Germany, both past and present, is an object lesson in the way that treating Jews well allows a country to thrive and treating them badly kills a country.
I’ve long said that the most successful countries are those that treat their Jews well. It’s not that Jews work some bizarre magic on those places that let them live and worship freely. It’s simply that individual liberty tends to improve the standard of living within a country. Even if, by modern standards, a country would not be considered liberal today, the fact that it was more liberal than the rest of the countries around it, as evidenced by allowing Jews to live freely, was always enough to power its innovation and, by extension, its economy.
Take England, for example. It started its trajectory to ruling most of the world after 1660, when Cromwell invited Jews back into England. Or take America, in which Jews were always allowed to live freely. No one, no matter how much they dislike America, can deny its economic success.
The flip side, of course, is that countries that particularly loath Jews tend to be economically stagnant, with Poland and Russia as good historic examples. And of course, there’s Germany.
There hasn’t always been a Germany. Indeed, modern Germany is a recent phenomenon. Between Napoleon and 1871, that region now known as Germany it was a loose confederation of Germanic states. Before Napoleon, the region wasn’t even a loose confederation. It was simply a patchwork of duchies and principalities, all blessed with productive land and hard-working people, and all cursed with tyrannical monarchs or aristocrats. Prussia, which morphed into the dominant German kingdom, making it the core of the eventual German nation, was a monarchial and military dictatorship.
Long before there was a German nation, and even long before there were all those ratty or rich little nation states, there were Jews in that part of Europe now known as Germany. They entered the barbaric German forests when the Romans did and stayed.
In the early Middle Ages (before the 12th century or so), German Jews were considered ordinary citizens. A few centuries on, though, Germans had embraced wholeheartedly medieval Christianity’s most ferocious antisemitism. This didn’t just include personal revulsion, a la “I don’t want anything to do with them.” Instead, one petty German state after another enacted laws making it virtually impossible for all but a few “court Jews” to survive at anything above the most minimal subsistence level. And of course there were the mass slaughters, inspired by crusades and plagues, and whatever else the German mind could invent. [Read more…]