The Jews of Eastern Europe

A water carrier in the Lublin Ghetto, Poland

OF THE ten and a half million Jews who live in Europe some nine million are to be found in the eastern half of the continent, in the cities and on the plains between the River Inn and the Ural Mountains. During the last four years the policies of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany have cast a shadow over the lives of all these Jewish millions. So far they have been unwilling to believe that anti-Semitism in the starkly brutal form which it has assumed in Germany will spread abroad. Yet the fact remains that a great and highly civilized European nation has excommunicated half a million people merely because they adhere to the Jewish religion or belong to the so-called Jewish "race," and thus has given other lands a dangerous example of positive anti-Semitism.

Two hundred years ago all European Jews moved in nearly the same intellectual climate. A Jew from Worms felt quite at home in Lemberg or Kishinev. He found the cultural background and the conditions of life among his co-religionists to be identical no matter where they lived, and he took it as a matter of course that in all Jewish communities the religion based on the Old Testament and the rabbinical teachings was a living force.

But in prewar Europe this had ceased to be true. The nine million Jews of Eastern Europe no longer formed a compact, homogeneous mass. With the gradual spread of emancipation there arose marked divergences among them, and it no longer was possible to speak of a uniform East-European Jewish type. The Hungarian Jews, for instance, were so well assimilated -- in their sentiments, their mentality, even their appearance -- by the Magyar people that according to the English writer Macartney they cannot be detected today except by an expert. Much the same may be said of Viennese Jewry, cradle of great writers and scientists like Schnitzler, Zweig, Freud. In the period before the Great War, the Jews of Austria-Hungary and

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