web analytics
December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What A Century Has Wrought


Europe_1918

A century ago, on August 1, 1914, World War I broke out. The date in the Jewish calendar was Tisha B’Av, the annual fast day marking destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem as well as other Jewish national calamities. No one could have forecast the horrific conflagration that eventually took over 16 million lives and devastated great swaths of Europe.

Officially, hostilities ended on November 11, 1918. But they weren’t yet over. The economic and political malaise the war caused in Russia provoked the 1917 revolution, soon followed by the Bolshevik October Revolution that toppled the czar. The Soviet state took over, a cruel dictatorship that over the next 70-plus years terrorized its citizens and murdered at least 20 million of them, brutally incarcerating and torturing many millions more.

Following World War I, civil war broke out between the Soviet Red Army and pro-czarist forces joined by marauding bands that together massacred as many as 100,000 Jews in Ukraine. The civil war lasted until 1921. Simultaneously, war broke out with newly independent Poland, which fought to gain territory that once belonged to pre-partition Poland back in the 18th century.

After the war, the huge Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist, divided now into several states, with much territory annexed to neighboring states. Vanquished Germany also lost territory to the new Poland, and was deprived of all foreign colonies.

So demoralized were Germans by the combination of ignominious defeat, humiliating peace terms, and economic collapse that they became easy pickings for the scapegoat-seeking ideology of the Nazi party, which blamed the Jews for the world’s problems and would, once in power, unleash a conflagration far more horrific than the First World War.

Meanwhile, World War I had sown chaos throughout the centuries-old Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Many Jews fled or were forced to evacuate the war-zones; most chassidic courts of Galicia (the Austro-Hungarian part of Poland), for example, now relocated, at least temporarily, to Vienna.

The Russian commander-in-chief, the czar’s uncle, sought a scapegoat for Russian defeats and accused the Jews – who spoke Yiddish, closely related to German – of being a fifth column favoring Germany. Accordingly he expelled millions of Jews who lived close to the war zones – in Lithuania, Latvia, Russian regions of Poland, western White Russia and Ukraine – forcing them to find refuge deeper within Russia.

The evacuations and hostilities wrought havoc on the traditional Torah education system, and boys and young men now often grew up in a spiritual vacuum. Of course, for much of the previous century, the secularist Haskalah movement had already made serious inroads in Jewish communities throughout Eastern Europe, its influence constantly growing. But now the situation was exacerbated. Even after hostilities ended, it was already too late to revive many young people’s loyalty to Yiddishkeit, which was replaced by the spread of attractive secular ideologies.

As the new regime consolidated its hold on the Soviet Union, most public expressions of religion, including Torah schools, were banned. Russia had long been the world’s greatest fortress of Torah Judaism, but now Yiddishkeit was forced underground. Before long, most Jewish youth there were weaned from loyalty to their religion, although the deeply engrained anti-Semitism of their neighbors served to remind them of their Jewish roots.

Meanwhile, most Jews who had emigrated to Western Europe and North America, although not persecuted, cast off religious observance. Even those who remained faithful usually did so by making compromises.

The situation in Germany deteriorated and the Nazis came to power in 1933. Immediately they instituted official anti-Jewish persecution, which intensified year by year. Everyone realized this would soon spread throughout Europe; it was only a question of time.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the central Lubavitch Youth Organization and a monthly columnist for The Jewish Press. His regular “Challenge” column, which appears the first week of the month, is on hiatus and will resume with the Oct. 3 issue.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

10 Responses to “What A Century Has Wrought”

  1. Rinat Levin says:

    Go study the history of the nazis and find out how wrong you are. It’s fine to be ignorant but don’t make offensive incorrect comments. You are just being anti Jewish which is exactly what the nazis were.

  2. Ali Haider says:

    Fake Holocaust!! Hitler killed few Jews and rightly said :I left Jews to show world why I killed them…

  3. Ali Haider says:

    Fake Holocaust!! Hitler killed few Jews and rightly said :I left Jews to show world why I killed them…

  4. Ali Haider says:

    Today Jews can’t prove them pure Semitics…

  5. Ali Haider says:

    Today Jews can’t prove them pure Semitics…

  6. David Cohen says:

    Hey, Ali Haider, why f2f p you go out of your way to go on a Jewish website to post such lies. You must really have an empty life to do this. I’m glad I’m not you.

  7. Sobriety Jon says:

    Hitlers evil strategy has no way improved human societies in bit.what remained of him is his devilish icon and the parkinson disease he died from

  8. Sobriety Jon says:

    Nobody today want to name their child hitler

  9. Sobriety Jon says:

    Nobody today want to name their child hitler

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
PM Binyamin Netanyahu lights Hanukkah candles in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu ‘Will Not Allow’ PA’s UN Resolution to Endanger Israelis
Latest Indepth Stories
Sprecher-121914

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Russia Cuba relations

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

Israel and the strengthening of the Jewish people in faith and numbers has brought a growing light

“Can you hear what the dead are whispering? Leave Galut, escape to Eretz Israel-Lech lecha!”

3 main messages emerged from this conference: Communications, Community, and Collaboration.

In his short time with the shul, he has managed to activate a Hebrew school with now over 50 children and five teachers.

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuel Butman
Europe_1918

World War I had sown chaos throughout the centuries-old Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.

With huge funding – courtesy of the United States Europe and Israel – it has also had plenty of time and resources to prove itself.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-a-century-has-wrought/2014/07/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: