Rabbis and sages produced texts and wrote liturgical poems that are still used today. But the story Europeans tell themselves—or told themselves, until the proof became too obvious to ignore—is that Judenhass, the hatred of Jews, ended when Berlin fell 70 years ago. We are witnessing today the denouement of an unusual epoch in European life, the age of the post-Holocaust Jewish dispensation.
Emancipation and enlightenment opened the broader culture to Jews, who came to prominence in politics, philosophy, the arts, and science—Chagall and Kafka, Einstein and Freud, Lévi-Strauss and Durkheim. When the survivors of the Shoah emerged from the camps, and from hiding places in cities and forests across Europe, they were met on occasion by pogroms.
But he has lately come to find radical Islamism to be a more immediate, even existential, threat to France than the National Front. I think there is real violence in her,” he told me.
“But she is so successful because there actually is a problem of Islam in France, and until now she has been the only one to dare say it.”Suddenly, there was news: a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, in eastern Paris, had come under attack. “The Jews.” Even before anti-Semitic riots broke out in France last summer, Finkielkraut had become preoccupied with the well-being of France’s Jews.
(In Poland, for instance, some Christians were unhappy to see their former Jewish neighbors return home, and so arranged their deaths.) But over time, Europe managed to absorb the small number of Jewish survivors who chose to remain. At the same time, the countries of Western Europe embraced the cause of the young and besieged state of Israel.
The Shoah served for a while as a sort of inoculation against the return of overt Jew-hatred—but the effects of the inoculation, it is becoming clear, are wearing off. Memories of 6 million Jewish dead fade, and guilt becomes burdensome.
Renewed vitriol among right-wing fascists and new threats from radicalized Islamists have created a crisis, confronting Jews with an agonizing choice.“All comes from the Jew; all returns to the Jew.”— Édouard Drumont (1844–1917), founder of the Anti-Semitic League of France I.
The Scourge of Our Time The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, the son of Holocaust survivors, is an accomplished, even gifted, pessimist.
We knew nothing about this new attack—except that we already knew everything.
“People don’t defend the Jews as we expected to be defended,” he said.