Algerian Jews, and Other Matters
Algeria, now that it is about to become independent, has much in common with Central and Eastern Europe in the years before and after the 1914 war-the dissolution of empire, conflict between a dominant minority and a subordinate majority, and the Jews boxed in a corner. Most Algerian Jews, not to speak of their Secret Army Organization activists, would have preferred Algeria to remain French, just as most of the Jews in the Hapsburg lands probably would have wanted the empire intact. A minority of Algerian Jews were for an Algerian Algeria because they thought it just and progressive or because they were Algerian nationalists, as a minority of Jews in Prague or Lemberg (Lwow) favored Czech or Polish independence for similar reasons.
The case of the Jews of Prague is best known, on account of the interest in Kafka. They were part of the Jewry of the German Kulturkreis, whose fathers or grandfathers had spoken Yiddish. But one thing that made Prague so Kafkaesque for the Jews was that there German was the language and culture of a hated minority. The peasants in the country and the workers and servants in the city spoke Czech and, led by a nationalist elite, dreamt of the overthrow of German lordship. For the Czechs the Jews were hateful Germans, all the more to be despised because they were not really German. (The real Germans were not very fond of the Jews either.) When Czechoslovakia was established, the Jews were uneasy, briefly, until they came under the shelter of Masaryk’s liberalism.
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