, a former staff member of Oyneg Shabbes. 145. From a circular distributed to members of the Yad Vashem Council in the name of an orga nization called “Friends of Yad Vashem,” 3 October 1958, quoted in B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 180. 146. Rachel Auerbach, “Al mah natush haMa’avak beYad Vashem?” Ma’ariv, 7 October 1958, 3. 147. Heading this group were Israel Halpern, an expert in the history of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; Shaul Esh, a philologist and biblicist; and Jozeph Melkman, a student of Jewish literature in the Netherlands. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 129–37. 148. Dubnow, Nahpesah veNahkorah, title page. 149. Ibid., 24. 150. Szajkowski, “Di geshikhte,” 333–38; Dubnow, Kniga zhizni, 163– 65. 151. According to the first annual report of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, the purpose of its activity was “to increase popu lar knowledge (spopularyzowa´c), among Jews and throughout the world, of the crimes of the Germans and to depict the destruction of Polish and European Jewry.” See above, n. 144. On the approach of the historical committees in the DP camps, see Jacob Patt, “Fun noentn over,” Fun noentn over 1 (1955):v–vii. 152. Cf. Rachel Auerbach’s 1953 words of praise for Oyneg Shabbes: “To a certain extent . . . it carried on the traditions of YIVO and from the beginning carried on . . . its work upon a broad base of public support.” She further explained that YIVO—an acronym for yidisher visnshaftlikher institut (Institute for Jewish Scholarship, or, as it designated itself officially, the Yiddish Scientific Institute)—“was founded in 1925 and based in Wilno. In addition to an academic staff it depended upon broad circles of correspondents and people who collected folklore, as well as upon an extensive network of ‘Friends of YIVO,’ which could be found in even the most remote places where Jews lived.” Auerbach, BeHutsot Varshah, 5, 158, 340. Another member of Yad Vashem’s internal opposition, Józef Kermisz, had been a participant in the YIVO-sponsored historians’ workshop that Ringelblum had conducted in Warsaw before the war. See Raya Cohen, “Emmanuel Ringelblum,” 109. For more on Ringelblum’s notions of historical work, see ibid., 15–17; Kassow, “Politics and History,” 54, 70– 71, 73. 153. Auerbach, In Land Yisroel, 358. 154. See above, n. 146. 155. Quoted in Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 178. 156. Kenan, Between History and Memory, 143, 152– 56. 157. From Dinur’s description in 1957, when negotiations were still underway. Dinur, “Problems,” 22– 23. See also B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 153.

Notes to Chapter Two 158. Dinur, “Problems,” 23. 159. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 154. 160. Ibid., 151, 169. 161. Cf. Gershom Scholem’s 1959 observation that after the Holocaust “Judaism can be regarded solely as the continuity of a social whole, which certainly struggled under the inspiration of great ideas, but was never completely ruled or directed by them.” Scholem, Messianic Idea, 310. Scholem added that “We ourselves—considering our close proximity to the events—have as yet scarcely been able to rationalize and understand in a scholarly manner the meaning of what we ourselves have lived and suffered through.” Ibid., 311. To be sure, Scholem envisioned an eventual conceptual revolution in light of the Holocaust, but he appears to have been convinced that that revolution would build upon the earlier Zionist revolution and not lead away from its basic intellectual postulates. That Dinur continued to affi rm the basic Zionist construction of Jewish history in spite of the challenges the Holocaust presented no doubt strengthened Scholem in his conviction. 162. Dinur, Dorot veReshumot, 152. 163. Ibid., 153. 164. Ibid., 153– 54: “We are familiar with ‘exilic communities and their destruction,’ with the historical phenomenon of ‘the rise and fall of centers.’ . . . But do we not now need to reexamine the processes by which those destructions occurred? Is it not so that the ‘migration’ of those centers . . . was preceded by real physical destruction, persecution, and mass conversion? . . . Should we not . . . be reexamining the circumstances under which exilic communities were destroyed and centers declined?” 165. Ibid., 152, 154– 55. 166. B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 150– 68. 167. “Protokol miYshivat haVa’adah haMiktso’it leInyan hakamat hug ‘yahadut bat zemanenu,’ ” 23 May 1957, Archive of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, HaMachon leYahadut Zemanenu, fi le 22130; “Tazkir biDevar tochnit leHakamat yehidat mehkar veHora’ah b‘Yahadut bat zemanenu’ baUniversitah haIvrit,” 21 June 1957, ibid. 168. Esh, Iyunim beHeker haSho’ah, 333, 338. 169. Ibid., 140. 170. According to Esh, a scholar wishing to study the Holocaust “must have thorough training in both general modern history and recent Jewish history,” suggesting that Holocaust scholars, unlike historians of the Jews, need not be exposed to the full chronological and geograph ical range of the Jewish past. Ibid., 340.



Notes to Chapter Three

Chapter Three. “The Jewish People Murdered Itself ” 1. Hilberg, Politics of Memory, 35– 56. 2. Ibid., 105–19. 3. Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 209, 214–15. 4. Jozeph Melkman to Philip Friedman, 11 February 1958, quoted in ibid., 215–16. 5. Text in Hilberg, Politics of Memory, 110–11. 6. Hilberg, Destruction, 662– 69 passim. Emphasis in source. 7. Funkenstein, Tadmit veToda’ah historit, 232–40; Biale, Power and Powerlessness, passim. 8. Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 216; Hilberg, Politics of Memory, 112. 9. Philip Friedman appears to have advised such a course. Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 217. 10. Hilberg explicitly distinguished between the passivity of exilic Jewry and the fighting spirit displayed by Palestinian Jews in all generations: “ ‘Jews’ in this context refers only to ‘exiled,’ ‘dispersed,’ or ‘ghetto’ Jews, not the Palestine or Israel Jews. . . . The ‘Jewish reaction pattern’ is confined to the pattern which was formed in exile, by the Diaspora, in the ghetto.” Hilberg, Destruction, 14. Hilberg never defined himself as a Zionist, and his views do not appear to have reflected an ideological outlook acquired from others. In response to a provocative question put to him by Gideon Hausner, the chief prosecutor at the Eichmann trial, “Why . . . did you not honor what you wrote in the preface, that [The Destruction] is a book about the murderers, not the victims?”—that is, Why did you write about Jewish responses at all, let alone write falsely about them?—Hilberg explained that as a result of his research he had reached the conclusion that “it is impossible to explain how and why [the Holocaust] happened, and how it assumed such awful dimensions, without taking into account facts related to Jewish behavior. . . .” Hilberg, “HaYudenrat,” 49–50. 11. Quoted in Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 219. Hilberg did not accept the prevailing estimate of six million Jewish deaths. Hilberg, Destruction, 670; Hilberg, “Statistic,” 171. 12. Melkman, “[Review],” 214–15. 13. Ibid., 214. 14. Ibid. 15. Esh, “Genocide and Its Aftermath,” 115–16. 16. Ibid., 116. 17. Ibid., 117. Hagana was the largest Jewish military orga nization in Palestine under the British mandate; halutzim refers to settlers in Zionist-sponsored agricultural colonies. The comments of both Esh and Melkman reflect a fundamental change in the concepts “Palestinian Jewry” and “diaspora Jewry” that occurred in Israel following the large-scale immigration of Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe. See Bartal, “ ‘Yishuv’ ve‘Golah,’ ” 378– 80.

Notes to Chapter Three 18. Hilberg, Destruction, 152, quoted in Esh, “Genocide in Its Aftermath,” 115. Esh added the italics. 19. Esh, “Genocide and Its Aftermath,” 115. 20. Ibid., 117. Emphasis in source. 21. Trevor-Roper, “Nazi Bureaucrats,” 351. 22. Ibid., 355. 23. Ibid., 354. 24. Ibid., 356. 25. “Letters from Readers: Jewish Resistance,” Commentary 34 (1962):159– 64. 26. Ibid., 162 (Weinryb). 27. Ibid., 164. 28. Ibid., 163. 29. A. Dorpalen in Journal of Modern History 34 (1962):226. Cf. American Historical Review 67 (1962):694– 95; Ethics 72 (1962):148–49. The only explicit objection to Hilberg’s thesis came from Oscar Handlin of Harvard University, who called it “a far-fetched conception of historic Jewish attitudes” generating “serious errors in interpretation.” American Journal of Sociology 68 (1962):147–48. Even Jacob Robinson, a member of the Yad Vashem directorate and special adviser to the prosecution in the Eichmann trial, who three years later assumed a prominent role in the campaign against Hannah Arendt (see below), declined to attack Hilberg directly on this point in his generally positive review: “This reviewer has reservations both in regard to ‘Precedents’ ( 1–17) and to large parts of the ‘Conclusion’ (639– 765), but to explain them would involve him in a discussion of matters not directly connected with Hilberg’s imposing achievement.” Political Science Quarterly 77 (1962):125– 27. 30. Bettelheim, “Freedom from Ghetto Thinking,” 17, 18, 20. 31. Bettelheim, Informed Heart, 263. 32. Bettelheim, “Freedom from Ghetto Thinking,” 17–18. 33. Ibid., 23. 34. “Comment,” Midstream 8 (no. 6, 1962):86– 87. 35. Ibid., 86. 36. Ibid. 37. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 9. 38. Ibid. Rousset’s words from his 1947 novel, Les jours de notre mort. 39. She said as much explicitly in a letter to Prof. Judah Goldin of Yale University, written at the height of the debate over her book: “There are people today who believe they can blame this behavior—to go like sheep to the slaughter-house—upon the so-called ghetto mentality of the Jewish people. I don’t believe that this is true.” Arendt to Goldin, 18 July 1963, Library of Congress, Washington, DC (henceforth LC), Hannah Arendt Papers, Adolf Eichmann File, 1938–1968 (henceforth HA-AE), Correspondence, Miscellaneous, English language, G-K, 1963–1966.



Notes to Chapter Three 40. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 7. 41. Eck, “Mehkar histori,” 343. 42. Kubovy, “Medinah posha’at”; Muszkat, “Eichmann beNew York”; Levy, “LaPulmus”; Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit nusah Arendt”; Eck, “Mehkar histori o ketav sitnah?”; Scholem, Devarim beGo, 1:92; Syrkin, “Hannah Arendt.” See also Richard Cohen, “LiShe’elat aharayutam shel haYehudim”; Richard Cohen, “Breaking the Code,” 55– 56. 43. Moses to Arendt, 7 March 1963, LC, HA-AE, Correspondence— Organizations, Jewish, B-F, 1963–1965. 44. A few writers who castigated Arendt with par tic u lar viciousness actually praised Hilberg’s book. See, for example, Abel, “Aesthetics of Evil,” 212, 215, 237. 45. Howe, “ ‘New Yorker,’ ” 319; Kubovy, “Medinah posha’at,” 2–3; Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit nusah Arendt,” 126, 129, 134; Simon, “Textual Examination,” 387– 89; Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 416; Podhoretz, “Hannah Arendt on Eichmann,” 201– 202. See also Zertal, HaUmah vehaMavet, 181– 86; Segev, HaMilyon haShevi’i, 336–38; Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 134–42. 46. Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 416. 47. Roman Fryster in Al haMishmar, 24 May 1960, quoted in Yablonka, Medinat yisra’el, 21. 48. Guri, Mul ta haZechuchit, 217. 49. Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem, 291–301. 50. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 253; cf. 23. 51. Ibid., 34. 52. Podhoretz, “Hannah Arendt on Eichmann,” 206. 53. Letter from Musmanno to New York Times Book Review, 23 June 1963, 4. Musmanno was responding to Arendt’s objections to his review of Eichmann in Jerusalem, which had appeared in the same publication a month earlier (Musmanno, “Man with an Unspotted Conscience”). 54. Esther Bromberger to New York Times Book Review, ibid., 22. 55. The difference between the two positions was essential for her, and she stressed it repeatedly in lectures she delivered following publication of her book. See, for example, her lecture notes from 19 September 1963: “It is untrue that I said: the Jews ‘cooperated.’ I said the Jewish leadership did. Everything depends on this distinction.” LC, HA-AE, Private Reply to Jewish Critics, 1963. 56. Cf. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 111: “The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorga nized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people.” 57. Abel, “Aesthetics of Evil,” 212–13.

Notes to Chapter Three 58. Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 425. 59. Levy, “LaPulmus,” 183; Podhoretz, “Hannah Arendt on Eichmann,” 203– 205. 60. Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 416, 417. 61. Musmanno, “Man with an Unspotted Conscience,” 41. 62. Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 126; Loewenstein, “Of Honor and Rescue,” 9; Tramer, “Tragic Misjudgment,” 19; Buber, “Postscript,” 60. 63. Muszkat, “Eichmann beNew York,” 9. 64. Kubovy, “Medinah posha’at,” 1. 65. Muszkat, “Eichmann beNew York,” 8. 66. Poliakov, Harvest of Hate, 3. Arendt reviewed Poliakov’s book favorably in Commentary: Arendt, “History of the Great Crime.” 67. Poliakov, Harvest of Hate, 105, 151. 68. Dinur, “Problems” 26– 27. Arendt differed from Dinur in her view that the Jewish councils wielded decisive influence in determining how Jews responded to the threat of murder, whereas Dinur depicted them as weak institutions incapable of providing leadership in time of crisis. Dinur believed that ghetto Jews suffered from an absence of leadership; Arendt attributed their fate largely to an excess of bad leadership. 69. Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 551. 70. Quoted in Stauber, HaLekah laDor, 124. On the Judenräte in Israeli public discourse generally, see ibid., 115–34; Segev, HaMilyon haShevi’i, 338; Porat, Hanhagah beMilkud, 232–33. 71. For examples of ad hominem charges, including one calling her a servant of the devil, see Richard Cohen, “Breaking the Code,” 42–44. See also Zertal, HaUmah vehaMavet, 183– 86; Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 134–36. 72. Scholem to Arendt, 23 June 1963, in Scholem, Life in Letters, 395– 96. 73. Including Prosecutor Hausner, whom Arendt belittled throughout the book, and Rabbi Leo Baeck, head of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden throughout its existence (1933–39) and member of the Council of Elders of the ghetto at Theresienstadt from 1943 until liberation, who, she claimed, “in the eyes of both Jews and Gentiles was the ‘Jewish Führer.’ ” Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 105. 74. See, for example, Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 112–13: “Not only the content, but also the form . . . , is grating and infuriating. . . . The rudeness harbored in her seemingly trenchant, fluid style is particularly evident in the attention the author directs to herself. There is no escaping the conclusion that H[annah] A[rendt] suffers from an excess of intellectual pretension that permits her to regard everything ‘from on high.’ . . . Here and there the reader senses that the author avoids not only sentimentality but any feeling at all.” 75. A. Zeitlin, “Fun fraytog biz fraytog,” Der Tog, 12 November 1965.



Notes to Chapter Three 76. Simon, “Textual Examination,” 388, 400. Simon spoke of Arendt’s “postZionist hostility”—perhaps the earliest attested usage of this label. Ibid., 397. 77. Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 119. 78. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 3. 79. Quoted in Yablonka, Medinat yisra’el, 97. 80. Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem, 291. 81. Ibid., 292– 93; Yablonka, Medinat yisra’el, 106– 7. 82. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 3. 83. Ibid., 9. 84. HaYo’ets haMishpati . . . neged Adolf Eichmann, 7– 8. 85. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 18. 86. Ibid., 245–46. 87. Ibid., 247, 255. 88. Ibid., 240, 253, 256. 89. Ibid., 253. 90. Ibid., 252. 91. Ibid., 250. See also Barnouw, Visible Spaces, 227– 28, 231. 92. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 250. 93. Ibid. 94. Ibid., 247. 95. Guri, Mul ta haZechuchit, 239– 51; Hausner, HaSho’ah veHinuch haNo’ar, 11–40; Yablonka, Medinat Yisra’el, 271– 87; Shapira, Mishpat Eichmann, 9–13; Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 141. 96. See in par ticu lar Daniel Bell, “Alphabet of Justice,” 427– 28. 97. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, 103: “As Eichmann told it, the most potent factor in the soothing of his own conscience was the simple fact that he could see no one, no one at all, who actually was against the Final Solution.” She listed the Jewish leadership, which, in her words, assisted Eichmann in “the administrative and police work” associated with deportation, as one of the agencies that demonstrated no opposition. At this point she wrote that “to a Jew, this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story,” moving thereafter to an extended, nine-page discussion of the behavior of Jewish leaders. At the end of this excursus she returned to the matter of Eichmann’s conscience and made explicit the connection she perceived between the two issues: “I have dwelt on this chapter of the story, which the Jerusalem trial failed to put before the eyes of the world in its true dimensions, because it offers the most striking insight into the totality of the moral collapse the Nazis caused in respectable European society. . . . Eichmann, in contrast to other elements in the Nazi movement, had always been overawed by ‘good society,’ and the politeness he often showed to German-speaking Jewish functionaries was to a large extent the result of his recognition that he was dealing with people who were

Notes to Chapter Three socially his superiors. . . . His conscience was indeed set at rest when he saw the zeal and eagerness with which ‘good society’ everywhere reacted as he did. He did not need to ‘close his ears to the voice of conscience,’ as the judgment has it, not because he had none, but because his conscience spoke with a ‘respectable voice,’ with the voice of respectable society around him.” Ibid., 111–12. 98. Arnold Forster of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, quoted in Novick, Holocaust in American Life, 141. 99. See, for example, Bettelheim, “Eichmann,” 27: “The court [that tried Eichmann] . . . viewed Hitlerism as a chapter . . . of anti-Semitism. But in Arendt’s opinion, which I share, this was not the last chapter in anti-Semitism but rather one of the first chapters in modern totalitarianism. . . . Totalitarianism exists wherever the state abrogates the rights of the individual and makes state reason the supreme principle. That principle in the Hitler state was to make the German people supreme, and to eliminate all racial impurity from the soil of the greater German Reich. Toward this end he exterminated not only Jews but also millions of Poles and Russians, and virtually the entire gypsy population of Europe.” Cf. Hilberg, Destruction, 760: “From this moment fundamental assumptions about our civilization have no longer stood unchallenged, for while the occurrence is past, the phenomenon remains. . . . Now there are means which will allow still others to seize upon the Nazi experience, so that it in turn may yet become a precedent for the future. . . . In the framework of the Nazi model the mildest exclusions are threatening links in an incomplete chain of destruction.” It is clear Hilberg did not regard the fate of the Jews as exceptional; it was for him a fate that might befall any group once the Nazis had created the precedent of genocide. When he was still a doctoral student at Columbia he rejected Salo Baron’s offer to supervise his dissertation, arguing that “I was a student of public law and government, and I was going to ask a professor in that department to be my guide.” Hilberg, Politics of Memory, 61. He chose political scientist Franz Neumann, who had written in 1944 that “Not only Jews fall under the executioner’s ax but so do countless others of many races, nationalities, beliefs, and religions. Anti-Semitism is thus the spearhead of terror. The Jews are used as guinea pigs in testing the method of repression.” Neumann, Behemoth, 550– 51. 100. Robinson, “[Review],” 125. 101. Kubovy, “Medinah posha’at,” 7. 102. Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 127; Robinson, HaAkov leMishor, 137–38; Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 417. 103. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 70– 74; Barnouw, Visible Spaces, 38; Weissberg, “Hannah Arendt,” 26. 104. Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen, 82– 83. She completed the biography in 1938, but it was not published until twenty years later. 105. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 105–39 passim.



Notes to Chapter Three 106. Ibid., 168– 84. 107. Ibid., 186– 88. 108. Ibid., 189. 109. See her bibliography, ibid., 538–41. 110. Ibid., 204. In 1950 she published an article in Jewish Social Studies entitled “Social Science Techniques and the Study of Concentration Camps,” which set forth part of the project’s research design. 111. At most, critics could point out that she could not make use of sources in Yiddish and Hebrew. In the event, that argument played only a minor role in the case against her. Most charged instead that she depended excessively on Hilberg’s work, which was based entirely on German documentation. Robinson, HaAkov leMishor, 137; Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 127; Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 417; Simon, “Textual Examination,” 388. 112. In theory there was another possibility: to affirm Arendt’s works on Jewish history before Eichmann in Jerusalem while castigating her for departing from the conceptual framework developed in them in her writings on the Eichmann trial. The criticisms of Scholem, Simon, and Podhoretz contain hints of such an argument, although the bulk of their rebuttals dealt with Arendt’s assessment of Eichmann’s personal responsibility for his crimes, not with her comments about the Jewish leadership. On the whole, however, this possibility was not exploited. The reasons for this phenomenon are unclear. Perhaps the possibility was rejected because it invited the response that in Eichmann in Jerusalem Arendt had corrected what she now thought to be mistaken perceptions in her earlier work. Whatever the case, in the fi nal analysis critics preferred to argue that Arendt had been wrong about Jewish history from the outset. 113. Such was the case even beyond the academy. Kurt Blumenfeld, who heard from former German Zionist colleagues about Arendt’s articles on Eichmann as he lay on his deathbed, evidently pondered whether to issue a public statement attacking his former protegé, because in his autobiography he had mentioned their closeness with pride. Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 352–53. Cf. Blumenfeld, She’elat haYehudim, 30. 114. Scholem to Adolph S. Oko, 26 March 1944, Scholem, Life in Letters, 320. Arendt’s review in Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 96–105. 115. Podhoretz to Arendt, 8 September 1958, LC, HA, Correspondence File, General 1938–1976. 116. Correspondence between them, 1959, ibid. 117. Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 111; Eck, “Ma’amarei haSitnah,” 15. 118. Gutman, “Sin’ah atsmit,” 112; cf. Donat, “Empiric Examination,” 417. 119. Simon, “Textual Examination,” 391– 93. 120. Arendt, Origins, 3. 121. Ibid., 6.

Notes to Chapter Three 122. Ibid., 6– 7. 123. Ibid., 429. 124. Ibid., 9–10. 125. Arendt, Origins, 6. 126. Arendt, “Privileged Jews.” 127. Arendt, Origins, 120. 128. R. Bernstein, Hannah Arendt, 101– 22. 129. Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 139. 130. Arendt, Origins, 23– 25, 60– 64. 131. Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 167. 132. Arendt, Origins, 8. 133. Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 167. 134. Ibid., 96. 135. Arendt, Origins, 8. 136. Arendt stated that emancipation aroused “outright fear” among the Jewish elite, because it would ostensibly “liberate the educated Jews together with ‘backward’ Jewish people, and their equality would wipe out that precious distinction [between elite and masses] upon which . . . their social status was based.” Ibid., 59. 137. Ibid., 15. 138. Ibid., 17–18. 139. Ibid., 17. 140. Ibid., 24– 25. 141. Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 67– 90, 106– 21. 142. See, for example, the reviews by Hans Kohn (Saturday Review of Literature, 24 March 1951), E. H. Carr (New York Times, 25 March 1951), and August Heckscher (New York Herald Tribune Book Review, 8 April 1951). See also Roberts, “Recent Books,” 666. 143. “Zionism Reconsidered,” Menorah Journal, October 1946, 169– 92; “The Jewish State Fifty Years After,” Commentary, May 1948, 1– 8. Texts in Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 131– 63, 164– 67. 144. Eck, “Ma’amarei haSitnah,” 17. The quoted words are from Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 150. 145. Eck, “Ma’amarei haSitnah,” 18. 146. Schwartz, “Religion of Politics,” 144. 147. Ibid., 153. 148. The article originated in a seminar paper written for Hyman in 1978. E-mail communication from Sharon Muller, 21 June 2004. 149. Muller, “Origins,” 252. 150. Ibid., 250. 151. Paucker, Der jüdische Abwehrkampf, 15.



Notes to Chapter Three 152. From the orga nization’s first public declaration, May 1893, in Rieger, Ein Vierteljahrhundert, 20. 153. Paucker, Der jüdische Abwehrkampf, 145. 154. Ibid., 85–109. 155. Schorsch, Jewish Reactions, 205. 156. Schorsch, “My Mentors,” 23. 157. Schorsch, Jewish Reactions, 204– 205: “[O]ne must compare the rising militancy of German Jewry during the last two decades prior to the [First World W]ar to the unswerving course of inaction pursued by orga nized French Jewry in the face of the . . . Dreyfus Affair. French Jewry never made the same transition to self-defense. . . . [U]nlike its German counterpart, French Jewry could not bring itself to admit and combat the existence of an internal and indigenous anti-Semitic enemy.” Schorsch based his assessment largely upon a book by Michael Marrus written explicitly under the influence of Arendt’s views, which provided empirical support for them. Ibid., 268, n. 4. Cf. Marrus, Politics of Assimilation, 6. 158. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 129. One of the examples he offered of such “outmoded conceptualizations” was the book by Michael Marrus, whose fi ndings he had affirmed shortly before. See previous note. 159. Ibid., 122. 160. Ibid., 118. 161. Schorsch, “My Mentors,” 22. 162. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 119. Schorsch thus returned to Baron’s initial notion of the roots of lachrymosity, presented in 1928. Later Baron placed those roots considerably earlier. 163. Schorsch, “My Mentors,” 22. 164. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 118, 120– 21. 165. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 10–11; Biale, Power and Powerlessness, 5– 6 (cf. idem, “Modern Jewish Ideologies,” 12); Rackman, “Violence,” 119. 166. Baron, “Newer Emphases,” 240. 167. Cf. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 11. 168. Schorsch, From Text to Context, 122. 169. Arendt, Was ist Politik? 194. 170. Ibid., 9. See also Bernstein, Hannah Arendt, 82– 86. 171. Baron, “Introduction” (Violence and Defense), 4. See also Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt, 460, 467– 68. 172. Liberles, Salo Wittmayer Baron, 9–10. 173. Arendt, Jew as Pariah, 96. 174. Baron, “Newer Emphases,” 238–42. 175. Aschheim, “Introduction,” 1. 176. See, for example, her review of Robert Byrnes, Antisemitism in Modern France, which appeared in Commentary in February 1951.

Notes to Chapter Three 177. On Arendt’s changing standing in the American academy see YoungBruehl, Hannah Arendt, 404–10. 178. Gutman, “HaAm haYehudi.” 179. In this respect they differed from Zionist-oriented scholars of the Holocaust, who were especially keen to undermine Arendt by pointing out her many factual errors. The most notable example of this tendency was Robinson, HaAkov leMishor. 180. A facsimile of the dissertation, entitled “Die Entstehung der Judenassimilation in Deutschland und deren Ideologie,” can be found in J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation. See esp. 248, 263– 64. Before submitting the dissertation, which he had started before the Nazi accession to power, Katz added a preface stating the contemporary concerns that drove his research: “Die Untersuchung entsprang dem Bedürfnis, den Ursachen eines geschichtlichen Vorganges nachzugehen, dessen Wirkungen offenbar bis in die damalige Gegenwart reichten, und die der Verfasser von einem außerwissenschaftlichen Standpunkt aus verurteilte. Die geschichtliche Wendung von 1933 hat dann der wissenschaftlichen Fragestellung eine größere Bedeutung zukommen lassen; nicht nur, weil der Gegenstand einen ungeahnten Grad der Zeitmäßigkeit erlangte, sondern auch, weil sie den sichtbaren Abschluß der Epoche erbrachte, deren Anfänge untersucht werden sollten und so eine viel größere Schärfe der Fragestellung ermöglichte. Somit ist gleichzeitig gesagt, daß die Herausbreitung der Gedankengänge, die jenen geschichtlichen Vogang begleiteten und rechtfertigten . . . , ihre Anerkennung nicht einschließen kann. Die assimilationsfreundlichen Gedankengänge mußten freilich in diesem Zusammenhange in den Vordergrund gerückt werden, weil la ihr Ursprung und ihre Wirkung untersucht werden sollten. Eine Darstellung der Gedankengänge, die sich schon damals der Assimilation—freilich damals vergeblich—entgegenstellten, wäre eine lohnende wissenschaftliche Aufgabe, die innerhalb dieser Untersuchung nur gestreift, aber nicht gelöst werden konnte.” Ibid., [197]. Over a half century later Katz explained that he wrote those words at the behest of his supervisor, Georg Künzel, who had been an advocate of Jewish assimilation before the Nazi rise and feared adverse political implications were his signature to appear on a work that set forth arguments on its behalf (even if the author himself did not affi rm them). J. Katz, Bemo Einai, 84. 181. Quoted in Michman, “Noge’a / lo noge’a,” 11–12. Thanks to Prof. Michman for allowing me to consult this manuscript before publication. 182. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 183. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 91– 92. 184. For an alternate interpretation, see Michman, “Noge’a / lo noge’a,” 12. 185. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 91. 186. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 44.



Notes to Chapters Three and Four 187. At the time, Katz was popu lar in any case among historians of the Jews working in the United States, most likely thanks to his self-representation as a social historian and his well-known rivalries with the intellectual heirs of Baer and Dinur at the Hebrew University. See, for example, Hyman, “Ideological Transformation,” 146–47. His popularity waned in those circles during the 1980s and 1990s, when his devotion to the principles of social history came under question. See Endelman, “In Defense of Jewish Social History,” 55– 57; Hyman, “Jacob Katz as Social Historian,” 91– 95. Katz remained nevertheless a force in setting the historiographical agenda in those decades as well. See Cooperman, “Afterword.” 188. Cf. the comments of Trude Maurer at a 1999 conference at Yad Vashem: “Several years ago Jacob Katz attributed the considerable interest that scholars and the general public had displayed in the history of German Jewry to the tragic end of that community during the Holocaust. However, he also stressed . . . the historian’s duty not to examine the past ‘from the point of view of the future, which . . . cannot be foreseen. Even though interest in a subject can be generated by its fi nal act, a historical examination must proceed from earlier events.’ . . . Katz’s wisdom . . . should guide scholars who wish to make sense of [the modern history of German Jewry].” Maurer, “Lo ‘sho’atiyut’ velo ‘simbiyotikah,’ ” 107– 8. Her remarks were offered in the context of a lengthy protest against “the dominant influence of Nazi persecution and destruction upon the way the history of German Jewry is understood in general and upon the emphases with which it is studied.” Ibid., 90. Katz himself approached the question of separation in a far more complex manner. See below. 189. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 45. 190. Ibid., 44. 191. Paucker, Der jüdische Abwehrkampf, 147.

Chapter Four. “What Is More Central Than the Holocaust?” 1. J.Katz, Et lahakor, 117. 2. Raba, Bein zikaron leHachhashah, 193– 200, 259–312; Chazan, European Jewry, 192– 210. 3. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 92. 4. Commentary, October 1968, 94. 5. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 45. 6. Quoted in Richard Cohen, “How Central Was Antisemitism?” 128. 7. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 47. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., 50. 10. Ibid., 54. 11. Ibid., 55– 56.

Notes to Chapter Four 12. Ibid., 56. 13. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 45–46. 14. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 58. 15. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 46. 16. J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 318–19. Emphasis added. 17. Ibid., 325. 18. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 45. 19. G. Katz, “Kitvei Ya’akov Katz,” from no. 86. 20. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 179–82; J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 100. 21. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 69. 22. The opposition of par ticu lar social sectors was only one of the contributing factors Katz enumerated in his writings. In the fi nal analysis he appears to have concluded that “any cohesive ethnic or religious minority also tends toward a distinct economic function.” Ibid., 186. 23. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 82– 83. 24. J. Katz, “Shelav haHachanah,” 281– 88; J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 245– 59. 25. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 75. 26. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 129. 27. Katz, Et lahakor, 76. 28. Ibid., 70. 29. Ibid., 184. 30. Ibid., 75. 31. Ibid., 76. 32. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 213. 33. Like the historian Theodor Mommsen. See ibid.; also J. Katz, “Shelav haHachanah,” 287– 88. 34. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 204. 35. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 183. 36. Ibid., 184. 37. Ibid. 38. J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 279– 80. 39. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 182. 40. Ibid., 189. 41. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 205. 42. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 47. 43. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 76. 44. J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 135. 45. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 189– 90. 46. J. Katz, Bonim hofshiyim, 7: “After years of studying the history of traditional Jewish society and the attitude of Jews toward non-Jews during the middle



Notes to Chapter Four ages . . . , I have returned to the subject of my dissertation: the Jews’ entrance into modern European society.” He reported that this change came about after the director of the Leo Baeck Institute in Jerusalem, Solomon Adler-Rudel, offered to publish an expanded version of the dissertation under the institute’s auspices. J. Katz, Bemo Einai, 129–30. 47. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 234. 48. Ibid., 227. 49. Ibid., 228, 231. 50. Ibid., 231. 51. J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, 215. 52. Ibid., 221– 22. 53. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 201. 54. Ibid., 256. 55. Ibid., 272. 56. Ibid., 273. 57. Witness the concluding sentences of Tradition and Crisis (236): “Though at first they were no more than a tiny minority, the maskilim had the upper hand. At this decisive juncture, the god of history was on their side.” Not until Exclusiveness and Tolerance did he comment on the utopian nature of the assimilation program; yet even there (180– 81) he stressed its historic impact: “[Moses] Mendelssohn’s vision must be discarded as illusory. It was based on the philosophy of rationalism, which was itself the victim of a misconception of the nature both of religion and of human society. The actual course of events was very different from what the rationalists had envisaged. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn’s utopia, which was conceived at a time of great social change and inspired by pure, humanistic motives, was not entirely without influence. His vision served for generations to come as an ideal towards which to strive. . . . Mendelssohn’s noble dream thus fulfi lled a worthy function, and even our own disillusioned generation cannot . . . treat it with disdain.” 58. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 272. 59. J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, 222. 60. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 92. 61. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 213–14. 62. J. Katz, Bonim hofshiyim, 161– 62; J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 7– 9. 63. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 54. Cf. 231, n. 27. 64. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 190. 65. Ibid., 115. 66. Aleksiun, “Mehkarim historiyim,” 116– 23; Friedman, Roads to Extinction, 500–38; B. Cohen, HaMehkar haHistori, 93–181; Porat, MeEver laGashmi, 306– 28.

Notes to Chapter Four 67. See Michman, “Noge’a / lo noge’a,” 3, for a similar reading. 68. On the trial’s impact on the Israeli public, see Yablonka, Medinat yisra’el, 244–47; Zertal, HaUmah vehaMavet, 138–40. 69. J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 3. 70. Ibid., 15– 23. See also Berger, “Jews and Christians,” 42–44. Katz later reported that he was pressured not to release the book for fear that its presentation of Jewish intolerance would aid the Jews’ enemies. J. Katz, Bemo einai, 127. 71. J. Katz, Bemo einai, 127. 72. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, Preface. 73. Ibid., 203. 74. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 75. 75. J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 92. 76. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 190. 77. J. Katz, “Al Jabotinsky,” 108. 78. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 46. 79. J. Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction, 325. Cf. J. Katz, Out of the Ghetto, 219; J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 92. 80. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 45. 81. J. Katz, Et lahakor, 179, 190. 82. J. Katz, “World War I,” 12. 83. J. Katz, “Was the Holocaust Predictable?” 48. 84. Ibid. 85. J. Katz, “On Jewish Social History,” 93– 94. Cf. Richard Cohen, “How Central,” 125–31. 86. J. Katz, “World War I,” 12. 87. Above, Chapter Three, n. 188. 88. Endelman, “[Review],” 11. 89. Endelman, “Introduction,” 10. 90. Endelman, “[Review],” 11. 91. Endelman, “[Review],” 12. 92. Ibid. 93. Ibid. 94. Endelman, “Introduction,” 11. 95. Endelman later stressed this commitment in explicit opposition to Katz; Endelman, “In Defense,” 55– 58. 96. For a 1956 statement on this issue, see J. Katz, Emancipation and Assimilation, 177. 97. J. Katz, “Pir’ot Hep-Hep,” 65. 98. J. Katz, “On Jewish Social History,” 95. 99. J. Katz, “Misreadings,” 40. Emphasis in source.



Notes to Chapter Four 100. Ettinger, HaAntishemiyut, xvi. 101. Ibid., 3 102. Ibid., xiii. 103. Ibid., 6– 7. 104. Ibid., 29. 105. Ibid., 7, 84– 85. 106. Ibid., 9, 94– 95. 107. Ibid., 95. 108. Ettinger also found radical romanticist views of the Jews in France and accounted for their different degree of influence through differences in French and German political evolution. By contrast, he attributed the relative absence of such views in England to peculiarities in English intellectual history. In short, both intellectual and sociopolitical contexts figured in his work as shapers of attitudes toward Jews, although he tended to award primacy to the former. Ibid., 26– 27, 85– 86. 109. Tal, like Ettinger, began from the premise that ideas created “specifically in the area of German cultural influence” underwrote “the campaign to exterminate European Jewry.” Tal, “Antishemiyut anti-Notsrit,” 79. 110. Tal, Yahadut veNatsrut, 205– 6. 111. Ibid., 246, 248. 112. Both explicitly invoked the power of intellectual history. See ibid., xi, 5– 6. 113. Ettinger, HaAntishemiyut, 6. See also Ettinger, Historiyah veHistoriyonim, 258, 264; Kulka, “LeMashma’utah haHistorit,” 249. 114. Tal, Yahadut veNatsrut, 237– 38. Actually, Tal’s position was close to that of Katz; both emphasized that the Jews’ refusal to abandon all particularity invited complaints from all social sectors and political factions. The main difference between them was that Katz saw the source of complaint in the Jews’ own social behavior (over which they exercised control), whereas Tal placed it in the Jews’ very existence as a distinct social unit (which they could change only by collective denial of their identity). For Tal, unlike Katz, responsibility for social separation between Germans and Jews lay entirely on the German side, for no element of German society was prepared to abandon the traditional Christian view of Judaism as an unjustifiable anachronism. Tal, Religion, Politics, and Ideology, 182– 83. Tal did not see German society as “neutral” or even “semineutral” vis-à-vis Jews. 115. Two decades after publishing his review of From Prejudice to Destruction, Endelman declared that such a representation was mandated by the principles of social history: “Th[e] juxtaposition of intellectuals and old clothes men, of a Moses Mendelssohn and . . . a Frankfurt housewife, is not unproblematic. What justifies

Notes to Chapter Four equating . . . the experiences of the former with the latter? [I]f one assumes that Jews were not masters of their own fate, at least much of the time, and thus were forced to respond to conditions not of their own making, then the juxtapositions lose their imbalance, because all Jews—rich and poor, articulate and inarticulate, male and female—experienced the disruptions of modernity.” Endelman, “In Defense,” 57– 58. 116. J. Katz, “Misreadings,” 39. In his discussion of the “ideological” approach (42) he also obliquely criticized Ettinger. 117. Ibid. 118. Ibid., 43–44. 119. See the exchange of letters in Commentary 76 (1983):30, 32–34; Endelman, “Comparative Perspectives,” 111–12; J. Katz, Et lahakor, 189– 90. 120. Ettinger, Historiyah veHistoriyonim, 44–45. 121. Ettinger, HaAntishemiyut, xii. 122. Ibid., 191. 123. Ibid., ix. 124. Tal, Yahadut veNatsrut, 11. 125. Tal, Mitos uTevunah, 169, vii. 126. Tal, Yahadut veNatsrut, 4. 127. Tal, Mitos uTevunah, 96. 128. Porat, “HaHistoriyon veHeker haAntishemiyut,” 18. 129. Tal, “Violence and the Jew,” 216. 130. Tal, Yahadut veNatsrut, 237. 131. For more on Tal’s approach to Holocaust studies, see Gutman, “Uriel Tal,” xii. 132. Almog, “Shelihuto shel historiyon,” 35–36. 133. Ettinger, HaAntishemiyut, xviii. 134. Before the war the study of antisemitism tended to interpret hostility toward Jews as a manifestation of some more general phenomenon, such as xenophobia, religious fanaticism, chauvinistic nationalism, racism, or economic competition, distinguished from other manifestations of the same phenomenon only by the fact that Jews were its objects. See, for example, P. Bernstein, HaAntishemiyut, 31–32; Zollschan, Das Rassenproblem, v–vii; Valentin, Antisemitism, 9–19; R. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Judenhaß, 26–44; G. Coudenhove-Kalergi, Wesen des Antisemitismus, 149. 135. Trachtenberg, Devil and the Jews, viii–ix. 136. Ibid., 5. 137. Sterling, Judenhaß, 11, 170. Emphasis in source. 138. Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, xii, 25. 139. Ibid., 26.



Notes to Chapter Four 140. Langmuir, Toward a Definition, 5, 341. 141. Langmuir, History, 297. Elsewhere (275– 76) Langmuir distinguished between “antisemitism,” which attributed to Jews negative characteristics never observed in any of them, and “anti-Judaism,” which attributed to all Jews negative characteristics actually observed in only some of their number. See also Langmuir, Toward a Definition, 5– 6, 57– 62, 328–42. 142. Schäfer, Judeophobia, 203. 143. Ibid., 197– 98. 144. Engel, “Concept of Antisemitism.” 145. Of the scholars mentioned above who developed this analytical direction, none was an academic historian of the Jews. Trachtenberg came to the subject out of public concerns, Sterling from the social sciences, Cohen from English history, Langmuir from the history of medieval France, and Schäfer from Jewish thought and religion. Historians of the Jews who have written about antisemitism as a continuous phenomenon and conceived it in relation to the Holocaust include David Berger, Robert Chazan, Jeremy Cohen, and Ben Zion Netanyahu (all medievalists), along with Louis Feldman and Menachem Stern (both specialists in antiquity). Other than Tal, Ettinger’s most obvious successor among historians of modern Jewry appears to be Shmuel Almog. Ettinger has also notably influenced Holocaust historians Israel Gutman and Otto Dov Kulka. 146. Cf. the extensive bibliography in Pulzer, “Third Thoughts,” 169– 78. See also three recent volumes on antisemitism in Germany, Poland, and France, in which historians of the Jews account for only some 20 percent of contributors: Borut and Heilbronner, HaAntishemiyut haGermanit; Blobaum, Antisemitism and Its Opponents; Zinguer and Bloom, L’Antisémitisme Éclairé. 147. Volkov, BaMa’agal haMechushaf, 77. Cf. idem, “Kontinuität und Diskontinuität,” 221. 148. Volkov named J. L. Talmon, George Mosse, and even Hannah Arendt as historians of Europe or Germany who share this approach. Ibid., 79– 80. Inclusion of the last of the three seems dubious in light of her rejection of the notion of “eternal antisemitism.” 149. Volkov’s remarks applied to all who posited distant origins for Nazi attitudes toward Jews; it did not matter how far back in time those origins were said to reach. Ibid., 89– 90. 150. Ibid., 89. 151. Ibid., 149. 152. Cf. the subtitle of Mosse, Crisis. 153. Cf. Burleigh and Wippermann, Racial State. 154. Evans, Coming of the Third Reich, xxi. 155. Noakes, “Hitler and the Third Reich,” 31.

Notes to Chapter Four 156. Cf. Mosse, Crisis. 157. Kocka, “German History”; Kershaw, Nazi Dictatorship, 20–46. 158. Blackbourn and Eley, “Forum,” 233. 159. Peukert, Weimar Republic, 245. 160. S. Katz, “Radical Historical Discontinuity,” 54; Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 27– 28; Browning, Origins, 6; Burrin, Hitler, 27– 28. 161. Volkov, BaMa’agal haMechushaf, 90, 149, 91. 162. Eley, “What Are the Contexts?” 100; Heilbronner, “German or Nazi Antisemitism?” 9–11. 163. Friedländer, Nazi Germany, 86–104; Volkov, BaMa’agal haMechushaf, 116– 21, 140; S. Katz, Holocaust, 6–11; Goodrick- Clarke, Occult Roots, es196– 204; zur Mühlen, Rassenideologien, 234–43; Peukert, “Genesis of the ‘Final Solution,’ ” 236. 164. Peukert, Weimar Republic, 14–18, 89– 95; Loewenberg, Decoding the Past, 240– 83; Heilbronner, “MiPeriferiyot antishemiyot,” 80– 82; Herbert, “Mediniyut haHashmadah,” 38–41. 165. Books with an approach similar to Goldhagen’s, including Rose, German Question, and Weiss, Ideology of Death, were likewise largely dismissed for the same reason. See Bartov, Germany’s War, 122– 91; Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 93– 111; Eley, “What Are the Contexts?” 101–106; Eley, “Goldhagen Effect”; Littell, Hyping the Holocaust. 166. Ettinger, HaAntishemiyut, 1. 167. A minority, among whom Israel Gutman is the most prominent, continues to affirm it. See Gutman, “LeOfyah shel sin’at-yehudim.” 168. Engel, “Concept of Antisemitism.” 169. Funkenstein, “Theological Interpretations,” 288. 170. Cf. the comment of Dan Michman: “In all broad general surveys of modern Jewish history . . . the Holocaust is understood as the culmination of the phenomenon of ‘antisemitism.’ . . . Other conjunctural possibilities that have been raised by students of Nazism . . . —structuralism, modernity, modern bureaucracy, etc.—have not found their way into this category of historical writing.” Michman, “Shiluv haSho’ah,” 64– 65. 171. Yom iyun, 6. 172. Bauer, Jewish Emergence, 61, 77. 173. Ibid., 41–42. 174. Ibid., 46. 175. Ibid. 176. Ibid., 77– 78. 177. Ibid., 41. 178. Ibid. 179. Bauer, “Jewish Leadership Reactions,” 189. 180. Bauer, Jewish Emergence, 7–40.



Notes to Chapter Four 181. Bauer, “Jewish Leadership Reactions,” 189. 182. Bauer, American Jewry, 21. 183. Ibid., 30. 184. Bauer, My Brother’s Keeper, ix. 185. Bauer, Jewish Emergence, 41– 78. 186. Bauer, American Jewry, 455. 187. Bauer, Jews for Sale. For Bauer’s updated thoughts on this problem, see Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 213–41. 188. Bauer, Jews for Sale, 2. 189. Bauer, HaSho’ah, 7– 8. 190. Michman, Holocaust Historiography, 59. 191. Ibid., 59. 192. Ibid., 59, 61. 193. Ibid., 62. 194. Ibid., 65. 195. Ibid., 66– 67. 196. Ibid., 67. 197. Ibid., 73. 198. Ibid. 199. On these similarities see Fein, Accounting for Genocide, 31–43. 200. Michman, Holocaust Historiography, 73. For additional details, see Michman, “HaSho’ah,” 32–33. 201. Ibid., 78. Emphasis in source. 202. Ibid. 203. Redlich, Together and Apart. 204. “[A]midah . . . includes smuggling food into ghettos; mutual self-sacrifice within the family to avoid starvation . . . ; cultural, educational, religious, and political activities taken to strengthen morale; the work of doctors, nurses, and educators to . . . maintain health and moral fiber . . . ; and . . . armed rebellion.” Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 120. 205. Ibid., 163. 206. Bauer, “Buczacz veKrzemieniec”; Bauer, “Baranowicze haYehudit”; Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 149– 62. 207. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, 163– 64. 208. Bauer, “Teguvoteihem shel kibutsim yehudiyim,” 110–11. 209. Ibid., 109. 210. Ibid., 109, 128. 211. Ibid., 109.

Notes to Final Word

Final Word 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Yerushalmi, Zakhor, 97, 98. Ibid., 99. Ibid., 98. Ibid., 59. Ibid., 100.



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Adler-Rudel, Solomon, 274n46 Adorno, Theodor, 10 Alexandria, 95 Alliance Israélite Universelle, 40, 186 Almog, Shmuel, 278n145 American Academy for Jewish Research, 69, 70 American Historical Association, 249n174 American Jewish Congress, 62, 214 American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), 216–17, 218 Amidah (type of behavior), 223, 280n104 Anachronism, in modern historiography, 29, 34–35, 41 Ankersmit, Frank, 13–14 Antisemitism, antisemitic movement, 46, 50, 89; Ettinger on, 197–99, 200, 202–6; Katz on, 183, 184, 187–88, 200–202; Langmuir on, 206–7, 278n141; postHolocaust trends in study of, 206–12; prewar trends in study of, 277n134; Tal on, 199–200, 203–4, 205 Arendt, Hannah, 145–78, 181, 193, 201, 263n29, 278n148; and Baron, 160, 171–73; on behavior of Holocaust victims, 147–48, 150–52, 163–64; Bettelheim and Hilberg, 150, 159, 163; comparisons: Bauer, 217–18; criticism of, 149–53, 157–59, 162, 166–68, 175, 177–78; Dinur, 265n68; early career in Germany, 159–60; Eichmann in Jerusalem, 145, 147, 149, 150, 159, 161, 166, 167, 172, 174, 176, 177; on Eichmann trial, 149, 155–57; on essence

of Holocaust, 157; on exile, 164; Human Condition, 161, 167; idiosyncratic understanding of “politics,” 172; interpretation of modern Jewish history, 162–66; Jewish communal work in United States, 160–61; Jewish public campaign against, 148–49; Origins of Totalitarianism, 145, 161, 162, 164–66, 169, 170; proposes study of concentration camps, 160–61; and Scholem, 152, 161, 173; works: Between Past and Future, 167; and Zionism, 160, 164, 166–67 Assimilation, Katz on, 189–91 Association for Jewish Studies, 239n92 Association for Jewish Studies Review, 238n91 Association of German and Austrian Jews in Israel, 148 Auerbach, Rachel, 127–28, 260n144 Austria, 220 Baeck, Leo, 269n73 Baer, Yitzhak, 85, 95, 131, 249n161; on Baron, 103; compared with Dinur, 102–5, 109; conception of time, 86–87; Galut, 100–103, 109, 255n77; and Holocaust, 99–103; on middle ages, 103–4, 109; on motive forces in Jewish history, 97, 101, 102; on tasks of Zionist historiography, 87, 90, 95–96, 102 Bałaban, Majer, 249n161 Baltic States, 220 Bar Kochba rebellion, 105


Index Baron, Salo, 43–71, 73, 171, 174, 175, 178; active in American Jewish Congress, 62; and Arendt, 160, 171–73; Baer on, 103; challenges prevailing interpretations of French Revolution, 55; education of, 249n159; “Effect of the War on Jewish Communal Life,” 49; on emancipation, 55–56; on events of 1930s, 46–48; “Ghetto and Emancipation,” 55–57, 58, 60, 62; and Hilberg, 267n99; and Holocaust, 49, 64–70, 83; interpretations of, 82–83; invoked to justify sequestration of Holocaust from Jewish history, 42–44; on Islamic period, 60; joins Columbia faculty, 62–63; on “lachrymose conception of Jewish history,” 44–45, 49–50, 51, 55, 58–59, 63–64, 83; on middle ages, 57, 60, 66–67; and “new history,” 63–64; and “normalization of Jewish history,” 65, 74; on Reform Judaism, 56, 57–58; on social and religious elements in Jewish history, 46, 83; Social and Religious History of the Jews (1937), 43–44, 46, 57–61, 63, 64; Social and Religious History of the Jews (1952–1983), 43–44, 49; supports international protection for minorities, 57, 60, 61; testifies at Eichmann trial, 49–50; works: doctoral dissertation, 248n150; on Zionism, 56–57; and Zionist historiography, 83 Bauer, Yehuda, 27–28, 213–19, 220, 221–25; on American Jewry, 217; comparisons with other historians, 215–18; on “Jewish emergence from powerlessness,” 213–15; “Responses of Jewish Communities to Nazi Policy during the Holocaust,” 223–25; on shtetl Jews, 222–23; studies efforts to ransom Jews during Holocaust, 218–19; “Zionism, the Holocaust, and the Road to Israel,” 218. See also American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Bauman, Zygmunt, 12, 13 Belgium, 221 Ben Gurion, David, 105 Ben Zvi, Yitzhak, 105 Berdiczewski, M. J., 104

Berger, David, 278n145 Berkovits, Eliezer, 5, 6 Berr, Berr Isaac, 52, 53 Bettelheim, Bruno, 144–47, 148, 149, 150, 151, 158, 159, 161, 193, 201; compared with Bauer, 217–18 Between Past and Future. See Arendt, Hannah Birnbaum, Pierre, 29–30, 35, 40–41 Bitburg cemetery, 236n65 Bloch, Marc, 37–38 Blumenfeld, Kurt, 160, 268n144 Blumenthal, Nachman, 259n144 Borzykowski, Tuvia, 152 Braun, Robert, 236n65 Brenner, Michael, 31–32 Brenner, Y. H., 105 Brze˙zany, 222 Buchenwald, 145 Bulgaria, 220 Byrnes, Robert, 72 Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, 27, 34 Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation (Centre de documentation juive contemporaine), 151 Central Jewish Historical Commission (Poland), 68, 126, 127, 260n153 Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens, 169 Chazan, Robert, 278n145 Chirac, Jacques, 40 Christianity, 47; Ettinger on, 198; Katz on, 182–87, 190–93 Civil religion, 234n16 Claudius, 95 Cohen, Arthur, 5 Cohen, Jeremy, 278n145 Cohn, Norman, 206, 278n145 Cold War, 64 Columbia University, 62, 68, 134; “new history” at, 63–64; Press, 135 Commentary ( journal), 73, 143, 149, 160, 161 Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, 25, 68, 160

Index Conference on Jewish Relations, 68, 160 Conservative Judaism, 23 Cossack uprising (1648–49), 180 Council of Jews from Germany, 148 Crusades, 45, 180 Czech lands, Jews in, 30, 34 da Modena, Leone, 52–53 Dachau, 145 “Death of God” debate, 235n36 Deists, English, 198 Denmark, 220 Destruction of the European Jews (Hilberg), 134–38; in Commentary, 143–44; by Esh, 139–41; by Melkman, 138–39; reviews and responses: by Yad Vashem, 135; by Trevor-Roper, 141–43 Determinism, in modern historiography, 29, 34–35, 41 di Rossi, Azariah, 229 Dialectics, in Zionist historiography, 96–97, 101, 113 Diaspora Museum, 204–5 Diaspora Research Center, 30 Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion, 85, 99, 132, 137, 140, 158, 253n236, 261n161; Baer, 102–5, 109; Bauer, 218; comparisons: Arendt, 265n68; concept of heroism, 121–22; conception of time, 86–87; directs Yad Vashem, 124–32; on enlightenment and emancipation, 114; Ettinger on, 198; on exile, 92–94, 95, 115, 119; “Exilic Communities and their Destruction,” 92–95, 97, 104, 107, 108, 109, 118, 123; and Holocaust, 88–90, 91, 94–95, 97–98, 104, 108–10, 111, 113, 118–20, 121–31, 257–58n115; on Jewish councils ( Judenräte), 151; on limits of Jewish history, 116–18; on Messianism, 111–12, 115; on middle ages, 106–7, 108, 110; “ ‘Modern Period’ in Jewish History,” 111, 114–18; on modernity and modern period, 108–10, 111–19; on motive forces in Jewish history, 95–97, 113; and negation of diaspora, 105–7, 121; and “new Jew,” 114; notion of

dialectic in, 96, 97, 107, 113; “Our Fate and Our Struggle at the Present Time,” 108–9; on Palestinian Jewry, 115–16; proposes conference on Holocaust and Jewish studies, 110–11; retreats from “Exilic Communities and their Destruction,” 107–8; Sefer haTsiyonut, 111–13, 115; as socialist Zionist, 120; on State of Israel, 118, 119, 120–21; on tasks of Zionist historiography, 90–91, 95–96, 105–6; works: “Basic Issues in Contemporary Jewish Historical Research,” 130–31; Yisra’el baGolah (1926), 96, 113, 119; Yisra’el baGolah (1958), 119–20, 258n115 Displaced Persons camps, 127 Dössecker, Bruno. See Wilkomirski, Binjamin Dreyfus Affair, 29, 35, 50, 160 Dubnow, Simon, 43, 54, 55, 114, 127, 254n36, 258n128 Eck, Nathan, 128, 148, 166–67, 168, 259–60n144 “Effect of the War on Jewish Communal Life.” See Baron, Salo Eichmann in Jerusalem. See Arendt, Hannah Eichmann trial, 134, 145, 149, 154, 175, 188, 192, 193, 206, 236n65, 263n25; Arendt’s criticism of, 155–75; Baron testifies at, 49–50; Hausner’s strategy for, 155 Emancipation, 31, 35, 37; Baron on, 55–56; Dinur on, 114; in France, 51–52; Jewish historiography, 36; Katz on, 184–87, 190, 193; in modern and understandings of exile, 53; Yahil on, 20 Endelman, Todd, 74–75, 200, 208, 212, 276n115; criticizes Katz, 195–97 Enlightenment, 174; Dinur on, 114; historians of the Jews and, 79–82; Katz on, 183–85, 187, 189 Esh, Shaul, 132–33, 137, 139–41, 143, 147, 148, 260n147 Et lahakor veEt lehitbonen. See Katz, Jacob



Index Ettinger, Shmuel, 197–99, 211, 212, 240n94; on antisemitism, 197–99, 200, 202–6, 207; on Baer, 99; compared with Bauer, 215; compared with Katz, 197–98, 200; on Nazism, 198–99 European Judaism, 238n91 Exclusiveness and Tolerance. See Katz, Jacob Exile (Jewish), 51–54; Baer on, 100–103; Dinur on, 92–94, 95, 97, 115, 119–20, 121; Greenberg on, 7; Jewish historians and, 55; postrevolutionary understandings of, 52–55; Reform and Zionist notions of, 56, 57; Scholem on, 3; traditional interpretations of, 5, 51–53 “Exilic Communities and their Destruction” (Galuyot veHurbanan). See Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion Fackenheim, Emil, 5, 6; “614th commandment,” 234n33 Feldman, Louis, 278n145 First World War, 50, 57, 60, 89, 216 Fortunoff Video Archive (Yale University), 16 France, Jews in, 29, 31, 34–35, 38–41, 52 French Enlightenment and the Jews, The, 70–73, 77–79, 81, 181; influence, 73, 79, 82; reviews and criticism, 71–73, 77–78, 82. See also Hertzberg, Arthur French National Assembly, 51 French Revolution, 45, 174, 183; as turning point in Jewish history, 54 Friedländer, Saul, 237n72 Friedman, Philip, 68–70, 132, 250–51n187; on Jewish councils ( Judenräte), 151–52 From Prejudice to Destruction. See Katz, Jacob Funkenstein, Amos, 211–12, 242n31 Galicia, 222, 223 Galut. See Baer, Yitzhak Galuyot veHurbanan (“Exilic Communities and their Destruction”). See Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion Gartner, Lloyd, 239n94 “German-Jewish Utopia of Social Emancipation.” See Katz, Jacob

German Studies Association, 239n92 Germany: Jews in, 30, 31, 32, 220; Weimar Republic, 168, 169, 176, 210 Ghetto: as symbol of autonomy, 109; Baron on origins of, 55; in Venice, 52–53 “Ghetto and Emancipation.” See Baron, Salo Golah veNechar, 87. See also Kaufmann, Yehezkel Goldhagen, Daniel, 211 Goodman, Saul, 143 Graetz, Heinrich, 43, 54, 55, 64, 114 Greenberg, Irving, 5, 7, 8 Gruenbaum, Yitzhak, 126, 254–55n55 Gruenwald, Max, 144, 148 Gurs, 146, 160 Gutman, Israel, 153, 175, 278n145, 279n167 Hacohen, Joseph, 44, 229 Haifa University, 40 Halpern, Israel, 260n147 Handlin, Oscar, 263n29 Hartman, Geoffrey, 15, 16 Harvest of Hate, 151. See also Poliakov, Léon Hasmonean era, 45 Hausner, Gideon, 147, 149, 154–55, 157, 262n10 Hayes, Carlton, 63 Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 40, 103, 110, 126, 127, 129–33, 249n161; Department of Jewish History, 129, 132, 220; forms joint institute with Yad Vashem, 132; Institute for Contemporary Jewry, 132; Institute of Jewish Studies, 86, 110, 130; School of Education, 153; study of Holocaust at, 130–32 Hegel, G. F. W., 167, 168 Hellenistic period, 95 Hertzberg, Arthur, 70–72, 174, 181, 207, 212; on origins of Holocaust, 70, 77, 79; relation to Baron, 71, 82, 83; and social history, 77, 83; Zionist perspective of, 82. See also French Enlightenment and the Jews Hibbat Zion, 112 Hilberg, Raul, 134–38, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 158, 159, 161, 163, 193, 201; and Baron, 267n99; compared with Bauer,

Index 217–18; and Zionism, 262n10. See also Destruction of the European Jews Historical Society of Israel, 126 Historikerstreit, 236n65 Hitler’s Willing Executioners. See Goldhagen, Daniel Holocaust: and historians of Europe, 38, 42, 210–11; Baron on, 64–70; bracketing from Jewish history justified, 29–33, 41, 44; Dinur on, 88–90, 91, 94–95; Hertzberg’s view of origins, 70, 77, 79; in Jewish studies programs, 34; in Jewish theology, 5–8; Katz on, 178, 188–95; and modern Jewish identity, 24; in popular Jewish consciousness, 4–5, 8–9; and postmodernism, 11–17; Scholem on, 2–4; and State of Israel, 213; in Western humanist discourse, 10–11, 17; in Zionist historiography, 98–99. See also under names of specific historians Holocaust and Heroism Commemoration Law, 124 Holocaust studies, 23; and Jewish historiography, 18–20, 23; after Second World War, 69 Holocaust testimonies, 236–37n66; difficulties for historians in, 14–15; as reflections of historical reality, 15–17 Huizinga, Johan, 242n32 Human Condition. See Arendt, Hannah Hundert, Gershon, 30 Hyman, Paula, 22–23, 26–27, 29, 74–76, 252n236; on Baron, 42–43; criticizes Hertzberg, 77; and Jewish Museum, 26 ibn Verga, Solomon, 228 Informed Heart, 145. See also Bettelheim, Bruno Intermarriage, 187 Islam, 46; Baron on, 60 Israel, State of: Dinur on, 118, 119, 120–21; French Embassy in, 40; Holocaust and, 213; in Jewish theology, 9; and modern Jewish identity, 24; 1973 war, 8–9; 1967 war, 8–9; Proclamation of Independence, 88

Jerusalem school, 86, 99. See also Zionism Jewish councils ( Judenräte), 151–52 Jewish Frontier, 160 Jewish History, 238n91 Jewish Institute of Religion, 61, 62 Jewish Museum (New York), 23–26 Jewish Social Studies, 68, 160, 168, 172, 238n91 Jewish studies: integration into North American academy, 64–65, 73–74, 80; relation to humanities, 9, 17; Scholem on, 1–2, 18. See also Holocaust Studies Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 23, 31, 153 Jews and Freemasons in Europe. See Katz, Jacob Jost, Isaac Markus, 43, 54 Judaism, 139 Judenräte. See Jewish Councils Judeo-German, 190 Katz, Jacob, 175–78, 179, 181–98, 207, 212, 252–53n236; on antisemitism, 183, 184, 187–88, 197, 200–202; on Arendt, 177–78; on assimilation, 189–91; on Christian attitudes toward Jews, 182–87, 190–93; comparisons: Bauer, 215; debate with Endelman, 195–97, 200–201; defines Holocaust as historical novum, 178; on effects of assimilation among German Jews, 176; on Emancipation, 184–87, 190, 193; on Enlightenment, 183–85, 187, 189; Et lahakor veEt lehitbonen, 183; Ettinger, 197–98, 200; Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 188, 190, 192; From Prejudice to Destruction, 183, 190, 195; “German-Jewish Utopia of Social Emancipation,” 176–77; on Hertzberg, 73, 77–78; on intermarriage, 187; Jews and Freemasons in Europe, 183, 190; on maskilim, 189; on middle ages, 184; on nationalism, 85; on “neutral society,” 188–91; Out of the Ghetto, 183, 190, 192–93; reception in United States, 272n187; searches for roots of Holocaust, 188–95; Tal, 276n114; Tradition and Crisis, 188, 190; works: doctoral dissertation, 188, 189, 190, 279n81



Index Katznelson, Ira, 29–30, 35 Kaufmann, Yehezkel, 85; on tasks of Zionist historiography, 87 Kellner, Hans, 236n65 Kermisz, Józef, 259n144 Kieval, Hillel, 30, 33–34 Kishinev pogrom, 89 Knesset ( journal), 91, 95, 97, 102, 104, 107, 108, 109, 118, 123 Kochan, Lionel, 33 Kohn, Hans, 144 Kovner, Abba, 213 Kren, George, 11 Kristallnacht, 66 Kubovy, Aryeh, 158 Kulka, Otto Dov, 278n145 “Lachrymose conception of Jewish history,” 44–45; Baer on, 103; Baron’s critique of, 55–64, 82–83; divergent understandings of, 51, 82–83; Holocaust and, 49–50; rejection of as basis for historiographical platform, 45–46; Schorsch on, 50–51, 171. See also Baron, Salo Langmuir, Gavin, 206–7, 212, 278n145 Lazare, Bernard, 160 League of Nations, 60, 61 Leo Baeck Institute, 144, 161, 168, 170, 274n46 Lithuania, 223 Logocentrism, 12 Löwenthal, Ernst, 30, 34 Luzzatto, Samuel David, 54 Lyotard, Jean-François, 10 Macedonia, 220 Maharal. See Rabbi Judah Loeb of Prague Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. See Scholem, Gershom Marx, Karl, 167, 168 Maskilim, 189. See also Enlightenment Maurer, Trude, 272n188 Maybaum, Ignaz, 5 Mazar, Benjamin, 129

Melkman, Jozeph, 135, 137, 138–39, 141, 143, 147, 148, 260n147 Menorah Journal, 56, 160 Messiah and Messianism, 51, 53; Dinur on, 111–12, 115 Michael, 30 Michman, Dan, 22, 219–22, 223 Middle ages, in Jewish history, 45; Baer on, 103–4; Baron on, 57, 60, 66–67; Dinur on, 106–7; Katz on, 184, 193 Midstream, 144, 145, 146 Minorities, international protection of, 57, 60, 61 Mitoch hirhurim al mada’ei haYahadut. See Scholem, Gershom Modern Judaism, 239n91 “ ‘Modern Period’ in Jewish History.” See Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion Modernity: Baron on, 66–67; Dinur on, 108–9; Hertzberg on, 70–71; relation to Holocaust, 10–13, 71–72 Moore, Deborah Dash, 80 Moses, Siegfried, 148, 161 Mosse, George, 278n148 Muller, Sharon, 168 Musmanno, Michael, 149–50 Myers, David, 237–38n73 Nationalism, Katz on, 185 Nazism: Baron on, 47–48; Ettinger on, 198–99, 203; in post-1980s historiography, 210–11; Tal on, 203–4; Volkov on, 209 Negation of diaspora, 104–5; Dinur on, 105–7, 121; liberal historians oppose, 82 Netanyahu, Ben Zion, 278n145 Netherlands, 221 Neumann, Franz, 267n99 “Neutral society,” 188–91 “New Cultural History,” 79 “New history,” 63, 64 New Yorker, 145, 148 Nuremberg laws, 32, 46 Nuremberg trials, 149

Index “On the History of the Political Judgment of the Jew,” 170. See also Schorsch, Ismar Origins of Totalitarianism. See Arendt, Hannah Ostjuden, 220 Out of the Ghetto. See Katz, Jacob Oyneg Shabbes, 126, 127, 260n144 Pale of Settlement, 89 Paucker, Arnold, 168–69, 178 Pinkas haKehilot (Registry of Jewish Communities), 125, 127, 256n89, 259n139 Podhoretz, Norman, 149, 161 Pogroms, 25, 89 Poland, 25, 30, 220, 223, 240n98 Poliakov, Léon, 151 Postmodernism, and historians of the Jews, 79–82 Postmodernism: and Arendt, 173–74; and historiography, 13–15; and Holocaust, 11–17, 173 Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 212 Rabbi Judah Loeb of Prague (Maharal), 101 Rabbi Judah the Pious, 115 Rabbi Yose ben Haninah, 104 Rappoport, Leon, 11 Redlich, Shimon, 222, 223 Reform Judaism, 56–58 Registry of Jewish Communities. See Pinkas haKehilot “Responses of Jewish Communities to Nazi Policy during the Holocaust.” See Bauer, Yehuda Revue des Études Juives, 238n91 Ringelblum, Emmanuel, 126, 258n128. See also Oyneg Shabbes Robinson, Jacob, 158, 263n29 Roman Empire, 95, 182 Romania, 25, 62, 240n98 Romantics, German, 198 Rosenberg, Alan, 10 Rousset, David, 148 Rubenstein, Richard, 5 Russia, 89

Schäfer, Peter, 207, 212, 278n145 Schama, Simon, 72 Schechter, Ronald, 38–40, 81 Schocken Books, 160 Scholem, Gershom, 1–4, 5, 8, 9, 18, 21, 27, 28, 84, 85, 131, 160, 228, 229, 253n236, 261n161; on Arendt, 152, 161; Arendt on, 173; and Holocaust, 2–4, 9; notion of dialectic in, 96; “Science of Judaism— Then and Now,” 2; on Spanish expulsion, 2–3, 8, 9, 233n10; on tasks of Zionist historiography, 86; “Thinking about Jewish Studies” (Mitoch hirhurim al mada’ei haYahadut), 1–2; “Wissenschaft des Judentums and Jewish Studies,” 18; works: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 160, 161 Schorsch, Ismar, 31, 33, 168, 172, 245n67, 252n236; on Arendt, 169–71; on Baron, 43, 50, 171; on Jewish political behavior, 169–71; on “lachrymose conception of Jewish history,” 50–51, 171 Schwartz, Benjamin, 167–68 “Science of Judaism—Then and Now.” See Scholem, Gershom Second Temple, 103 Sefardic and Middle Eastern Jews, 37 Sefer haTsiyonut. See Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion Shabbetai Zvi, 112 Shapira, Anita, 32 Shapiro, Leon, 143 Shotwell, James, 63 Shtetl, 222 Simon, Ernst, 153 Social history: Hertzberg’s departure from, 77, 83; and historians of the Jews, 74–76 Social and Religious History of the Jews. See Baron, Salo Spain, expulsion of Jews from (1492), 2–3, 8, 9, 44, 228, 233n10 Stanislawski, Michael, 245n60 Steg, Ady, 40 Steiner, George, 10 Sterling, Eleonore, 206, 278n145



Index Stern, Menachem, 278n145 Sulamith, 53 Tal, Uriel, 197, 199–205, 212; compared with Bauer, 215; compared with Katz, 276n114 Talmon, J. L., 278n148 Tel Aviv University, 30, 204 Terezin (Theresienstadt), 25 “Thinking about Jewish Studies” (Mitoch hirhurim al mada’ei haYahadut). See Scholem, Gershom Thrace, 220 Totality (totalité ), 13 Trachtenberg, Joshua, 206, 278n145 Tradition and Crisis. See Katz, Jacob Trevor-Roper, Hugh, 141–43, 145 Trunk, Isaiah, 143 Ukraine, 89 Ultraorthodox Jews, 36–37 Umeå (Sweden), University of, 32 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 27 Usque, Samuel, 44, 228 Varnhagen, Rahel, 160 Venice, 52–53 Versailles, Treaty of, 25 Vidal Sasson Center for the Study of Antisemitism, 40 Volhynia, 223 Volkov, Shulamit, 208–9 Warrant for Genocide, 206. See also Cohn, Norman Warsaw ghetto uprising, 152 Warsaw University, 249n161 Watson, James, 10 Weimar Republic. See Germany Weinryb, Bernard Dov, 143 Westjuden, 220

Westphalia, Jewish Consistory of, 53 White, Hayden, 14 Wilkomirski, Binjamin, 237n67 Wise, Stephen S., 61–62, 249n159 Wisse, Ruth, 33 Wissenschaft des Judentums, 45 “Wissenschaft des Judentums and Jewish Studies.” See Scholem, Gershom Women: Baron on, 48; in Jewish historiography, 37; World Congress of Jewish Studies, 110–11 Yad Vashem, 22, 124–29, 135–38, 151, 153, 158, 192, 194, 224, 259n144; forms joint institute with Hebrew University, 132; opposition to Dinur’s leadership of, 126–29; rejects Hilberg’s manuscript, 135–37 Yad Vashem Bulletin, 151, 166 Yahil, Leni, 19–22, 28 Yardeni, Miriam, 77 Yerushalmi, Yosef Haim, 227–29 Yisra’el baGolah. See Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 158 Young Hegelians, 198 Young, James, 15 Zeitlin, Aharon, 153 Zemon-Davis, Natalie, 243n41 Zion ( journal), 86, 111, 238n91 Zionism, 56–57, 58; and Holocaust, 83–84, 88–90, 98–99; and Jewish historiography, 75–76, 82, 85–87, 130, 205. See also Baer, Yitzhak; Dinur (Dinaburg), Ben Zion; Kaufmann, Yehezkel; Scholem, Gershom “Zionism, the Holocaust, and the Road to Israel.” See Bauer, Yehuda Zionist Federation of Germany, 160 Zionist Organization, 112 Zipperstein, Steven, 22, 27, 80