The 1992 contribution of John Klier (1944–2007), along with his Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881–2 (2011), was emphatic, even at the highest levels of the academic establishment. Although gatekeepers and the dedication of ethnocentric academic cliques have prevented Klier’s work from gaining wider recognition, his research on the experience of the Jews in Eastern Europe was groundbreaking. Eschewing Jewish communal victimhood narratives, Klier, professor of modern Jewish history at University College London, pioneered a clinical approach to the study of Russian-Jewish relations by employing a methodology based purely on verifiable archival records. The result was a body of findings that disproved almost every aspect of the existing Jewish narrative. The ‘repressive’ May Laws were found to be overwhelmingly benign. The ‘pogroms’ were almost non-existent, and were largely the fictional products of Jewish propaganda networks stretching from Kiev to Vienna, and from Vienna to London and beyond. Jews were found to have been heavily involved in a large number of socially antagonistic behavior (from draft-evasion to rampant usury), while no evidence could be found that Russians had an irrational hatred of the Jewish religion. Klier found that the mass exodus of Jews from Russia to the United States in the late nineteenth century had no link to violence, but very strong links to economic slumps and population growth. In total, Klier’s work was a rejection of the myth of Tsarist oppression. Perhaps most controversially, it implicitly suggested that there was a strong logic to Russian anti-Jewish feeling and, by extension, to anti-Semitism more generally.
The same suggestion is apparent in the work of Kevin MacDonald, and this is especially the case with Separation and Its Discontents. Taken together with A People That Shall Dwell Alone, this text was probably the first book devoted in its entirety to the argument that there was a logic to anti-Semitism, in this case framed within the theory of group evolutionary strategy. Separation and Its Discontents was the first of MacDonald’s book that I read, now almost ten years ago. I’d been conducting a significant amount of independent research into historical anti-Semitism at the time, and discovered the book purely by chance with a keyword search on an academic book-sourcing catalog. I was oblivious to the controversy that had since become attached to MacDonald after the publication of his works on Jews, but by the time the book arrived for me from another college library there was by then very little chance that it would have dissuaded me from reading it. I’d become extremely dissatisfied with Jewish-produced works on anti-Semitism, having made my way through dozens of the standard works by Sander Gilman, Robert Wistrich, Gavin Langmuir, Jacob Katz, Marvin Perry, Frederick Schweitzer, and Shmuel Almog, in addition to particularly poor contributions from James Parkes and Jean-Paul Sartre.
To me, the most impressive aspect of Separation and Its Discontents was its mastery of the vast historiographical literature on the subject. Indeed, MacDonald’s bibliography dwarfed that of any of the works by any of the authors listed above. As well as consulting an almost unprecedented amount of secondary literature on the subject, another key strength of the text was the purity of its argument. This was a book that did not need to rely on stretches of logic or dubious attempts to pathologize historical actors in order to convince the reader of its central thesis. Instead, MacDonald took the factual findings revealed in many of these Jewish-authored secondary works, and brought them to a more logical conclusion. A good example of this is in MacDonald’s chapter where he examines the themes of anti-Semitism. Jewish scholars had hitherto been very eager to attribute this or that anti-Semitic allegation, or ‘canard,’ to irrational stereotyping. MacDonald examined these allegations and found remarkable historical consistency across diverse geographical and political contexts, leading in turn to the conclusion that the deeper origin of inter-group friction lay in the stimulating rather than reactive force —the behavior of Jews rather than the ‘prejudices’ of host populations. There is much more I could write about Separation and Its Discontents, but the time of the reader would be much better invested in reading the text itself. Having waded my way through hundreds of books and articles on the nature and history of anti-Semitism, I can state with some confidence that Separation and Its Discontents has no equal.
In 1997 Albert Lindemann, professor history at the University of California–Santa Barbara, published Esau’s Tears: Modern anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews. As the title suggests, Lindemann’s thesis is that modern European anti-Semitism is linked to a very substantial increase in the cultural, political, and economic power of Jews beginning in the nineteenth century. As Kevin MacDonald notes in his review of Lindemann’s work, the book “challenges the still common view that anti-Semitic attitudes are nothing more than the fundamentally irrational residues of Christian religious ideology or the psychological projections of inadequate personalities.” Lindemann pays particular attention to the Russian context, and thus explicitly or implicitly borrows much from the pioneering work of John Klier, particularly where it concerns the dubious nature of the ‘pogrom’ narrative and the development of international Jewish propaganda. If you’ve read MacDonald or Klier there probably won’t be a great deal in Esau’s Tears that will surprise you, but it merits reading due to the clarity of its prose, a wealth of telling anecdotes and historical examples, and its strong central thesis.
Another Jewish-authored text which merits close attention is Benjamin Ginsberg’s How the Jews Defeated Hitler: Exploding the Myth of Jewish Passivity in the Face of Nazism (2013). A full review of this important text will be coming very soon to TOO, but I will take this opportunity to outline some key points and arguments. Ginsberg is Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and had previously written Do Jews Have a Future in America? (2010) in which he argued that Jews were a very powerful group that nonetheless possessed a remarkable unease quite contrary to their material circumstances. In his brief but powerful 2013 book, Ginsberg rejects the almost universal idea that Jews were passive victims during World War II. He instead argues that Jews were extremely active participants in the conflict at all levels, and that they “played a major role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.”
Jewish power and influence manifested itself in several ways during the war. Jewish action was international and, although at times lacking co-ordination, was driven globally by a desire to defend Jewish interests and use all avenues of influence available to them. Ginsberg offers chapters on Jewish action within the Soviet Union, Jewish activism within the United States, Jewish involvement in wartime intelligence agencies, and Jewish involvement in directing and participating in the worst of partisan warfare — a form of fighting that had a devastating impact on German supply lines, and in turn led to a justified German military paranoia about Jewish communities in general.
Some of the revelations are stunning, and Ginsberg is quote forthright in his assessment of the extent of Jewish power. In the Soviet Union, Jews played major roles in the ruling Communist party and the Soviet state, and quickly assumed every position of influence — “foreign affairs, propaganda, finance, administration, and industrial production.” Half of Lenin’s first Politburo were Jewish. Trotsky organized and commanded the Red Army during the civil war. The Jews Kamanev and Zinoviev ruled the Soviet Union along with Stalin after the death of Lenin. The President of the Communist Party Central Committee during this period was the Jew Yakov Sverdlov. The commissar for foreign affairs was the Jew Maxim Litvinov. The press commissar was the Jew Karl Radek. One of Stalin’s top aides was the Jewish mass murderer Lazar Kaganovich. The head of the secret police was Genrikh Yagoda, another Jew, while the orchestrators of the police state in the Soviet Union were the Jews M.T. Gay, A.A. Slutsky, and Boris German who developed the gulag system. Jews like Mikhail Koltsov dominated Soviet journalism and the film industry. Jews enjoyed massive over-representation in the universities, were under-represented as workers, and lived in a state in which anti-Semitism had been made illegal.
During the war, Soviet Jews worked with their American counter-parts to secure vital lend-lease deals on weaponry. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Jews were almost entirely absent from fighting. Jewish involvement at the ‘raw end’ of the conflict was limited mainly to over-representation at officer level, while Jews absolutely dominated the realm of popular mobilization, in the sense that they developed propaganda to persuade the wider population to fight even though they hated the Soviet regime; and they were deeply involved in meting out punishments for those who didn’t respond. Although comprising only 2% of the Russian population, more than 15% of Soviet war propagandists were Jews. Publications like the official army newspaper Red Star were the mouthpieces of the Jews David Ortenberg and Ilya Ehrenberg, the latter being responsible for the line: “If you have killed one German, kill another. There is nothing jollier than German corpses.”
In the United States Jews really rose to power under FDR, forming 15% of his appointees at a time when they were less than 3% of the population. Ginsberg demonstrates that Jews formed the leadership of almost every aspect of the New Deal, described rather accurately by some contemporaries as the ‘Jew Deal.’ In particular, Jews were keen to strengthen the position of central government in America, and being close to a kind of ‘Big Government’ is something that is perfectly in keeping with their preferences historically. Ginsberg further shows that Jews used their dominance of the media and film industries to manipulate public opinion, taking the population from a strong anti-war position to a pro-intervention position in just a couple of years. Of particular note is Ginsberg’s exploration of Jewish organizations like the ADL, and their covert work with the security agencies to manipulate public opinion and discredit isolationists.
In the intelligence agencies, Jews were everywhere, and there were even Jewish agents (the most famous being the group known as the ‘Red Orchestra’) operating within the Third Reich itself. In partisan warfare, Jews comprised around 25 per cent of all resistance fighters in Western Europe. In the Soviet Union, almost all early partisan groups were led by Jewish Communists and soldiers. Increasingly harsh German treatment of civilian populations in the East, argues Ginsberg, was directly linked to the impact of Jewish partisan activity. A further measure of Jewish domination of partisan warfare was the occasional execution of non-Jewish partisans for actions perceived to be anti-Semitic.