By pretty much every measure, 19th and early 20th century Germany was the most advanced country in the modern world. Before World War I, Germany had one of the finest education systems, largest economies and most successful industrial complexes. It was the world leader in science and engineering. There were 43 German Nobel Prize winners prior to and during World War II, far more than any other country, including the U.S.
As a result, the German educational model was imported to America, where it flourished. My alma mater, Cornell University, founded in the late 1800s, patterned its curriculum after the German model for modern liberal education, formulated after Bismarck’s kulterkampf (“culture war”) against the Church. About 30 years later, Leland Stanford brought in David Starr Jordan, one of Cornell’s first graduates, to lead his new university and implement the same educational model. Thus, the German model became the ideal for much of today’s American university system.
At this time of enlightenment, the majority of Jews of 19th and early 20th century Germany decided to assimilate into German society, abandoning most of their traditions and rituals, resulting in the creation of Reform Judaism. German Jews came to consider themselves essentially Germans with simply a different heritage from other Germans.
This all came to an end when democratically elected Adolf Hitler and the Nazis took over.
It is important to remember that the Nazis were not like the poorly educated neo-Nazis of today. Yes, the German Nazis utilized thugs to keep themselves in power, but their leaders included wealthy, highly educated politicians, professionals and bureaucrats.
Rudolph Hess, deputy führer of the Nazi Party, was born into a wealthy industrial family and attended private schools. Josef Mengele, famous for his cruel experiments on concentration camp prisoners, had doctoral degrees in anthropology and medicine. Martin Heidegger, considered one of the most important and influential philosophers of the 20th century, openly embraced Nazism and promoted it as rector of the University of Freiburg. University student groups like the National Socialist German Student League embraced and enforced Nazi ideology.
On Oct. 7, the terrorist organization Hamas, sworn to the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews worldwide, attacked innocent Israeli children, elderly, women and men in an attack whose cruelty and barbarism rivalled anything done by the Nazis.
Like Nazism’s foot soldiers, the terrorists of Hamas are generally poor, uneducated, and unsophisticated. The IDF will hunt them down and kill them. The Israelis will make every effort to rescue the more than 200 hostages being held in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s incursion into Gaza will either destroy Hamas or disable their ability to commit such horrific crimes against humanity for many years to come. I have confidence in the IDF.
I do not have confidence in the rest of the world, particularly in America, which looks more and more like pre-World War II Germany. My friends who are Democrats would probably agree, but they will say that it is the fault of Donald Trump and white supremacists. The former is another matter, but as to the latter, as in Nazi Germany, it is not the thugs who are the problem. It is our society’s elite who are promoting and mainstreaming hatred. As a Jew, I have observed that the majority of Jews support this elite, even as these same Jews are bewildered by this elite’s virulent antisemitism.
They shouldn’t be bewildered. It isn’t that hard to understand. When the Jews of Germany abandoned their traditions and, more importantly, their values, they should not have been surprised at the result. Most religious people, including observant Jews, know that separating people according to their skin color, sexual behaviors, ethnic backgrounds or any other characteristic except their behavior, is morally wrong. After all, God made man in his own image. This biblical statement is understood to mean that God is neither white nor black, Jewish nor gentile, male nor female and we are all to be treated equally.
Today’s progressive elite has abandoned such religious traditions as antiquated, just like 19th century Germans. As a result, generally speaking, modern progressivism is immoral. For example, Critical Race Theory is immoral, as is any philosophy that assigns blame or superiority to people due to immutable characteristics like skin color or ethnic background. The Black Lives Matter movement is immoral for the same reason, and it should be no surprise that it openly supports Hamas murderers and rapists.
Nor should it be surprising that elite academics, under the guise of “academic freedom,” engage in or excuse calls for violence against Jews. Elite media outlets spew the same kind of hatred to millions of viewers. The Democratic Socialists of America, to which some Democratic members of Congress have deep connections, holds gatherings in New York to show support for the murder, rape, torture and kidnapping of innocent Jews. While a few of the politicians associated with DSA have offered weak condemnations of these abominable acts, they have not disassociated themselves from it or other hate groups.
Would any decent human being support Ku Klux Klan leaders after a lynching? Would they simply shake their finger and say, “I don’t support that action”? If so, would such a tame reprimand be tolerated in modern politics? Of course not. Yet many progressives still support apologists for terrorism and mass murder, such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
It is time for progressive Americans, especially progressive Jews, to insist that the Democratic Party condemn its antisemites and expel leaders of groups that support Hamas and other terrorist organizations. If the Democrats will not do so, decent progressives must form their own political party that upholds Judeo-Christian values and morals. They must abandon their promotion of any group that divides people by their immutable characteristics, whatever the supposed justification. The Jews of Germany recognized their mistake much too late. We cannot afford to repeat that error. As Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?” I say now!