The status and position of the European Jews at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries

Topic: Federalism
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Last updated: November 9, 2019

Anti-Semitism has always occurred throughout the history of Europe.

Discrimination against the Jews has happened in many ways, ranging from mere physical bullying right through to mass genocide. Throughout the 18th Century Jews had thought they had seen the end of the hated racism that was so constantly pounded at them, but that was all about to change. As one day Adolf Hitler made a speech, and this speech would lead to shaping the destiny of the Jews. In the 1880’s German Jews had equal legal rights as any other German citizen.This had come over many years of pain from the Jews, as torment and death appeared to follow them everywhere they settled.

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They now had a brief respite from these hardships, but there were still restrictions against these people. The 3 main areas where Jews were restricted against were education, the military and the government. Germans still didn’t want Jews in high power over their race, as many still believed the Jews to be inferior to them. Many Jews were exceedingly rich even with these restrictions, as many tended to be good businessmen, and made a great living.As of this, many accused the Jews of witchcraft over the centuries, as they always seemed to do well in business. This is of course a myth as it just so happened that some of the successful men were in fact Jewish. In the 1880’s many people began to believe that there was a ‘ladder’ in which human races formed. This so called hierarchy was totally racist and made no sense at all, but as many famous Germans instigated it, many people believed it was true.

This ladder was composed of Jews, Blacks and Slavs at the bottom, then ranking up to the far ‘superior’ white, Aryan race at the very top.This idea probably first originated from slave days, as Blacks were treated like dirt while whites were superior. This pathetic theory was developed from the writings of Charles Darwin, a British scientist who had discovered the theory of evolution.

His intention was of course not to create this ladder of human races but just to discuss how man got to where he is now. But even still, it was misunderstood and because it was based on his teachings, it was commonly named ‘Social Darwinism’. As this idea spread throughout Germany and across boarders, Jews were detested amongst society because of their race, not just their religion.They were considered an inferior race to the Aryan’s, and this spread hatred amongst the ranks of German citizens, as the inferiors threatened the existence of the far superior race.

In spite of this, most German Jews had become part of the German society by the end of the 19th Century, they were assimilated. But even with this, a great threat dawned for the Jews, as more and more people began to loathe them, as they were ‘vermin’ compared to the Aryan’s. Most German Jews were wrongly optimistic about their future. They saw themselves as Germans first, and Jews second.This didn’t make a difference to the Germans that despised the Jews, as they would only remark a Jew is a Jews no matter what they class themselves as. Many Jews even went to the extreme of giving up their religion, so that they were more like other Germans. This was a good thing to do really as you didn’t want to be a Jew when the Nazi’s took over.

In World War 1, German Jews fought in the army against Germany’s enemies. They fought alongside Germans, and they died alongside Germans. 12,000 German Jews were killed in that war, but not as Jews, as Germans.Even though all this happened, Jews were still hated as an unknown enemy. They felt heresy from within even though the Jews had done nothing wrong.

Along many Germans there were extremely strong anti-Semitic feelings waiting to burst out. The Aryan’s were beginning to forget the united pact they held with the Jews in the war, and much stronger feelings were emerging; feelings of hatred. After World War 1 many Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe, specifically Russia, to Germany. They came for a better life, this soon evaporated into only dreams.Jews tended to live together after the war, this held suspicious thoughts for the Aryan’s, as they believed they were isolating themselves from the Aryan’s and so were planning something.

All this was making Jews a lot easier to blame as things started to disintegrate after the war. They were obvious together when living in their ghettos, and many believed, or tricked themselves into believing, that the Jews were to blame for German hardship. It was just an easy thing to do by blaming the Jews, as it was an excuse for all the German mistakes and traumas.Overall in Germany at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th centuries, there were relatively small numbers of Jews in Germany. They were very successful because they tried to merge into German society.

By law they were equal with other Germans. Under the surface there were anti-Semitic feelings in German society, which might change things for the Jews if the country ran into major trauma. The position, however, was vastly different just West of the boarder in the country of France.

Jews in France had a much better position then of those in Germany.This was mainly because of the French Revolution, which came about in 1789. This brought in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This was great for the Jews as it led to equal rights for French Jews and non-Jews, giving them the best social position they could want. In the period of 1880-1920, French Jews were highly successful and fully accepted into French society.

It was a time of rejoices for the Jews, and great optimism was held in every Jew’s hearts. Assimilation came across for many French Jews, as integration enlightened them and made them love their country for it.Among the vast numbers of cultures in French society, only 86,00 of them were Jewish.

This was out of a massive population of 40 million, so the Jews were an extraordinarily minuscule minority. This explains why the French Jews were accepted so easily, as with only tiny numbers, they were not seen as a threat to anyone. They were regarded as insignificant in terms of threat to the country.

Although this entire acceptance existed, there were anti-Semitism feelings hidden underneath the clean-cut surface. There were several criticising books written by various authors, which explained how the Jews were an inferior race.These were all based on ‘Social Darwinism’, and clarify that Jews were a threat to all other superior races. Some Frenchmen were highly envious of many of the rich Jewish businessmen’s wealth and accomplishments. Clerical anti-Semitism arose as part of the French Catholic Church began a series of brutal racial attacks on the Jews. This hatred from the two religions dated back to the middle Ages, and still remained at this time. As these reasons for hating the Jews remained, it got profoundly worse as many Jews arrived in France as refugees from Eastern Europe, mainly Communist Russia.

After the Russian pogroms of 1881 120,00 Jews arrived in France. This made the Jews stand out a lot more, as many of the newly arrived Jews wore traditional Jewish clothing and carried out customs, which made people watch them a lot more closely. After the atrocious incident of the Drefus case (a Jews who came to Paris and selected for officer training in the army only to be set up by a French Major, who was a spy, and Dreyfus accused of being the spy and sent to prison). Many French thought that Dreyfus had been found guilty because he was a Jew, and that all Jews were traitors and back-stabbers.The case split France into two sides, those for Dreyfus and those against him. The end result of this case was that anti-Semitism grew heavily and all those hidden feelings materialized. France was cut straight down the middle for those who wanted integration and those who saw the Jews as conspirators and a major menace.

They had started with a good position in France, and a prospect of a happy ending by settling there. This hope had been destroyed, as half of the population of France started to despise them. Over in the West, however, the Jews were not much better off than in France.Russia has always been a harsh country; the weather, the people and especially the leaders. The Tsars have never liked the Jews, for only one foolish reason, but as of such the Jews living in Russia in 1880-1920, lived under all sorts of unjust restrictions. From all over Russia there was a colossal number of Jews totalling in a massive 6 million altogether. All 6 million Jews had to live in one designated area in the far west of the country. This desolate place was called the Pale of Settlement and housed every single Russian Jews.

This was the only place they were allowed to live. Some Jews of course discarded this rule and lived elsewhere in the country, but these people were breaking the law and had to live secretly to avoid being caught and sent back to the Pale. Most Jews were extremely poor, and only a very small minority of them had a half decent income. Most were peasants scratching a living in the countryside, although some more ambitious Jews worked in new factories in the structured towns. The high ‘exalted’ rulers of Russia, the Tsars, hated the Jews and every aspect of their religion.These rulers even encouraged attacks on the Jews, and were pleased with dead or wounded Jewish casualties. This was because of one reason alone. Tsar Alexander the 2nd was brutally assassinated in 1881 and one of his many murderers was a Jewish girl.

This made all the following Tsars absolutely despise the Jews, and they blamed them for every wrong ever made on the Tsars. This was absolutely ridiculous as only one of the murderers was Jewish and it was just a single girl! It was an easy way out for the Tsars to blame the Jews as it shoved all their problems under the rug and could blame everything entirely on them.His son, Alexander the 3rd, appointed a Minister of the Interior, named Pobedonostev. This man detested the Jewish people and culture, and was an obsessive anti-Semite. This man made very harsh rules against the Jews, as a punishment for all their ‘sins’. These rules restricted the Jew’s freedom, for example they were not allowed to use their own language or customs while inside of Russia. In 1881, at Easter (a great Christian festival which looked back to the crucifixion of Jesus which the Jews were wrongly blamed for, as Judas who betrayed Jesus was blamed for being all of the Jews.Easter was also a time of the Jewish Passover festival), there were hideously violent attacks on Jewish people in other 100 villages in Southern Russia.

Many Jews were slaughtered or horrible wounded, or they were left for dead with mangled bodies and homes destroyed. The Russian police did nothing to stop these horrific attacks, and simply watched or walked on. The peasants who caused the attacks and deaths said they were doing what the Tsar wanted, and convinced themselves that it was the right thing to do.The ‘May Laws’ were new laws introduced in 1882 and were supposed to be temporary laws for the time being but intentionally remained until 1914. These laws restricted the Jews even more, and made them move to the towns, restrict them to certain jobs, and enabled only a certain amount of them to go to school or university.

Because of these abominable laws a huge amount of Jews emigrated from Russia to the east. Roughly 100,000 Jews left each year during the 1880’s. After 1891 Jews were wrongly evicted or physically forced to leave Russia by the unjust government.By 1914 a third of the Jews living in Russia had left and emigrated to Germany (a big mistake), USA, Austria, France and Britain. Things got immensely worse for Russian Jews in 1894-1917 as Tsar Nicholas the 2nd reigned ruler of Russia.

He hated the Jews and was the most obsessive anti-Semite the Russians had ever seen. He was the last Tsar Russia would see and thankfully so. After his time democracy ruled, and Russia would be free of many of the troubles and traumas that haunted the country and its people alike.

This tyrant gave the police stronger powers to use against the Jews and encouraged people to attack Jews.He encouraged and persuaded many people to write anti-Semitic pamphlets and books. He wanted to spread anti-Semitism not just throughout Russia, but also all over the world.

This man made Jewish life a lot harder than it already was, and was a cruel tyrant. This led to the cruellest pogroms against Jews in 1903 and 1905. This was ruthless slaughter, and hundreds were brutally murdered. Thousands more lay with broken bodies and torn flesh, while others huddled in shelter after their homes had been incinerated to a crisp.In 1905 the Tsar’s secret police published a book called ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. This was a complete forgery and pretended to be a plan by the leaders of the Jews all over the world, to take over the world and have Jewish reign.

This book was a horrible event, as many people believed it, especially in Germany, and made people absolutely despise the Jewish religion and it’s people. All in all the Jews had it bad. In all 3 countries, there were strong anti-Semitic feelings and leaders that provoked these feelings.

The worst was let to come however, there seemed to be no respite for the Jewish people.

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