Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Racing against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Racing against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler

Article excerpt

Racing Against History: The 1940 Campaign for a Jewish Army to Fight Hitler. By Rick Richman. New York: Encounter, 2018. 251 pp. $25.99.

The when campaign to do what, one might ask? The reader is excused if the subtitle does not ring a bell, for Richman, a lawyer, talented author, and formidable researcher, has resurrected the failed and now-obscure effort to mobilize American Jews to create a fighting force against Nazi Germany.

On the surface, he relates a story about three grandees of Zionism-Chaim Weizmann, Zeev Jabotinsky, and David BenGurion-who traveled to the United States in a single year, 1940, to rouse the world's largest, richest, and freest Jewish population to concern itself with the horrors underway in Europe and to respond by supporting a Jewish army. Each of the three met with frustration because of a prevailing American mood of isolationism and a Jewish leadership fearful of getting out too far in front of general opinion.

But Richman's real story is that of a heroic and visionary Jabotinsky, 59, then at the peak of his rhetorical and organizational powers, versus not only the other two Zionist leaders, both too timid, but also against what a Jabotinsky assistant, Benjamin Akzin, more broadly called the "Society of Trembling Jews. …

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