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34. “Assimilation and Anti-Semitism”[2]
[April 3,
When an intimidated individual or a careerist among my brethren feels inclined or
forced to identify himself as a son of his forefathers, then he usually describes him-
self—provided he was not baptized—as a “German citizen of the Mosaic
There is something comical, even tragicomical in this
and we feel it
immediately. Why? It is quite obvious. What is characteristic about this man is not
at all his religious belief—which usually is not that great, anyway—but rather his
being of Jewish
And this is precisely what he does not want to reveal
in his confession. He talks about religious faith instead of tribal affiliation, of “Mo-
saic” instead of “Jewish” because the latter term, which is much more familiar to
him, would emphasize affiliation to his tribe. Besides, the broad designation “Ger-
man citizen” is ridiculous because practically everybody you can meet in the street
here is a “German citizen.” Then, if our hero is no fool—and that is rather rare in-
deed—there must be a certain intention behind it. Yes, of course! Scared by fre-
quent slander he wants to assert that he is a good and dutiful German citizen, even
though all his life he has been troubled, and often not just a little, by “German cit-
izens” because of his “Mosaic
For brevity’s sake, I have used the term “Jewish nationality” above sensing that
it could meet with resistance. Nationality is one of those slogans that cause vehe-
ment reaction in contemporary sensibilities, while reason handles the concept with
less confidence. If somebody finds this word inappropriate for our case, he may
choose another one, but I can easily circumscribe what it means in our case.
When a Jewish child begins school, it soon discovers that it is different from oth-
er children, and that they do not treat him or her as one of their own. This being
different is indeed rooted in heritage; it is in no way based only upon the child’s
religious affiliation or on certain peculiarities of tradition. Facial features already
mark the Jewish child as alien, and classmates are very sensitive to these peculiar-
The feeling of strangeness easily elicits a certain hostility, in particular if
there are several Jewish children in the class who, quite naturally, join closer to-
gether and gradually form a small, closely knit
With adults it is quite similar as with children. Due to race and temperament as
well as traditions (which are only to a small extent of religious origin) they form a
community more or less separate from non-Jews. Aside from social difficulties,
due to the changing intensity of anti-Semitism over the course of time, a Jew and a
non-Jew will not understand each other as easily and completely as two Jews. It is
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