Unwelcome Strangers

Unwelcome Strangers : East European Jews in Imperial Germany

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When East European Jews migrated westward in ever larger numbers between 1870 and 1914, both German government officials and the leaders of German Jewry were confronted by a series of new challenges. This book probes the questions raised, touching on some of the most troubling issues in modern German and Jewish history - the behaviour of Germans towards strangers in their midst, the status and self-perception of emancipated Jews in pre-Nazi Germany, and the response of `privileged' Jews to needy, but alien co-religionists. Students of Jewish and modern German history.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 76.2mm | 385.55g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195048938
  • 9780195048933

Review Text

This scholarly work focuses on part of the German rehearsal for destruction that would take place under the Nazis. The book, however, is more concerned with an earlier period - from 1870 until 1914. During this era, Germany had to develop attitudes and implement policies toward the large numbers of East European Jews who migrated west out of Poland. It might have been tempting to look to German leaders or common Germans to determine what those attitudes and policies were, but Wertheimer's careful scholarship led him elsewhere. He wants to know who these Jews were who came flooding into Germany, and how did not only the German bureaucracy but already settled German Jews react to the new immigrants. As Wertheimer develops his thesis, Germany emerges as a country of the Middle Ages. Whereas in other Western countries, Jews were mostly emancipated once they entered, in Germany there was no strong central governmental attempt to protect immigrants' rights. Instead, each local state devised its own rules, and, in most respects, relied on historical precedents in barring the aliens from certain places, disallowing them to engage in some occupations, and using other equally demeaning measures. Such a system, with its power focused entirely in faceless bureaucracy, led to the hardening of anti-Jewish attitudes. Anti-Semitism became both institutionalized and legitimized, Wertheimer argues, during this period. There were privileged Jews already living in Germany when the new immigrants arrived. It might be supposed that their natural unease about new, large Jewish immigration would have made them ungracious hosts. On the contrary, however, by and large, native Jews acted charitably, Wertheimer says, and tried to help their co-religionists. Their efforts, however, were severely limited by the bureaucracies. This carefully researched, precisely written book, creative in its use of sources, is provocative in its scholarly assertions. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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