The Uncomfortable Legacy of Germany’s Jewish Revolutionaries

In 1913, Adolf Hitler settled in Munich, and it was there that he later joined the Nazi party and, in 1923, led it in the failed attempt to overthrow the German government known as the Beerhall Putsch. The city was also the center of three socialist revolutions in 1918 and 1919, the leaders of which were mostly Jews. That story, and its connection to the rise of Hitler, is the subject of a recent book by the historian Michael Brenner. Steven Aschheim writes in his review:

The conventional wisdom is that when Jews actively participated in 20th-century revolutionary movements and regimes, they did so as “non-Jewish” Jews who had cut off all ties to Judaism and the Jewish community. But, at least in Munich, Brenner paints a rather different picture. Although these radicals had no formal ties to the organized Jewish community—both of [Kurt] Eisner’s wives, for instance, were not Jewish—they never denied their origins, explicitly opposed anti-Semitism and, most importantly, were actively interested in their Jewish cultural heritage.

Eisner, chair of the Independent Social Democrats, was an intellectual, a Kantian socialist whose greatest inspiration was the idealism of the great Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen, who, he wrote, exercised “intellectual influence on my innermost being.” When [the Jewish anarchist Gustav] Landauer eulogized Eisner before thousands of mourners, he proudly declared that “Kurt Eisner, the Jew, was a prophet.” Landauer himself looked like one, and though his relationship with Martin Buber was at times tense, it was always close. “My Judaism,” he declared, “lives in everything that I start and that I am.”

For all that, as Brenner notes, “Jewish revolutionaries do not a Jewish revolution make.” This is not simply because its Jewish participants had removed themselves from the official Jewish community, since in most cases the feeling was mutual, but also because the myth of Jewish solidarity was certainly just that.

Eisner’s assassin, Count Anton von Arco auf Valley, wrote that he was going to shoot his victim because he was “a Bolshevik, he is a Jew, he’s not a German, he doesn’t feel German, he is undermining every kind of German feeling, he is a traitor.” Yet, a key motive of Arco’s act was his obsession with his own partially Jewish background. Indeed, he had been excluded from joining the extremist right-wing Thule Society because, as its founder Rudolf von Sebottendorf observed, given his converted mother’s Jewish descent, he was a “Yid.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Communism, German Jewry


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy