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European Jewry in the 18th And 19th Centuries Essay

Jews have a history of conflict with various governments. One of the reasons for this is the nature of their culture and the fact that they share history with Christianity, which most of them did not adopt (Brenner 159). Jews have lived in almost all sovereignties in Europe and have faced constant segregation and mistreatment.

Jews have always struggled for equality among other communities with which they have coexisted. For a long time, Jews had settled in Poland after migrating there from other kingdoms of Europe (Brenner 161). Perpetual anti-Semitism in Europe necessitated the migration.

However, in the eighteenth century, Poland began disintegrating. By this time, Jews had not managed to acquire freedom and equality among other races in Europe. In 1792, a civil war broke out in Poland and Jews were caught in the middle (Brenner 164). Russia and Prussia divided the country and annexed parts of it. The first partition of Poland by Russia and Prussia occurred in 1793 (Brenner 167). The regimes that took over administration were largely anti-Semitic. For this reason, Poland revolted against the conquerors.

However, the revolt ended with the Russian empire capturing a bigger territory with Jews living in it. At first, Jews received a mild treatment from the government (Brenner 169). Education was offered to them, but they were separated from the Christian population by the Russian government. Most of the problems faced by Jews were due to the government’s quest to make Jewish populations to integrate into the rest of the people in religious and cultural terms.

While children were sent to schools to learn, the government tried to make them abandon their religion. The failure of the government to make Jews abandon their religion even led to more severe consequences for them. More restrictions and harsh policies were implemented against Jews. One such policy required conscription of Jewish minors into the army (Gartner 51).

Several incidences triggered the emergence of Zionism in Europe. The most significant cause of Zionism was the statelessness of the Jewish people. For centuries, several empires hosted Jews and treated them with contempt. Poland, being one of the few states that could accommodate Jews, became a haven for them (Brenne 168).

Even then, anti-Semitism was rife. However, with the partition of Poland between the Russian empire and the Prussian empire made life unbearable for the Jews. Their last vestige had been annexed, and was slowly becoming uninhabitable for them. Due to this pressure, an idea developed among Jews that the Jewish community had to become a state rather than a common religion.

The Jewish fraternity had to be regarded a nation. Several isolated incidents accelerated the adoption of this idea with some dire consequences for some empires in Europe. Haskala, the education of Jews and Jewish children to adopt cultural ideas of the larger society, was the cause of secular Zionism that began emerging in Europe (Gartner 55). Haskala was the major cause of the secular Zionism that has persisted to the present day. Political ideologies and labor movements characterized the secular movements.

By the end of nineteenth century, the Jewish people were seeking to establish a nation where they could reside as equals with other people. However, just before the end of the nineteenth century, an incident that would eventually cause a revolution occurred (Gartner 56). In the 1890s, there was tension in Europe. It was at this time the European countries were competing for superiority within their continent and within their colonies (Gartner 57).

Military buildups were common, and suspicion and mistrust were the order of the day. In1894 a French intelligence officers noticed that German military was unusually informed of the progress of French military regarding armaments (Gartner 59). The intelligence officer, Jean Sandhe, raised the issue with higher authorities. However, due to the influence of the informant who was leaking the information to the Germans, a decision was made to accuse a Jewish army officer of the betrayal (Gartner 71).

Alfred Dreyfus, the victim of accusation, was arrested and tried for high treason. He allegedly informed German officials of the progress within the French military (Gartner 73). He was sentenced to life in prison, and was incarcerated in French Guiana. Two years later, another officer was put in charge of the intelligence office. This officer took interest in Dreyfus case, and realized that another military officer had been the real traitor.

To avert controversy the intelligence officer who raised the issue was relocated to a new outpost. Somehow, the printing press, which constituted much of the mass media then, uncovered the plot to accuse Dreyfus falsely in favor of the real traitor. A debate on anti-Semitism arose in the French community.

An author known as Zola wrote a passage in a national newspaper accusing the French government of trying to protect perpetrators of high treason by accusing and imprisoning Dreyfus (Gartner 81). Earlier, the French citizenry had been led to believe that their nation bas based on Christian values that included equal treatment of all people.

The author of the inflammatory newspaper article had to flee the country after he was convicted of criminal conduct. Some other newspapers and periodicals followed suit and accused the government of impartiality and criminal activities. To reinforce the perception that Dreyfuls was guilty, the French government subjected Dreyfuls to a second court martial, and added ten years to his prison sentence (Gartner 84).

However, protest continued and France became politically divided between those who supported the government’s position and those who claimed Dreyfus’ innocence. This division seemed to be a struggle between anti-Semites and those who had other liberal ideas. To ease the pressure due to the Dreyfus’ case, the government retried Dreyfus and acquitted him of all charges. Furthermore, it brought him back into the French military and made him a major.

He later resigned in 1907 due to poor health. Dreyfus made a comeback to serve as an officer in the First World War. He died in 1935, and was buried in a state funeral. The Dreyfus affair made the plight of Jews and the prevalent anti-Semitism an open issue in France and the neighboring countries (Gartner 102).

The Dreyfus affair had significant political effects for Europe. Anti-Semitic factions and liberal factions dominated the French political scene. Theodor Herzl, a journalist, who investigated and reported on the events following revelation charges against Dreyfus, continued to publish articles that aimed at persuading Jewish people to create a Jewish nation in another location away from Europe.

This was based on the assumption that Jews would never be accepted as equal citizens in any European state (Brenner 115). Even within the French government in the twentieth century, there were differences regarding the Dreyfus affair. At one time, a sculpture made in the honor of the soldier was never put to public display because senior officials in the French government could not agree on whether it should be displayed or not.

In central and western Europe, Jews were encouraged or coerced to assimilate into the mainstream European communities. This way they could avoid persecution. Emancipation in western and central Europe led the Jews who resided in these areas to believe that their only hope for freedom was through creation of a pure Jewish state (Brenner 115).

This Jewish state could only be possible outside European territories. Since Jews in central Europe had tried to integrate themselves into the European community, Zionism arose in this are with a characteristic intellectual aspect. The Jews in central and western Europe were less religious unlike those in Eastern Europe. They relied on a secular government for maintenance of civil order.

Due to the enlightenment of the western and central European Jews, the influence of Judaism on their communities was not significant. Most of the Jewish communities in central Europe were convinced that all other solutions had failed and only the formation of a Jewish state would liberate them form serfdom (Brenner 117).. These Jews were the minority compared to the vast Jewish population in Eastern Europe.

Jews in Eastern Europe maintained their culture and religion. In addition, no emancipation occurred in Eastern Europe. For these reasons, Jewish communities in Eastern Europe were governed by the wealthy among them (Brenner 121). Judaism was the major religion and its practices were the major tools of instruction. The rulers were also scholars and relied on the communities’ adherence to religion to establish their authority.

However, with the emancipation of the Jews in the west, some of the scholars in authority in the east became worried about losing the grip they had on their societies. The scholars and the wealthy started becoming ore dictatorial to avoid an uprising against their rule. The autocratic authority was reinforced by the Russian imperialists of the time. Most of the communities in rural areas migrated into towns and began clamoring for better treatment by the authorities.

In the late nineteenth century, Jews in Eastern Europe were vigorously resisting the new regime of the new tsar, Alexander III. The new ruler had become anti-Semitic. He conducted pogroms, or mass killings of Jews. For this reason, Jews lost hope of liberation by intellectual movements, and went on to shift to cultural and religious movements for support (Brenner 130). These mass movements were created to depose the tsar of Russia due to his aggressive and hostile policies against the Jewish communities.

All Jewish communities in Europe hoped to establish a purely Jewish state all the time. Even those communities that were under the autocratic authority of Russian monarchy hoped to one day migrate to Palestine, which was of significant cultural importance to all Jews.

While Jews in central and Western Europe hoped to acquire political power in the countries they resided in, those in the east were bound to their belief in their religion and ancestry in Palestine (Brenner 125). For this reason, Jews in central Europe had a primarily intellectual stance while those in east were adherents of mass movements.

The most influential Zionist figure was Theodor Herzl. He was a German born in Hungary to Jewish family of Serbian descent. His parents led a secular lie, so he was brought up a secular boy. Although he was fond of the idea of emancipation of European Jews as a boy, his perception of the situation changed after the Dreyfus affair. The hatred of Jews displayed by native Germans influenced his perception of the Jewish question. However, he was never completely convinced of the importance of religion in Jewish affairs throughout his life.

While Dreyfus was being persecuted in the 1890s, Herzl wrote a book about the aspirations of Jews and their desire to establish a Jewish state (Dubnow & Friedlaender 135). Herzl devised a way to make Zionism a legitimate idea. He arrange for a German Christian minister to introduce him to a relative of the German Kaiser. In 1896, he finally got a public audience with Wilhelm II, an action that legitimized Zionist movement in Europe.

Herzl later tried to negotiate with the sultan of turkey Abdulhamid II for a territory for Jewish settlement in Palestine, which was under Turkish rule. His quest to secure a settlement for his people in Palestine failed after the sultan declined his suggestions. He had promised the sultan that the Jews would contribute to settlement of turkey’s debts in return for allocation of land for settlement in Palestine.

Following the failure of the anticipated deal with the Turkish sultan, Herzl approached the British for a territory in one of their colonies, preferably Uganda. The British declined this request too and decided to allow Jews to settle in Palestine. However, Herzl did not witness the British decline his request. He died of heart disease in 1905 (Dubnow & Friedlaender 137). He is considered the founding pioneer of Zionism. Moreover, he is recognized for leading the movement in its infancy.

Another Zionist, Leon Pinsker formed a movement in the 1890s to help rally the Jews to settle in Palestine. He had earlier tried to rally for Jews to be given equal treatment within European territories. Pinsker was a doctor, and this helped him analyze the nature of the hatred of Jews that existed in Europe at the time. He concluded that Jews were foreigners in all land they tried to settle in (Dubnow & Friedlaender 139). Thus, there was need for Jews to settle in their native land, which is Palestine.

Hirsch Kalischer was a germen Jew who once proposed that Jews should buy land in their spiritual homeland in Palestine. He further explained that the land would be cultivated for the sake of the Jews. He often proposed his ideas to German politicians of Jewish ancestry (Dubnow & Friedlaender 180). Furthermore, he outlined a proposal for colonization of Palestine and the establishment of an autonomous government in the new territories.

He wrote a book with the intention of appealing to Christian nations to attend to the plight of Jews. He argued that establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine would lead to realization of salvation promised by the bible (Dubnow & Friedlaender 183). His views were to be adopted later by modern Zionists after the Dreyful’s affair and the decision by European powers such as England to deny Jews a settlement in their African colonies.

Jews have always migrated to Palestine. However, the first major migration of Jews to Palestine, known as the first Aliyah began in 1882. It is estimated that a little more than thirty thousand Jews moved from Eastern Europe to Palestine. Economic constraints in Europe had caused this migration (Dubnow & Friedlaender 185). Moreover, the Russian government was also willing to accept the migration of Jews to Palestine rather than implement reforms that Jews had always wanted.

This resolve was reinforced by the pogroms that were perpetrated by the Russian government of the time. From 1904 onwards, more Jews migrated from areas controlled by Russian monarchy due to the hostilities towards Jewish communities. Violence was the main cause of the mass migration, known as the second Aliyah (Dubnow & Friedlaender 190). However, settlements due to the second Aliyah were never permanent. Immigrants moved out of Palestine before the First World War started.

The second Aliyah was responsible for creation o schools and development of the Hebrew into a structured language. Immigrants of the second Aliyah also created the first urban settlements. The present day city of Tel Aviv is one of the earliest urban settlements by Jews during the second Aliyah. After the First World War, another major migration of Jews ensued. This particular migration was caused by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.

This revolution led to establishment of the Soviet Union, which was a communist state (Dubnow & Friedlaender 192). Due to hostilities that would always ensue after a change of regime in Russia, some Jews decided to migrate to their perceived ancestral land. United States of America had just passed laws to prevent mass emigration into the country. Meanwhile, pogroms in Russia had intensified. Since the Britain was encouraging Jews to settle in Palestine, migration to the Middle East seemed to be the best option.

This was the third Aliyah. Jews who migrated during the third Aliyah built much of the early infrastructure in Palestine (Dubnow & Friedlaender 195). About thirty thousand Jews migrated from Russia, America, and Eastern Europe during the fourth Aliyah. This migration continued despite the difficult economic situation in Palestine. The fourth Aliyah caused further development of the infrastructure.

It is during the fourth Aliyah anti-Semitism reached an alarming peak in most of continental Europe. In addition, the United States, which had been a safe haven for immigrants, became hostile towards immigration, and particularly that of Jews. Middle class Jews from Europe and those who had been prevented from settling in America migrated to Palestine. There is a vague separation of the third Aliyah and the second Aliyah since there was no clear cessation off migration between the two events.

In 1933, the Nazi party assumed power in Germany. This political institution was based on anti-Semitic principles and fascists beliefs. Members and leaders of the Nazi party preached hatred of the Jews throughout Germany (Dubnow & Friedlaender 196). Major Jewish communities had their segment within Germany, and this cased mass migration greater than other previous ones. This was the fifth and the last Aliyah.

Anti-Semitism in Germany soon turned into violence and deportation of Jews. They were not allowed to hold important positions in the government. In addition, the government encouraged native Germans not to interact in any way with the Jews. This made the environment too hostile for any Jew to prosper in Germany. The fifth Aliyah continued until 1939 when Germany conquered and annexed most of eastern and central Europe (Dubnow & Friedlaender 198).

Jews could not migrate anymore. The Nazi government sponsored a program to kill all Jews in Europe and the whole world subsequently. The few who survived the massacres and the mass executions later migrated to various parts of the world, among them, Palestine. However, this last migration is not considered a major Aliyah since not all Jews settled in Palestine. Most Jews in Europe had been murdered.

Works Cited

Brenner, Michael. A short history of the Jews. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010. Print.

Dubnow, Simon, and Israel Friedlaender.History of the Jews in Russia and Poland from the earliest times until the present day.. Skokie, Ill.: Varda Books, 2001. Print.

Gartner, Lloyd P.. History of the Jews in modern times. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

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