Germany’s Jewish Mathematicians on the Eve of the Holocaust

Feb. 13 2017

Born in Germany in 1891, Abraham Fraenkel embarked on a highly successful career as a mathematician. In the 1960s, while living in Israel, he wrote a memoir about his life up until the early years of the Third Reich. At one point he reminisces about some of the outstanding mathematicians he knew in pre-World War II Germany and their reactions to the changing climate there, including one of the rare Gentile professors who stood up for Jewish colleagues:

In his time, David Hilbert (1862–1943) was the most significant mathematician in the world. . . . Students flocked to him from all over Europe and the United States. . . . Hilbert always remained free of all national and racist prejudices. After the turn of the 20th century, he had a large number of Jewish students, both in absolute and relative terms. In his own working life, he was greatly influenced by two Jews, Adolf Hurwitz and Hermann Minkowski. His authority and tenacity managed twice to break through the [pre-World War I] prejudice in the Prussian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs against appointing Jews to full professorships: Minkowski in 1902 and Edmund “Yechezkel” Landau in 1909. . . .

Hilbert’ s response to a question [posed to him by] Bernhard Rust, the Nazi minister for science, education, and popular culture, was typical. At a banquet in 1934 in Göttingen, Rust asked: “Is it really true, Herr Professor, that [the mathematical institute you direct] suffered so much from the departure of the Jews and their friends?” to which Hilbert replied, in his characteristic East Prussian dialect: “Suffered? No, it hasn’t suffered, Herr Minister. It simply doesn’t exist anymore!”

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More about: German Jewry, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Mathematics

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror