Jews of Europe Syllabus

Study Questions for Week 8

Vital, A People Apart, Chapter 3

This chapter breaks down into two larger sections, each with subsections on particular countries or issues. The first large section deals with the attitudes of governments and intellectuals towards Jews in the period from 1815 to the 1860s.

What basic position did the Austrian government take towards Jews in the 1815-48 period? What arguments were made against granting Jews legal and civil equality? And when did Austrian Jews achieve legal equality? (See pp. 167-71)

In Prussia, what did policy makers think about policy towards Jews in the 1815-1848 period? What doubts did they express, and what policies did they propose? In what ways were Jews discriminated against in Prussia, and did this affect all Jews there? Did the Prussian government back away from its pre-1815 steps towards Jewish emancipation? And when were Jews’ equal rights recognized in Prussia? (See pp. 171-176)

Why was the 1847 election to the British Parliament of Lionel de Rothschild controversial, and what did this issue (and the debate over the oath of office) demonstrate about official attitudes towards Jews in Great Britain? When were the last barriers to Jewish government office holding removed in England? (See pp. 177-82)

According to vital, what really triggered anti-Jewish resentments in Europe in the mid-1800s, and what groups gave voice to this resentment? (See pp. 182-83)

How does Vital explain the attitudes of German intellectuals Goethe, Kant, Hegel, and C. W. Dohm towards Jews? (See pp. 183-85)

What sort of attitude towards Jews did English radicals of the early 1800s have? How were Jews portrayed in English literature of this period? And according to Vital, did such depictions and attitudes shape government policy towards Jews in England? What is his point about the relationship between government leaders’ attitudes and popular attitudes? (See pp. 185-89)

Was the end of censorship and the spread of political freedoms necessarily always a positive development for Jews?

What was Bruno Bauer’s argument about Jews? Why did he consider emancipation "perverse"? What does Vital consider most dangerous about Bauer’s arguments and influence (as a model for later anti-Semitism)?

Explain how Marx’s views on Jews differed from Bauer’s.

According to Vital, were leftist revolutionaries in the German states any more tolerant of or sympathetic to Jews than were arch-conservatives? Explain.

What about in France? Were leftists more tolerant of Jews there? For instance, what did the Republican Jules Michelet have to say about Jews? What about Charles Fourier? Pierre-Joseph Proudhon? Alphonse Toussenel? As far as French socialists were concerned, could "workers" and "Jews" have any common interests?

In what basic way did the "Jewish Question" differ in Russia from the rest of Europe? (See pp. 205-06) Were Russian Slavophiles tolerant of Jews? What did the "Decembrists" want to do about the Jews, and what does this demonstrate? (See pp. 208-10). Were intellectuals in Russia (as in Western Europe) the leading force forming anti-Jewish public opinion? Explain. And did the sort of difference between Jews’ legal status and their "real" status that existed elsewhere in Europe also exist in Russia?


The second large section of the chapter focuses on Jewish politics—or more accurately, on the Jewish entry (or failure to enter) into general national politics in Europe.

What does Vital mean on p. 212 when he says of Jewish politics in this era that "all is response"?

What were the Hep! Hep! Riots of 1819? How did German Jews explain the riots to themselves? Why did the riots help convince German Jews that the state would protect them? (See pp. 213-16) Were there similar riots elsewhere in Europe? Explain. According to Vital (p. 219), why did most middle-class Jews in the mid-1800s feel that they had to "keep their heads down"?

How did Eduard Gans and his circle respond to the 1819 riots? Did they think that it was "enough" to ask for civil rights? Explain. (See pp. 220-22) What is the point Vital is trying to make in his discussion of Ludwig Borne? Of Heinrich Heine? (See esp. p. 225) What point is Vital trying to make in his discussion of Benjamin Disraeli? (See pp. 225-26) Of Ferdinand Lassalle? (See pp. 227-29) In what way does he contrast Adolphe Cremieux to these others? (See pp. 229-32)

What was the 1840 "Damascus Affair"? How did Jewish notables initially try to respond to the charges made? Why was news of the affair able to spread among Jews so quickly, and what does this show us? Why did this affair turn into such a complicated international diplomatic scandal? And why did the escalation of the affair cause so much dismay among French Jews in particular? When Cremieux tried to intervene with the French government, did the government "back off" on the affair? Explain. What did Cremieux and Montefiore do to "end" the affair? For Vital, why was the Damascus Affair of such great importance? (See pp. 232-44)

Did Europe’s Jewish community have any great political leader in the mid-1800s? What is Vital’s point about this matter? (See pp. 244-48, and think back to the epigram that begins this book!)

What does Vital mean on p. 248 when he says that "The question Jews had therefore increasingly to face was less whether they would be allowed to become citizens of the state than whether they would be granted membership of the nation"? And why was the question of belonging to the nation (the volk) so very important in Germany?

Vital argues that the revolutions of 1848 were a turning point in politics, in which the issue of the rights of man became increasingly less important than the issue of the rights of nations. Did any Jewish leaders claim that Jews had rights as a nation in themselves in the mid-1800s? Explain. And would an Austrian, German, or French (etc.) nationalist have taken such a claim seriously? What impact, then, did the new focus on nationalism have on the Jewish Question?

1848 also weakened the standing of Europe’s traditional elites. In what sense did this undermine the Jewish community’s traditional strategy when dealing with the state? (See, for instance, pp. 254-56)

According to Vital (see pp. 256-57), what did all varieties of modern anti-Semitism have in common?

Were Jews, even highly acculturated Jews, considered "equal" to Germans in Imperial Germany? Explain. What evidence is there that large numbers of German Jews were becoming acculturated or assimilated? What does Vital mean when he says that acculturation did not mean that Jews were "a community that was in any real sense at peace with itself and its surroundings" (p. 263)?

Explain Heinrich von Treitschke’s views about the place of Jews in the German nation. Would the debates between Treitschke, Sombert, and other intellectuals have done much to convince Jews that they were accepted as equals? Explain.

What was the point of the 1880 Anti-Semitic Petition in Germany, did its supporters accept the idea that Jews were German, and did the government repudiate the petition? Explain. (See p. 267)

What kinds of restrictions were still placed on Jews in Imperial Germany? Give example! (See pp. 268-70) Did all Jews accept discrimination silently? Did Jews form their own political party in Imperial Germany? Why not? (See pp. 273-276)

What point is Vital making in the last paragraph of this chapter (on p. 277)?


Lindemann, Esau's Tears, Chapter 2 (pp. 64-96)

How does Lindemann explain the causes of Russia's "liberal " reforms of Jewish policy in the mid-1800s?  What were the results?

How does Lindemann explain the impact of "modernization" on Russia's Jews in the later 1800s? 

According to Lindemann, how did the Jewish proletariat differ from the Russian proletariat, and how did proletarianization shape relations between Jews and non-Jews?

What Jewish social groups in Russia (in addition to artisans) doe Lindemann discuss, and what are his main conclusions (e.g., about Jewish businessmen, criminals, etc., in Russia)?

Does Lindemann think that the Tsarist government organized the 1881 pogroms?  How does he explain the cause of the pogroms? 

How did the Tsarist government explain the cause of the pogroms, and how does Lindemann interpret the 1882 "May Laws"?

How does Lindemann explain the causes of mass Jewish emigration from Russia in the late 1800s?

According to Lindemann, how was the term "race" understood in the mid-1800s?  Was racist terminology unusual in the mid-1800s?

What is Lindemann's point regarding the ancient "tradition" of racism?  Was Judaism free of this tradition?

What is Lindemann's point regarding the function of "blood imagery" in Christian and Jewish thought specifically, and in European culture more generally?  How does he think this shaped relations between Jews and non-Jews?

What relationship does Lindemann see between "blood imagery" and "newer" ideas of race in the 1800s?  And did all Jews react negatively to the idea that Jews are a "race"?  Explain.

What is Lindemann's main point about the ideas of Disraeli?  Was racism "novel" or "unusual" in the 1800s?

According to Lindemann, why did racist ideas spread so successfully in the 1800s?

What is Lindemann's main point about Kant's theories regarding race?

What does Lindemann see as the relationship between race theories and nationalism in the 1800s?  How did people understand the equation of race and nation?

How did social darwinistic economic arguments and Romanticism feed into racist thinking?  

What is Lindemann's main point about the ideas of Herder (Volksgeist)? Of Schegel (the Aryan linguistic/racial group)?

How did Schlegal, Lassen, etc., define the differences between Aryans and Semites, and why (according to Lindemann) did this view "catch on"?

What is Lindemann's main point regarding the views of Ernest Renan (Life of Jesus)?  Of Count Gobineau (Essay on the Inequality of Races)?  Of Richard Wagner (Jewry in Music)?

Were there any Jewish race theorists?  Explain.  What is Lindemann's point here?  Does he think that most racism (Jewish and non-Jewish) was aggressive or violent in the mid-1800s?

SO, what is Lindemann's main point about the "diversity" of racism in the mid-1800s, and about the relationship between racism and anti-Semitism? 


Jews of Europe Syllabus