World War One – Crossroads in the History of European Jewry
The article concisely and clearly traces the overall picture of the Jews’ status in Europe on the eve of World War I, the traumatic events that they experienced during that war, and the new and turbulent reality they confronted in its aftermath. Unlike earlier precedents when circumstances returned to their previous state once the violence stopped, postwar Europe found itself in a completely new political and social reality. The old Jewish communal structure and Jewish cultural and religious content were destroyed in Bolshevik Russia. In countries where nationality became the guiding principle, the Jews quickly came to be seen as a hostile and dangerous factor in the worst case, and as a tolerated community at best. The fate of Jews was particularly bitter in Germany, where the determined struggle against the democratic regime merged with a strong antisemitic tradition to catastrophic effect. To the Jews’ bad luck, the prewar emigration outlets were severely restricted after the war, and for Jews a sense of being trapped became their calling card. The humiliations and antisemitic measures placed the Jews outside the realm of human concern in others’ eyes, and it is not surprising that later many viewed the Jews’ annihilation with equanimity.