Jews of Europe Syllabus
STUDY QUESTIONS FOR WEEK 11
Vital, A People Apart, Chapters 7-Epilogue (pp. 643-898)
III Introduction (pp. 643-460)
does Vital mean when he calls the 19th century “Jewry’s last age
of innocence” p. 643)?
“balance” crumbled as a result of the aftermath of WWI?
p. 645, Vital argues that the political order created by the French Revolution
slowed the crisis of European Jewry, which was then stimulated by WWI.
What does he mean by this?
3 principles does Vital say dominated post-war politics, and what were the
consequences for Jews?
was a wide-spread myth that Jews did not serve in WWI, and another (equally
wide-spread) that they dictated government policies that led to war—were
either of these myths true? Explain.
Jews in Germany support the German war effort in WWI? Explain.
p. 650, Vital says that the impact of the war on Jewish soldiers would have
pleased Enlightenment thinkers—what does this mean? Would the long-term impact have pleased them?
did France and England adopt a position favoring “national
self-determination” even before the US entered the war?
were Jews in the Russian Empire treated by the occupying German army during WWI?
How were they treated by the Russian army?
became of the Pale of Settlement during the war, and why?
the British and French governments approve of Russia’s Jewish policies during
the war? Explain.
How did “public” opinion in the USA shape their response?
US Jewish leaders been able to moderate Russia’s policies during the war?
is Vital’s point (pp. 662-63) about how the war shaped British policy
makers’ views of Jews as an “international power”?
Did Jews have such power?
was British and French concern for shaping opinion among US Jews related to
their (British and French) war-time positions on Zionism?
Lucian Wolf and the “Cojoint Committee” in Britain support Zionism?
Why did they propose that the British government endorse a Zionist
position? Why did the Foreign
Office become interested in the “Palestine Idea”?
did the French reject the Palestine Idea? What
became of the “Idea” in early 1916 and why?
the Zionist movement becoming stronger at the start of the war?
How and why did the onset of war hit the Zionist leadership?
And why did the World Zionist Organization decide to declare
“neutrality” in the war?
all Zionist activists agree that the movement should remain “neutral”?
does Vital explain the origins and the purpose of the Balfour Declaration of
1917? How was it influenced
by British ambitions in the Near East?
effect did the Balfour Declaration have on the standing of the Zionists in
Jewish public opinion in Europe? Did
the Zionists really “dictate” the declaration?
(Please note the text of the declaration in fn, 87 on p. 698).
And why did non-Zionists fear that it would promote anti-Semitism?
did the Declaration aid the Zionists politically?
“big questions” did the Balfour Declaration fail to actually solve?
Vital think that Soviet rule “emancipated” Russia’s Jews?
the Bolsheviks attack Jewish society for its “Jewishness”?
most Jews support the Bolsheviks in 1917? What
was Lenin’s view on the Jewish Problem?
did the Bolsheviks create a special Jewish Affairs department in the government
and a “Jewish Section” in the Communist Party?
What does he see as the ultimate goal of the Evsektsii?
similarities and what differences does Vital see in Tsarist and Bolshevik Jewish
to Vital, what was the result of Soviet rule over Russia’s Jewish community by
had Jews been more supportive of the Reds than of the Whites during the Russian
Civil War? How had the White armies
to Vital, how did anti-Jewish violence in Ukraine during the Civil War differ
from previous pogroms? How does he
compare Denikin’s Volunteer Army to the Germany Army in WWII (and how did the
Volunteer Army’s treatment of Jews differ from that under the Nazis)?
Jews control the Bolshevik/Communist Party?
does Vital think that the 20th century myth of “Jewish power” and
a “Jewish conspiracy” comes from? What
were its political functions?
ensuring “national self-determination” after WWI a simple matter?
How did the complexity of Europe’s “ethnic map” effect Jews?
did the Paris Peace Conference deal with the question of whether Jews are a
there one, unified Jewish “voice” at the Paris Peace Conference?
Explain. Why did the
Zionists have a certain political advantage over other Jewish groups at the
events in the Russian Civil War influence decision making about Jews at the
conference? In what sense did the
Zionists begin running “on two tracks” as a result of these events?
did the Zionists and the “American” Jews ask of the conference?
And what position did the conference (and the subsequent “Minority
Treaties”) actually take on the issue of Jewish rights?
were the Allies nervous about pushing the Poles too hard on the issue of Jewish
rights? Did the Minority Treaty
with Poland require recognition of Jews’ rights?
And how did the Allies expect to hold Poland to these promises?
does Vital think that the “minority treaties” of the peace conference really
Vital think that the Allied leaders were cynical or inept in regards to Jewish
If anything, what does he see as their main “short-sightedness”?
position did most Jewish leaders take toward “the state” and what was the
problem with the idea that Jewish political participation in the life of the
state would ensure Jews’ equal rights?
did post-WWI anti-Semitic rhetoric differ from pre-war anti-Semitism?
How does Vital explain the new desire to completely remove the Jews?
mass Jewish emigration reduce the Jewish population in Eastern Europe in the
late 1800s-early 1900s? Explain.
Poland ethnically all “Polish” under the new Second Republic?
Were there many Jews in Poland? Where
did they live, and why was that important?
Polish leaders consider Jews to be Poles? What
did the Polish National Democrats and the leadership of the Catholic Church in
Poland have to say about Jews?
a whole, what kind of legal treatment did Jews receive under the Polish Second
Republic? And what kind of people
led the anti-Jewish campaigns in Poland?
and why did the Polish government’s policy towards Jews change in 1936?
does Vital characterize the Polish Jewish community during this era and why?
Was it wealthy? Did it think
of itself as ethnically Polish? Was
it apolitical? Was it politically
was the strategy of the General Zionists in Poland at this time?
Of Orthodox religious leaders (e.g., Agudat Yisrael)?
Of the Bund?
was the idea of “doikeyt” (see glossary, p. 918), and how did the Bund
practice this? Did the Bund
passively “take” anti-Jewish violence and persecution?
Explain. What were the
Jewish activism ultimately protect Jews in Poland? Was emigrating to Palestine a real alternative?
pp. 798-99, Vital says that Jews simply did not have the power to fight their
enemies as equals. What does he
mean by this?
what sense did events in Poland render the previous “big” questions of
Jewish political life irrelevant?
Poland the only country to impose laws and discriminate against Jews in the
Why couldn’t Jews simply leave Europe?
did the situation of Jews in Germany differ from that in Poland, and how was
German anti-Semitism different from Polish anti-Semitism?
How were the goals of Jewish policy in both states similar in the late
to Vital, what four aspects of the 1933 “Nazi Revolution” were particularly
disastrous for Germany’s Jews? What is his point regarding “Oriental
The Nazi focus on race? The
“dual nature” of Nazi policy?
the German Republic, did Jews have equal rights under the law?
Was there universal support for Jewish equal rights?
Did Jews dominate the government civil service and the universities?
they took power in 1933, how did the Nazis make their anti-Jewish laws “less
threatening”? Why might Jews have
had hope that things might not get worse in the first years of Nazi rule?
Were Jews disloyal to Germany in this era?
were the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and what did they do to Jewish hopes that Nazi
policy could be moderated?
did the Nazis focus so much attention on driving Jews out of rural areas?
does Vital consider most significant about Kristallnacht?
How does he explain its “cause”?
And what did the Nazis “learn” from the German public reaction to
Germany’s Jews stage protests against the Nazis of organize self-defense
forces? Why not?
Explain. How did they
respond to the growing repression and violence of Nazi policy [he discusses
was the Reich Representation of German Jews and what was its practical function?
What was its policy regarding emigration?
How did the Nazi regime treat it (before 1938)?
did German Zionists respond to Nazi rule?
is the point of entitling this chapter “Captivity”?
does the first sentence in this chapter mean?
Vital think that the Holocaust was historically inevitable?
to Vital, what two “simple” questions faced Europe’s Jewish leaders once
the Nazis came to power in Germany? Why
did Nazi rule make the issue of leadership of Jewish communities so very
was the relationship between the Comité des Délégation Juives and other
Jewish organizations in the 1930s? Was
it able to unite Europe’s Jewish leaders?
was the World Jewish Congress? What
was its purpose, and who was in its majority?
does Vital characterize the views of US Jewish leader Rabbi Stephen Wise?
to Vital, why did it take so long (1936) for the WJC to become operational?
What was its connection to the World Zionist Organization, and did it
endorse non-engagement in domestic affairs?
(or whom) did the WJC identify as the external and internal “enemies” of the
Jewish people? And what did it try
to do about radical anti-Semitism? Nazism?
was the Boycott campaign against Germany, and did the WJC initiate it?
did the British and US governments respond to the campaign, and was it
was the 1933 Transfer Agreement between the WZO and the Nazi regime?
What were its advantages to the Nazis and to the WZO?
What was public opinion about the agreement once it became known
were the strengths of the WZO that made it a model for other Jewish
note the discussion of politics in Palestine in the 1930s, and in particular the
efforts of the Labor Party to wrestle with the same issues that confront and
divide Israel today.
all Zionists want all European Jews to come to Palestine?
Explain. How did Jews and
Arabs in Palestine react to the influx og German Jews in the 1930s?
And under what conditions would Arab leaders accept a Jewish state in
did the Zionists quickly understand the threat posed by the Nazis?
gives a lot of attention to the 1938 Evian conference:
what was the stated purpose of the conference, and what would it not
discuss? Was it intended to change
policies on Jewish emigration? So
why had FDR called the conference?
did the Evian conference participants really intend to do about the refugee
does Vital think of the performance of Jewish leaders at the Evian conference
did the British government’s “new” position on Palestine in 1938-39 affect
the Zionists’ approach to the Evian conference?
Vital, what were the Evian conference’s “accomplishments”?
Vital think that Germany’s anti-Semitic policies were an anachronism in Europe
in the 1930s? Explain.
to Vital, could Jews escape Europe in the 1930s? What could have been done to aid Europe’s Jews?
Why, then, does Vital consider the Evian conference of such symbolic
importance to understanding the fate of Europe’s Jews?
at the table on p. 897—what became of Europe’s Jews in 1939-45?
Why does Vital end the book here?
QUESTION: What is the thesis of Vital’s book?
Jews of Europe Syllabus