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The Myth of Jewish Communism

A Historical Interpretation


André W.M Gerrits

‘Jewish Communism’ was one of the most powerful and destructive political myths in 20 th -century Europe. The cry of Jewish communist conspiracy turned traditional, often religiously inspired anti-Jewish sentiments into a murderous anti-Semitic rampage.
The connection of Jews with communism has always been an extremely sensitive issue, which cannot simply be dismissed as a fully irrational phenomenon. Jews were disproportionately present in the revolutionary movement. This does not make the myth of Jewish Communism less mythical, but it does imply that real interests and conflicts were involved.
This book presents the first full-length analysis of the identification of Jews with communism. It traces the myth of Jewish Communism from the traditional anti-Jewish prejudices on which it is built, to its crucial role in Eastern European Stalinist and post-Stalinist politics. It documents the painful controversies that the participation of Jews in the revolutionary movement has generated among Jewish observers, among communists, and also among historians.


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4. Conclusion 191


191 CHAPTER 4 Conclusion The Jewish communities of East Central Europe have shrunk to his- torically low figures. As much as the burden of history weighs on the remaining Jews in the region, they were probably less affected by the collapse of communism than were other ethnic or national minorities (Gitelman 1989). Even before the fall of the communist regimes, Jews in many countries had a legal outlet or safety valve: emigration. Post- communism offered unforeseen opportunities and new dangers, and Jews suffered and enjoyed all of its adverse and ambivalent conse- quences. Political democratisation created the necessary conditions for the revival of Jewish community life. It was the basis requirement for the preservation of a collective identity that went beyond the conscious- ness of a mere Schicksalsgemeinschaft, a community of fate. However, the disintegration of the authoritarian party-state and the rise of political pluralism added a new dimension to anti-Semitism. Democracy put an end to discrimination by the state but it also created the opportunity to openly manifest grassroots anti-Jewish sentiments. The anti-Semitic incidents which occurred in East Central Europe, including Russia, were significant, but they should not be exaggerated. Generally, they did not differ from those in most (other) democratic countries: the desecration of tomb stones and of places of worship, the vandalism of Jewish prop- erty or places of commemoration, the disturbance of meetings, the circulation of anti-Semitic leaflets and literature, and the anti-Jewish remarks made by minor political and intellectual figures. Given the dramatic changes the...

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