Recently this newspaper published a succinct but very significant list of cases of judeophobia in today's Europe. It seems that this phenomenon is an isolated event, limited in time. Nothing is further from reality. The problem, which begins as early as the 19th century, although it has its roots in the previous ones, led to the great tragedy of the Holocaust . But as Cicero wrote "who does not know his story is doomed to be a child." The Russian Jewish doctor Leo Pinsker , one of the many victims who suffered the consequences of anti-Semitism when he was rejected at the University for his condition as a Jew, wrote in 1884 in his book Self-emancipation : "The Jew is for the living a dead man, for the living natives, a stranger, for the sedentary, a wanderer, for the poor, an exploiter and millionaire, for the patriots, an expatriate and for social classes, an abhorred competitor. "
What arguments did the persecutors of the Jews use? They were simply considered as strangers and enemies of their homeland in all their variables , as Pinsker said. Thus a great paradox arises that is based on an ambivalent dualism that we could state as follows: Why are those who have contributed so decisively to the flourishing of culture and science in Europe, of which we are so proud? Just take a look to see that to some extent the crises of the nineteenth century have a projection in the current one, although in other parameters.
Because the Europe of the second half of the 19th century suffers a great identity crisis . Nationalisms, inseparable companions of populism, seek the scapegoat in the Jews, which disturbed, according to them, the achievement of their ends. The same language went viral and terms that remained as still pictures were coined: pogrom and anti-Semitism . The first is Russian, means mutiny , revolt , but instinctively attributed to the persecution of the Jews. The other is born in the German historiography of the 19th coined by the historian Wilhem Marr . The term generically refers to the Semites, but it is understood that it is addressed to the Jews.
The phenomenon developed over three important areas: The Russian Empire, Prussia, which would later be Germany, and France. Russia, with its orthodox religious Paneslavism, sought the formation of a State based on the union of ethnicity and religion and set the Jews as enemies. There are the pogroms of Kiev and Odessa from 1881-1882. Next, hate radiates to neighboring countries such as Poland and several Slavic nations, as masterfully collected in the film The Violinist on the Roof , by Norman Jewison . The persecutions went to legends and slander, crystallized in the famous Protocols of the Sages of Zion, propagated by the Ojrana , the Russian secret police, being its author Sergio Nilus, who remained as a topic of difficult demystification, and in the blood libelos and the accusations of ritual crimes, as reflected in The Process , the film directed by GW Pabst , with a script by Rudolf Brunngraber.
In Germany anti-Semitism arises already in the time before the unification of 1870, which had an ideological and political support in the identification of ethnicity and the nation - which moves to the usual vocabulary with the name of pangermanism - which served as conditioning a pan-European nationalist current: the so-called Spring of the Peoples , initiated in 1848 and according to which "Germany had not yet been unified nor was it a large nation because there were elements that distorted it: the Jews." Next, a great contradiction emerges defiantly: the great German culture was supported in part by the Jews, that is, they wanted to throw out those who constituted their culture. This is already one of the main symptoms of the European cultural crisis, which by definition is universal, liberal and represents a counterpoint to the bounded and closed world of nationalisms. The snake's egg will expand throughout Europe, leading to the great tragedy.
But the greatest paradox arose in the country of freedoms par excellence: The France of the Revolution, of the Rights of Man , of the establishment of the three powers, which for the first time explicitly and legally recognizes the equality of Jews with The other citizens. The wave of anti-Semitism that struck France at the end of the 19th century ended in the Afrey Dreyfus that became an anti-Jewish movement throughout Europe. Why France, in whose culture there was an important Jewish contribution? Why in the country of freedoms, of the Revolution and of the Rights of Man? Since the defeat of Sedan (1870), when he loses European hegemony in his confrontation with Germany, France suffers a great identity crisis, of which he blames the Jews, since Captain Dreyfus, of Jewish origin, is accused of passing Secret information to the Germans . You had to look for a scapegoat, yes, but there is a new component that acts as a decisive adjuvant: the press. Until then, anti-Semitism grew among intellectual and political elites. From that moment, however, the expansive power of the press makes it more lethal. A fact can move us to that reality: more than 500 journalists met in 1899 in the city Rennes , where the process took place, and it was the event not only political but also journalist with more resonance in France and throughout Europe, including Spain, where El Heraldo de Madrid published two daily editions. The effects crossed the political debate to reach the confrontation in the street and within the families themselves.
This historical review, very general and elementary, helps us to understand the accurate reflection of Pinsker. To form a great nation, they are strangers; In times of economic crisis, they are responsible. Stefan Zweig , in his well-known memoirs, The World of Yesterday ( Cliff ), tried to explain Pinsker's assertions, probably without having read it. Because of its special situation, Zweig explained, the Jew needs to identify with the culture and customs of the country where he lives, using it as a protective element, with an uncontrollable desire not to feel excluded. And from that need, the Jew becomes a great revitalizer of European culture .
The Europe of the XX, subject to contrary and contradictory pressures to the essence of its culture, produced the most destructive phenomena still: totalitarianism, fascism, Nazism and communism. Ortega y Gasset writes in The Rebellion of the Masses , prefiguring what was columbiating in a threatening way, that "both fascism, Nazism and communism are foreign elements to European culture and they turned it in the opposite direction to the essence that the He was born. " Theses such as the patriotism of the great France, the great Germany, the great Russia were lived with profusion in the interwar period (1919-1939). The first symptom appeared at the end of World War I, when Jewish financiers were blamed for the defeat of Germany and had its translation in the 1922 assassination of Walther Rathenau , Minister of the Weimar Republic of Jewish origin. An atmosphere, that of interwar, that the historian Zara Steiner clearly describes in her book The Triumph of Darkness. International history of Europe (1919-1939) .
Anti-Semitism is an ivy that seemed definitely dried out, but it isn't. Oblivion and silence are traitors. The French historian Léon Poliakov has described this almost cyclical evolution in his monumental work The Suicidal Europe 1870-1939 . It amazes today, when one looks at the pages of the press of the time and even diplomatic documents, the almost reverential respect and admiration for the achievements of totalitarian states, including countries of liberal and democratic tradition such as the USA. and Britain, which demonstrated a slavish and claudic reaction and saw the measures against the Jews as an anecdote that paled under the thunderous noise of the apparent achievements of totalitarianisms. Chaves Nogales , in an extraordinary chronicle from Berlin in April 1933, described in situ the situation that was taking place and the consequences it would bring. Being very serious the attacks of these years to synagogues and Jewish institutions, it is much more worrying and more lethal the forgetfulness and the ignorance of the origins of that phenomenon.
Isidro González is a historian and member of the scientific committee of the Spain-Israel University Chair. His last book is The Jews and Spain after the expulsion ( Almuzara , 2014).
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