Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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J
e w i s h
B
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A
n n u a l
86
method of centering his story around influential communities.
Professor S. W. Baron, in our day, has gone farthest in breaking
with the strictly chronological method by grouping the facts
under historical periods and cultural movements and the Jew-
ish communities into the areas affected. Perhaps Graetz would
not have used the last method even if he had thought of it; for
Graetz and even Dubnow, far more than Baron, were intent on
pleading a special cause. Graetz did not see, certainly not so
clearly as does the modern historian, that the Jews were an
integral part of the various civilizations about them. There is
remarkably little analysis of background in Graetz’s
History.
Where Graetz shows up to advantage is in the fervor of his
presentation. He wrote with eloquence; he strove to convince.
The suffering inflicted on his people, the injustices to his own
contemporaries, the superciliousness based on religious and racial
prejudice which the Jews of his day were made to endure—all
these hurts come through in the lines of his
History.
What hu rt
even more was the sight of the emancipated and only half-eman-
cipated Jews breaking their ties with their people and apparently
abandoning the idea for which the people stood.
In this last situation Graetz met with a measure of success.
His
History
was read. Evidently it stirred the interest of the Jews
of his day who needed just that kind of historical self-justification.
To what extent it stemmed the tide of assimilation is, of course,
a different matter; there were other forces that could not be
overcome by a history book. Yet Graetz was clearly mistaken
when he said in his preface to the English edition that in Ger-
many the
History
was bought, but not read. He stated there that
in English-speaking lands books were read, not only bought. One
wishes this were so. Nevertheless, the fact remains that many
tens of thousands of the
History,
translated into many modern
languages, have found their way into Jewish homes.
History Is an Ar t
If one recognizes that history is an art and not a science, that
the subjective element is bound to come to the fore at crucial
moments when interpretive judgment is called for, that the
historian’s total personality is engaged when evidence has to be
weighed, one will recognize how profoundly Graetz’s work is the
product of vast learning, vigorous intelligence, and deep loyalty.
Volume after volume was the result of arduous research, of care-
ful balance, of 19th century rationalism; but also of a sense of
the dramatic and, above all, of love for the Jewish people whom
it identified with the highest ideals.