For millennia Europe was the center of diaspora life but as Jews continue fleeing the continent, by the end of this century all that’s left will be a Jewish graveyard
Last month the German commissioner for “Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism” used his impressively titled office to advise German Jews against wearing kipahs in public. The commissioner’s response to a surge of anti-Semitic violence in his country was a sheepish acknowledgment that Germany is once again a dangerous country for Jews. And as Germany goes, so goes Europe. For millennia, following the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the diaspora, Europe was home to the majority of the world’s Jews. That chapter of history is over. The continent is fast becoming a land of Jewish ghost towns and graveyards where the few remaining Jews must either accept an embattled existence or else are preparing to leave.
In his earliest speeches Adolf Hitler made clear that his primary mission was to make Germany, and then all Europe, judenrein—free of Jews. He failed only because of the Allied victory but today, slowly, inexorably and, for the most part, legally and largely unconsciously, Europe is fulfilling the Nazi aspiration. It is not only in Germany but in England, France, Hungary and elsewhere across the continent, that the many forms of European anti-Semitism—far right, left-wing anti-imperialist, and Islamist—are not only multiplying but moving closer toward controlling the official levers of power.
Progressives and the media prefer to blame anti-Semitism primarily on Europe’s deplorables, but the far right does not constitute the only, or even the primary threat, to European Jews. A detailed survey from the University of Oslo found that in Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, and France, most anti-Semitic violence comes from Muslims, including recent immigrants. Similarly a poll of European Jews found the majority of incidents of anti-Semitism came from either Muslims or from the left; barely 13% traced it to right-wingers. Violence against Jews is worst in places like the migrant dominated suburbs of Paris or Malmo in Sweden.
Nor is the hollowing out of Europe’s Jews confined to one region or type of country. The rate of exodus differs in Russia compared to France, and the sources of insecurity in Belgium are not identical to those in England. But, taken together, the phenomenon of Jewish flight crosses borders and applies to Eastern and Central Europe as well as the countries of the West.
Cities of Ghosts
In 1920 Europe was home to over half of world Jewry and many of its most creative, dynamic communities; today it contains barely 10% of the world’s Jews. The devastation wrought by the Holocaust is not, on its own, sufficient to explain this loss. In 1939 there were 9.5 million Jews living in Europe; at war’s end in 1945 only 3.8 million remained. But today, more than half a century after the Holocaust, there are barely 1.5 million Jews left in Europe.
Cities once among the pearls of Jewish life—Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Lublin, Riga, Kiev, Prague—have Jewish populations that would fit neatly into a Texas suburb. Even the last great redoubts of Jewish life in Europe, Paris, and London, are threatened both by right-wing anti-Semitism, assimilation, and the pernicious new hybrid that joins leftist and Islamist hatred. Today Europe boasts only three of the world’s twenty most heavily Jewish cities—Moscow, London and Paris; the rest are all in the New World or Israel.