Commentary Magazine

Jews in the Post-War World, by Max Gottschalk and Abraham G. Duker

An Objective Postwar Guide

Jews in the Post-War World.
by Max Gottschalk and Abraham G. Duker.
New York, The Dryden Press, 1945. 224 pp. $3.00.

Of all peoples who have passed through the tragic destiny of Nazi rule none has suffered more than the Jewish people; of all the multitude of problems confronting a baffled and bewildered post-war world none is more complex than the Jewish problem. Yet there is no problem about which there is generally less knowledge, less understanding and less intelligence than about that which concerns the postwar fate of the Jewish people. The Jewish as well as the non-Jewish world, communal leaders and lay people alike, display a lamenable and pathetic ignorance of the most elementary and basic facts of Jewish life. In the light of such a situation, the appearance of a guide to the Jewish problem by two competent scholars, Max Gottschalk and Abraham Duker, is more than of academic interest.

The volume under review is based on a study course on Jewish post-war problems prepared by the Research Institute on Peace and Post-War Problems of the American Jewish Committee. It is not a “partisan guide” to the Jewish problem. “Every effort,” say the authors in their introduction, “has been made to present the objective materials which the average reader must have at his disposal. . . . No attempt has been made to argue in favor of any particular program, or plan, or blueprint.”

On the whole, the authors have carried out this aim most faithfully. Jewish affairs between World War I and World War II are presented in the setting of general world-conditions. There is an excellent historical survey of the Jewish preparations for peace after World War I, and an interesting account of the background of the congress movement in the United States which led to the establishment of the American Congress. The section on the Jews in the Soviet Union is not up to date, especially with regard to Jewish cultural life after 1933. In the opinion of this reviewer, too, far too much importance is attached to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. The chapter on Palestine, on the other hand, presents a most balanced survey of the various aspects of the problem, although the conclusions may strike some readers as jejune.

The authors do well to stress throughout their book the indissoluble relationship between a just solution of the Jewish problem to a just disposal of general international problems. “The best hope for Jews, as for all mankind,” they declare, “lies in a post-war world based on international guarantees and mutual understanding. If the future of Europe is built on cooperation among the United Nations, Jewish individual and group rights will be-adequately protected.” That is why the general acceptance of the philosophy of cultural pluralism is so vitally essential for the maintenance of Jewish group life. That is why, too, the dominant trend of thought regarding national minorities which now prevails among the ruling powers is a deadly danger to the continued survival of Jews in Europe. The acceptance of the principle of a monolithic and integral national state, as it is being fashioned in Eastern Europe today, with its attempt to eliminate minority problems by wholesale shifts of population, leaves no protection for Jews, who are a minority everywhere. It is most unfortunate that Jewish political leaders seem to be blissfully unmindful of the potential dangers to world-Jewry inherent in such a political doctrine.

After a detailed discussion of the problems of relief, reconstruction and migration, the authors conclude with a chapter on “Jewish Survival in the Democracy of the Future.” This comes closest to a credo of Jewish life. Here too there is a nice blend of emphasis on Jewish values combined with considerations of a general world order. “Jewish survival as a concept,” they rightly observe, “must be large enough to include every interpretation of the role and function of the Jewish people in future history.” Religion, culture, community of fate and historical tradition all will play their role as regenerative and recuperative forces in Jewish life. But, conclude the authors, the chief requisites of survival are a democratic structure of society and the presence within the Jewish communities themselves of the will to survive through the sustaining power of Jewishness. These are conclusions with which no intelligent student of Jewish life can take issue.

Jews in the Post-War World is not a brilliant book; it is not marked by bold, imaginative or creative thinking regarding Jewish life. But it is comprehensive, informative, fair and objective. As such it should be read and used by every student of world affairs. It is a volume, too, which can well be recommended to our communal leaders as a vade mecum; and it is the hope of this reviewer that they will take time out to read the volume themselves and not rely on their office boys to prepare a digest of it for them.

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