Page 198 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Men o f Zion. Anti-Semitism with its irrational fantasies and hys­
terical defamations verged on national madness. Yet, it enabled
large sectors o f the defeated people to feel absolved o f guilt
and to regard themselves as the salt o f the earth and as saviors
o f the world from the Jewish menace.
Though most German Jews were completely assimilated to
their environment, they were still regarded by their neighbors
as uncanny outsiders and subjected to social isolation. Intellec­
tual Jews, who spoke o f themselves as Citizens o f the World
or at least as “Good Europeans,” were told that the Good Eu­
ropean, rooted in nationalism, could develop into a healthy
supranationalism, while they, uprooted from Jewish national­
ism, floated in the air as rootless “ Luftmenschen.” I f they
wanted to resume a healthy existence and withstand anti-Semitic
pressures, they must reconstitute themselves as a national
group. They had been a nation before they were exiled from
their homeland by the Romans and scattered as slaves through­
out the European continent. Their millennial exile, dispersion
and degradation were indelibly impressed upon their subcon­
scious and also influenced the attitude o f their host peoples
toward them. A return to their homeland in Zion would nor­
malize Jewish existence. For those who could not or would not
return, Palestine could still serve as a spiritual and national cen­
ter, and when a virile United Nations would arise, the various
national groups would function harmoniously, groups whose
names would be German and Slav and Latin — and Jew. Then
the sickness o f anti-Semitism will have been cured.
The vision o f Zweig, expressed in the 1920’s, was not fulfilled.
On the contrary, year after year the anti-Semitic tide rose ever
higher and the racist ideology o f Hitler won ever more adher­
ents. Zweig contrasted the raucous violence o f the Nazi hordes
with the cooperative spirit o f the Palestinian collective settle­
ments. In the spring o f 1932, he was able to visit his idealized
land and was profoundly impressed by the pioneering spirit
o f the socialist kibbutzim. On returning to Berlin, he incorpo­
rated his impressions and observations in his novel
De Vriendt
Kehrt Heim,
1932, (De Vriendt Goes Home, 1933).
The model for De Vriendt was the Dutch poet De Haan,
who had immigrated to Jerusalem full o f enthusiasm for Zi­
onism. By 1924, he came under the influence o f an extreme
Orthodox sect that negated Zionism. As a religious zealot, he