Because They Were Jews: A History of Antisemitism

Because They Were Jews: A History of Antisemitism

Because They Were Jews: A History of Antisemitism

Because They Were Jews: A History of Antisemitism


In Because They Were Jews, Meyer Weinberg examines the history of antisemitism in twelve representative countries from ancient times to the present. His selection includes the eight European countries with the largest number of Jews, as well as countries where Jews amounted to less than one percent of the population. He raises questions about traditional approaches to the study of antisemitism and chooses instead to analyze it as a systematic pattern emerging from particular political situation. A comprehensive discussion includes anti-Jewish actions in education, employment, housing, government and religion in each of the twelve countries. Concluding chapters integrate the material on each country and analyze similarities and differences. A bibliographic essay provides an exhaustive guide to the English-language references on this topic.


Antisemitism is not a Jewish disease. It is an illness of the non- Jewish world.

--Yehuda Bauer, 1982

This book examines the development of antisemitism in twelve countries from earliest times to the present. While the emphasis is necessarily on Europe, also included are countries in Africa, the Near East, and North and South America. During the half-century before 1980 these twelve countries accounted for more than four-fifths to somewhat less than two- thirds of the world's Jews (see table 1). This falling percentage after 1945 is accounted for mainly by the birth of Israel in 1948. In 1980, for example, most of the world's Jews not living in any of the twelve countries resided in Israel.

Quite possibly some seventy-five countries have a significant element of antisemitism in their history. To select twelve required criteria that would yield a representative group. This was assured in part by including the eight European countries most populous with Jews. Also, the countries included, taken as a whole, portray a wide range of conditions. In some, Jews made up less than I percent of the population, in one other they amounted to as much as 10 percent. These are, in addition, countries with or without state churches; either possessing or lacking a "Jewish question"--countries like Germany, with a centuries-old record of antisemitism, or Bulgaria, without one; and Muslim countries, like Egypt, where both Jews and Christians were religious minorities, and Ethiopia, where both Jews and Muslims were ruled by a Christian majority.

Ideally, antisemitism in any country ought to be treated as part of the country's general history, and every major aspect of the history of Jews in that country should be detailed. Except for specialists, with far . . .

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