Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

Basic HTML Version

Z oh n —
A. A.
R o b a ck
against what he called the “ Teutonic bluster music” of Richard
Wagner; and “ The Folklore of Fascism,” a
tour de force
Roback delighted in turning up neglected bits of Jewish
history, e.g., the work of Sir John Monash, and in exposing the
“ double-think”
of a man like C. G. Jung who
once said that “ Hitler is the mirror of every German’s uncon­
scious.” If it was a choice between being “ scientific” and Jewish
in his orientation, Roback invariably chose the latter. Even his
most scholarly works are enhanced—or marred, depending on the
reader’s point of view—by chatty asides, digressions, excursions
into controversial matters. One o f Roback’s most original works
is the
Dictionary of International Slurs,
published in 1944 and
dedicated to “ General Charles De Gaulle, the conscience of the
Allied Command.” (One reflects somewhat wryly that an updated
edition of this work might well include some of De Gaulle’s
recent utterances.) In this collection of what Roback called
“ ethnophaulisms” the Jews again have pride of place, for they
have been “ the chief scapegoats in history,” both as the recipi­
ents of slurs and as belittlers of their own selves. The book
includes a searching yet down-to-earth study in the field of social
psychology, “Aspects of Social Prejudice.”
The dedication of Roback’s book
Curiosities of Yiddish Lit­
(1933) revealingly expresses his outlook: “ T o the memory
of my mother whose natural resistance to the current o f assimila­
tion has preserved for her son vistas of a receding culture, thus
enabling him to forge another link in the endless chain which
keeps an ancient people alive and free.” Roback’s
magnum opus
in the field of cultural history is his
Jewish Influence in Modern
published in 1929 on the occasion of the bi-centenary
of Moses Mendelssohn and of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and
also commemorating the anniversaries of Albert Einstein and
other Jewish luminaries. Reflecting the Robackian interpenetra­
tion between psychology and Judaism, this book o f essays is
made distinctive, in the author’s view, by “ the psychological
foundation which underlies the facts that have been gathered
and collected so as to constitute a system of interpretation, yet
with no axe to grind.” This is not just another popular book
of apologetics of the “ They Were All Jews” variety, but an
empirical inquiry into the Jewish elements of modern cultural
movements. It includes chapters on Mendelssohn, Kant and
Judaism, and Jews in psychology and philosophy, as well as a
critical bibliography and an assessment of Joseph Jacobs’ earlier
Jewish Contributions to Civilization.
Both scholarly and
disarmingly personal, this is the kind of book that stimulates
thought, discussion, and occasional disagreement.