Europe’s Jews are seeing that the Enlightenment, not Hitler, was the aberration

By Andrea Widburg | July 8, 2024

Image: Muslims and communists come together to celebrate their victory in France. X screen grab.

Since the mid-18th century, people in the West viewed the Enlightenment as a historical movement that marked a turning point in human nature. We would retreat from our tribal, primitive, mindless ways and tread a higher path, forever abandoning irrationality. Jews, for whom the Enlightenment provided a magical release from Europe’s massacres and ghettos, bought into this notion with special fervor. Hitler, they thought, was an aberration, and many believed communism might be the re-set needed to restore rationality. They were wrong. Hitler wasn’t the aberration. He was the reversion to the norm, and Europe is reverting again.

The Romans hated the Jews because their war with the Kingdom of Judea was one of the most fiercely fought and expensive wars in the history of the Roman Empire. When the Romans finally defeated the Kingdom of Judea, they exiled most Jews from the lands those Jews had occupied for almost 2,000 years and renamed Judea “Palestine,” after the Biblical Philistines, as an insult to the conquered people.

The Jews caused problems again when they refused to join the rest of Rome in embracing Christianity, thereby incurring the enmity of the Roman church. In the same way, they earned both Mohamed’s and Martin Luther’s enduring hatred. Sticking to your principles when everyone urges you to abandon them will not excite admiration. It will, instead, make you hated.

Beginning around the 8th century, when Roman Christianity really took hold in Europe, the Roman Church’s hatred for the Jews went with it. Europeans hated Jews with blood-thirsty ferocity, barely allowing them to exist in the best of times and, when times weren’t good, killing or exiling them. The litany of horrors was non-stop, whether in Spain, Germany, Italy, France, England, or anywhere else.

Jews were tortured, burned alive, hanged, drawn, quartered, drowned, and anything else the primitive mind could devise in service to such things as keeping up the spirits of the Crusaders, punishing Jews for plagues or crop failures, canceling debts, stealing Jewish goods and land, obscuring the identity of an actual murderer, or just making a point. That’s when the Jewish blood libels came into being, libels that are daily kept alive in the Muslim world. Those Jews allowed to remain in Europe were quartered in ghettos, which were essentially concentration camps.

And then came the Enlightenment, which offered a rational, individual-centric view of the world. The Enlightenment valued the Old Testament (i.e., the Torah or the Jewish Bible) because Enlightenment thinkers recognized that it contained within it the most profound concept in the entire Bible: Individuals have value, and that value comes because God created them in his image. Using reason, they concluded that you cannot embrace the Jewish God while at the same time hating the Jews.

When William Norman Ewer (1885-1977), a hardcore communist British journalist, penned his nasty little doggerel, “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” Leo Rosen countered, “But not so odd as those who choose a Jewish God yet spurt the Jews.” Rosen’s was the rationalist view and men of the Enlightenment were rational thinkers.

The American Revolution was the culmination of this core Enlightened viewpoint, one grounded in a Biblical concept of individual worth and, therefore, liberty. It’s not a coincidence that the Founding Fathers were, for the most part, philosemitic.

However, less than 20 years later, although few realized it at the time, the French Revolution marked the end of Europe’s brief flirtation with rationalism and individualism—and this despite its famous motto of “Liberty, equality, and brotherhood” (Liberté, égalité, fraternité).

Rather than being the birth of liberty in Europe, the French Revolution marked the birth of statism, which meant a continuation of the totalitarianism that had marked Europe since the ancient tribes consolidated into nations. However, instead of a king presiding over the totalitarian state, bureaucrats and their bosses did.

Still, riding high on the tide of the original Enlightenment sentiments, Europeans did repent of their former anti-Jewish ways. Napoleon released Jewish from the ghettos across Europe, and anti-Jewish sentiment became less bloody and more economic and social.

Once free from collective imprisonment and the ever-present threat of violent death, Jews thrived and assimilated. Many foolishly believed that their liberty was owed, not to Enlightenment principles themselves but to the end of monarchy. For that reason, many Jews equally foolishly gave their undying fealty to the notion of the state, believing it to be the ultimate rational actor that would always save them.

But Europeans weren’t going to shake off 1,000 years of anti-Jewish sentiment so easily. As noted, Jews were still victims of ongoing discrimination, even without the pogroms that raged in Eastern Europe—and that saw the forebearers of so many American Jews head to Ellis Island.

And of course, Jews remained the eternal other. They looked different from their European neighbors and, while respecting their laws (unlike today’s jihadist Muslims), did not embrace their customs (although that depended on how assimilated they were).

This “otherness” came to a head in 19th century France with the Dreyfus affair, when a French military officer was sent to the notorious Devil’s Island for espionage, even though everyone knew he was innocent and the culprit was a noble’s son. That’s when

Theodore Herzl realized that the Enlightenment was dying in Europe and that Jews would never be safe there. It was time for Jews to return to their homeland—a land that had languished for close to a thousand years under Muslim colonialism but that had always remained Jewish. Zionism was born.

Most Jews, though, continued to have blind faith in the Enlightenment. Even after Hitler and the Holocaust, many Jews believed that what happened was merely an aberration and that Enlightenment rationality, once restored, would continue as the norm. Many continued to insist (as they do today) that communism, which promised rationalism, would be the Jewish refuge.

Those Jews missed entirely Karl Marx’s virulently antisemitic rants, the “socialism” part in Hitler’s National Socialism, and Stalin’s Jewish purges. Indeed, my aunt, who was living in Israel after 1948, returned to East Berlin in the early 1950s. When people remonstrated with her for returning to the land of the Nazis, she assured them that communism had “purged” the Nazis.

Fast forward to modern Europe. After WWII, it embraced socialism. As happens with socialism, Europeans stopped having children, so they had to import Muslims to work for them (Turks in Germany, Algerians in France and Belgium, Pakistanis in England, etc.). That controlled trickle turned into a steady stream when leftist governments saw their populations rebel against this replacement and into a flood in 2015, when Angela Merkel opened Europe’s gates, closed since Vienna in 1683, to people embracing an ideology that has conquest as its central feature.

And now, in both France and Britain, the antisemitic left and the genocidal Muslims have made common cause. Those European Jews who still believed in the promises of the Enlightenment or communism are being disabused. The same people who have been marching in support of Jewish genocide since October 7 now control the reins of government.

No wonder that, in France, smart Jews say Jews must leave:

Moshe Sebbag, a rabbi for the Synagogue de la Victoire, tells The Times of Israel that “it seems France has no future for Jews.” He advises young French Jews to leave for Israel.

“But people my age, who are 50, 60, we’ve made our life here and we fear for the future of our children,” he says. His assessment is not due solely to the left-wing bloc’s success, but to the mainstreaming of antisemitism in general in France, he says.

“The left is once again kidnapped by the infamous Melenchon. Divisive language. Hate of the republic on the lips. Around him right now are some incarnations of the new antisemitism. A chilling moment. A stain: Continue to fight against these people,” French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes on X.

In England, whether as Labour-allied independents or within Labour itself, Muslims are the rising party. Pro-Palestinian (i.e., “genocide against Israel”) MPS are the sixth largest party in the UK. The Muslim vote, with backing for the left, is England’s future. These Muslims are all-in on Jihad, and Jews, as always, will be the first to go.

Germany’s Jews in the 1930s couldn’t believe that it would happen there. Well, it could, and it did. Ninety years later, it’s time for Europe’s Jews to believe the same. It can and will happen there—and unless American Jews abandon the Democrat party, it can and will happen here, too.

July 9, 2024 | 9 Comments »

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  1. Voltaire v Leibniz – in verse! How Voltaire’s Candide mocked Leibniz’s Best of all Possible Worlds

    Leonard Bernstein conducts Candide

    concert version, London Symphony. 1989. He speaks first. “Why Candide?”

    When I was growing up, our cat was named, “Cunegonde.” My parents adopted her 6 years before I was born and she died when I was 15. CUNY for short. My father called her Mocskawitz ( pronounced Mochkawitz ) . Mocska is Hungarian for cat. She was a smoky silver Angora Persian Hungarian Jewish cat. Ya know? Mocsa – witz. though it came out sounding like Mushkawitz, when he said it. 😀

    [By the way, Dr. Pangloss (and narrator in the beginning), Adolph Green (who was Hungarian Jewish) who I met – he and Betty were friends of my teacher and her husband:

    “Adolph Green (December 2, 1914 – October 23, 2002) was an American lyricist and playwright who, with long-time collaborator Betty Comden, penned the screenplays and songs for musicals on Broadway and in Hollywood. Although they were not a romantic couple, they shared a unique comic genius and sophisticated wit that enabled them to forge a six-decade-long partnership. They received numerous accolades including four Tony Awards and nominations for two Academy Awards and a Grammy Award. Green was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 and American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.[1] Comden and Green received the Kennedy Center Honor in 1991.

    They started their career alongside Leonard Bernstein on stage where they received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle for Best Musical for Wonderful Town (1953). On Broadway they wrote the music and lyrics to musicals such as On the Town (1944), Two on the Aisle (1951), Peter Pan (1954), Bells Are Ringing (1956), and Applause (1970). They won four Tony Awards as composer and lyricist for Hallelujah, Baby! (1967), On the Twentieth Century (1978), and The Will Rogers Follies (1991). As performers they starred in A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green (1958).

    They gained notoriety in film collaborating with Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly and Vincent Minnelli as part of Arthur Freed’s production unit at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Perhaps their greatest collaboration was for the film Singin’ in the Rain (1952), although they received two Academy Award nominations for screenplays for the musicals The Band Wagon (1953), and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). They also wrote the scripts for the classic movie musicals The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), On the Town (1949), Auntie Mame (1958), and Bells Are Ringing (1960).”

  2. The sudden, global storm of antisemitic mob hysteria that is passing can’t be explained but it was well depicted metaphorically – without mentioning the Jews by name, of course – by this scene from “Star Trek: The Original Series” – which I call, “The Jewish Star Trek” – entitled, “The Red Hour” in Episode 21 of the first season, “The Return of the Archons” which aired on February 9, 1967 – which I am honored to be able to say I saw on Television on that date at the grand old age of 7.

    (I’m sorry to say that 2 years later, I keeled over and fell asleep on my visiting mother’s lap sitting next to me – she was visiting me at a classical music summer camp where they planted this 13 inch black and white tv on the counter in front of an audience of hundreds? in the cafeteria – as they droned through endless simulations waiting to get to the moon already* – and so I slept through the moon landing. But, Star Trek? Heaven forfend. Mon dieu! Sacrilege.) 😀

    [*Mad Magazine “The lighter side of” satirical cartoon bit I remember from around back then:

    Kids in back seat of car: When we gonna get there, when we gonna get there?

    Parents: Soon, soon.

    Repeated several times.

    Exhausted Parents (with relief): We’re here!

    Kids’ response: When we going home? When we going home? 😀

    (Perhaps Star Trek made actual science too boring to plod through for once and future generations the way Sesame Street did for school in general?

    I co-taught violin classes in public schools, at one point, through an arts organization, and the only way the the kids attention could be held was through the Suzuki method which turned every lesson into an audience participatory Broadway show, with lots of singing and dancing. 😀 )

  3. Belloc wrote, ‘How odd of God to choose the Jews, but not so odd as those who worship a Jew yet demean the Jews.”

    Belloc was typical of those Christian intellectuals who peddled in what was known as the higher anti-Semitism.

  4. The author vainly tries to find reasons – pretty funny for somebody who is trying to reject the Enlightenment – for things that have no rhyme or reason. Any any belief system or its opposite, religion, political philosophy, ethical system, aesthetic system, you name it, that anybody has ever come up with in the 4,000 years since Abraham, has been used alternately to hate, love, or be indifferent to the Jews. Well, some of them were just genocidal from the start.

    “In every generation, they rise up to destroy us.” It’s just true. We have to just accept it and take it into consideration always. There is no explanation that fits the facts, which are undeniable, nonetheless.

    However, but for the Enlightenment, Jews in the West, where most of us are now, would not enjoy any of the rights, freedoms or safety, that we still currently enjoy. She’s biting the hand that fed us.

    The pivotal American founding fathers were not the Puritans, who for all of their reverence for the Torah, did not tolerate Jews in their midst. It was two men, George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte.

    “Napoleon and the Jews – When the ghetto walls came tumbling down.”


    Odd of you to choose the saying of a confirmed Communist Agent and Jew-Hater. I recall as a kid reading this very epigram.
    Felix would know all about him as he was also a Trotsky hater.

  6. ” How odd of G-D to choose the Jews. But, odd still are those who choose the G-d who chose the Jews”

  7. Trouble is, it’s not just the Democratic Party! This comes from above the politicians and Party’s pay grade!