Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I

Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I

Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I

Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I

Synopsis

This book explores the impact of war and political crisis on the national identity of Jews, both in the multinational Habsburg monarchy and in the new nation-states that replaced it at the end of World War I. Jews enthusiastically supported the Austrian war effort because it allowed them toassert their Austrian loyalties and Jewish solidarity at the same time. They faced a grave crisis of identity when the multinational state collapsed and they lived in nation-states mostly uncomfortable with ethnic minorities. This book raises important questions about Jewish identity and about thegeneral nature of ethnic and national identity.

Excerpt

This book studies the impact of war and political crisis on Jewish national identity. It focuses on the Jews of Austria-Hungary during and just after World War I to understand how Jews, and by extension ethnic minorities in general, constructed their national, ethnic, and cultural identities—and then reconstructed them when profound political transformations required them to do so. The question is how the Jews understood their relationship to the state in which they lived, both to the multinational, supranational Habsburg Monarchy and to the nation-states that replaced it in late 1918. Their relationship reveals much about the nature of Jewish identity in the modern world, about national identity in East Central Europe, and about the meaning of national, ethnic, and cultural identity in general.

The Jews of Austria-Hungary and its successor states in the early twentieth century make an excellent case study for this exploration of Jewish and national identity. Austria-Hungary was a supranational dynastic state with no real national identity of its own other than loyalty to the Habsburg emperors and their state. Habsburg subjects did not form one nation. Rather, the Habsburg Monarchy consisted of many peoples who differed in language, culture, and ethnicity, or, to use their term, in nationality. These peoples viewed themselves as nations, and some of them hoped for some form of political sovereignty. When AustriaHungary collapsed at the end of World War I, several nation-states replaced it, in each of which national and political loyalties were equated, and national identity was understood primarily in ethnic terms. This ethnic understanding of national identity would prove problematic for “national minorities,” that is, for ethnic groups within the borders of the new states that did not belong to the dominant “nation.” This understanding would also prove problematic for the Jews.

Before and during World War I the Jews felt intense loyalty to AustriaHungary because the supranational state allowed them the luxury of separating . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.