The twentieth century has seen both the greatest triumph of Jewish history (the birth of the nation of Israel) and its greatest tragedy (the state sponsored genocide of the Holocaust). A People Apart is the first study to examine the role played by the Jews themselves, across the whole of Europe, during the century and a half leading up to these events.
In this monumental work of history, David Vital explores the Jews' troubled relationship with Europe, documenting the struggles of this "nation without a territory" to establish a place for itself within an increasingly polarized and nationalist continent. The book ranges across the whole of the continent during this crucial period, examining Jewish communities in all the major countries, describing everything from incrementalism in England to the impenetrable hostility to be found in Germany. The author describes pogroms, poverty, and migration, the image of the Jew as revolutionary, the rise of Zionism and the "Palestinian idea," and much more. Vital is particularly interested in the dynamics within the Jewish community, examining the clash between politically neutral traditionalists and a new group of activists, whose unprecedented demands for national and political self-determination were stimulated both by increasing civil emancipation and the mounting effort to drive the Jews out of Europe altogether. The book ends on a controversial note, with Vital suggesting that the fate of the Jewish people was to some degree their own doing; at times, by their own autonomous action and choice; at others, by inaction and default.
This powerful and stimulating new analysis represents a watershed in our understanding of the history of the Jews in Europe.
`gradually reveals a treasure trove of fascinating and unfamiliar details about the history of the Jews in most countries of Europe from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of WW II.'
Professor Albert S. Lindemann, Reviews in History.
`A People Apart is a tour de force. Here, at last, is a one-volume history of the Jews in modern Europe that is up to date, comprehensive and challenging.'
David Cesarani, THES, 3/3/00
`a grave and exhaustive account of the political background to the monstrous crime against a gifted, civilised and peaceful people.'
Naim Dangoor, The Scribe September 1999,
The Economist 18/09/99
`powerful account ... A People Apart is a valuable addition to our knowledge of European Jewish history in its most sombre aspects ... David Vital provides a grave and exhaustive account of the political background to this monstrous crime against a gifted, civilised and peaceful people.'
Paul Johnson, TLS, 18/06/99.
`a work as impressive in its scope and as awesome in its command of sources as it is perceptive in its depth of analysis... an admirable introduction to its subject matter, and it will surely earn its place as a text of first resort.'
Professor Geoffrey Alderman, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University, Jewish Chronicle, 18/06/99.
`A Monumental and magisterial work. A People Apart offers the necessary historical perspective, without which one cannot hope to understand either the holocaust or the creation of the state of Israel. Destined to be the definitive study of our time.'
Kirkus Reviews 1999
`I confidently predict that it will become a historical classic ... The first thing that strikes one about Vital's book, apart from its epic scale, is the elegance of his prose ... here are elaborate, stately though never sententious sentences, often with a sting in the tail ... His brave elegy to an indomitable people is itself part of the legacy of hope.'
Daniel Johnson, Daily Telegraph
`David Vital's magesterial survey explores what happened to those Jews who responded to the challenges of modernity ... a nuanced and sensitive exploration of European Jewry from within.'
John Klier, History Today, Jan 2000
`David Vital's densely argued and documented A People Apart: The Jews of Europe 1789-1939 is a fiercely dispassionate, perhaps definitive analysis of what led to the destruction of European Jewry'
Frederic Raphael The Sunday Times
Introduction: The Old Dispensation: the old regime; two levels of authority, two yokes to bear; social control: the modalities; the Gevir (italic), self-help and self-governance; consensus and confusion
Part I: Integration and Disintegration
1: Proposals (italic): under the Enlightenment - 'useful' Jews and 'useless' Jews; in England - incrementalism; in France - principles; in the Germanies - inpenetrable hostility and legal rigour; in Poland - deadlock; in Russia - despotism for all...; the Jews as an encumbrance to be dealt with
2: Social Fragmentation(italic): emancipation: the early responses; the fears of the orthodox; the enthusiasm of the modernists; the cultural inroads; the Haskalah as a halfway house; modern education - the Russian carrot; military subscription - the Russian lash; the irreversability of fragmentation
3: Questions From Without and Within(italic): the Jewish question posed; the question formulated; the Jews re-characterized; the Jews re-demonized; calls for treatment; the Decembrists (along with other Russians) try their hand; internal politics: the beginnings; triumph at Damascus...; ... and its limitations; Jews in general politics and in society at large - the German model
Part II: Aspirations and Equivocations
4: Movement(italic): pogroms; poverty; migration; decline; West versus East; Eastern European Jewry as the question
5: Auto-Emancipation(italic): leaderlessness as a condition; national self-determination as an idea: Zion as a destination; Jews as revolutionaries; the Bund; Herzl
6: Crystallization(italic): intercession institutionalized; 1878 - triumph in Berlin, failure in Bucharest; the limits of libel and the rule of law; Bernard Lazare and the Affair; Russia in 1905 - Jews as targets, Jews as participants; the Zionists stand still; the orthodox circle their wagons
Part III: New Dispensations
7: War(italic): the Jewish contingents; the Jewish increment; the 'Palestine idea'; a neutral Zionism, belligerent Zionists; the 'Palestine Idea' revived; self-determination
8: Peace(italic): Bolshevik Russia and the binding of its Jews; the great slaughter; who speaks for the Jews?; at the Peace conference
9: Captivity(italic): Wilson's world; the nation-state as grindstone; ancient frictions in a new Poland; Polish equivocation; Jewish ambivalence: Germany takes the lead; Machtergreifung(italic; towards extrusion; the Jews of Germany crushed; a community destroyed
10: Denouement(italic): on the eve; once again: who will lead them, where will they be led?; a world Jewish Congress; loyalties and principles; the purpose of Zionism, the needs of the Jews; pragmatism and honour; the final rejection; into the night