Jewish History, 1914 to 1948

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The Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved into small, competitive states after the war. Despite promises of minority rights, the nationalist majorities in countries like Poland and Rumania promulgated pogroms (anti-Jewish riots) and fiscal discrimination that resulted in economic collapse. The economic collapse of the Jews in these countries led to a radicalization of Jewish politics. Zionism and Jewish socialism attracted thousands of new adherents. Poland was representative of the interwar Jewish political scene in eastern and central Europe, with all of these movements: general Zionist, Orthodox Zionist, radical Zionist, socialist Zionist, religious non-Zionist, socialist non-Zionist, and the anti-Zionist, anti-Socialist Folkspartei.

The American Jewish community in the 1920s and 1930s aimed to acculturate into the American middle-class, though upward mobility and unbridled acculturation were temporarily tested by the Great Depression and the rise of domestic anti-semitism in the 1930s. The period also witnessed the alignment of the Jewish community with the national Democratic Party. American Jews staunchly supported Franklin Roosevelt, who opened government service to Jews and counted an unprecedented number of Jewish advisors among his inner circle.

The collapse of the German Reich led to a reorganization of the German government after the war. The new Weimar Republic's pursuit of stability and progress was stymied by war reparations, which resulted in a dangerous combination of popular anger, fervent nationalism, and economic crisis. Such was the atmosphere that occasioned the appointment of the leader of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, Adolf Hitler, as chancellor in 1933. In the early years of the Nazi government, Hitler ended German democracy by suspending the freedom of press, speech, and assembly. The 1935 Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews of civil and political rights.

Jews were the main targets of Nazi hatred, but Nazis also persecuted other "inferior" individuals and groups, including Gypsies (Roma), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and the handicapped.

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