New PDF release: Antisemitism and Modernity: Innovation and Continuity

By Hyam Maccoby

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The Ukrainian patriots under Simon Petlura who fought against the Soviet annexation of the Ukraine perpetrated massacres of Jews, whom they identified both with Antichrist and the Revolution. More than 70,000 Jews died in these massacres. Then when the White Russians under Denikin moved into the Ukraine, another 50,000 Jews were massacred by these forces. About 30,000 Jews were also massacred by the invading Polish army of Pilsudsky in 1921. The abolition of antisemitism by the Soviet Government was enough to identify it to Denikin’s men as Jewish.

Moreover, a succession of Catholic Popes insisted that Jews should not be forcibly converted to Christianity, though this doctrine was often unwelcome to other members of the Catholic hierarchy. Gregory I (590–604 CE) held that Jews should be converted only by persuasion (or bribery), but he protested vigorously against the laxity of the Frankish empire in allowing Jews to own Christian slaves. Though certain Merovingian Kings oppressed the Jews, the succeeding Pepin dynasty favoured the Jews as highly useful citizens.

Now however, all other professions were steadily closed to Jews. The growth of the guilds, which excluded Jews, ended their long association with international trade. Jews had been farmers, or vine-growers (like the great scholar Rashi), and had practised every skilled profession, especially medicine; all were now closed to them. But the practice of ‘usury’ reinforced the image of the wicked Jew; the Jews, in fact, were compelled to conform to the Christian image of them, and usury itself became the excuse for Christian oppression, such as massacres, confiscations and expulsions.

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