Between Paris and Jerusalem

On June 11, 1942, Heinrich Himmler demanded 100,000 Jews of France, for Auschwitz. Pierre Laval agreed in July to turn over 10,000. This would “cleanse France of its foreign Jewry”: the deportations, Laval insisted, would take only Jews from Germany and Central Europe who had sought refuge in the Unoccupied …

The Revenge of I. B. Singer

“I must only imagine a door, a good old door, like the one in the kitchen of my childhood, with an iron handle and a bolt. There is no walled-in room that could not be opened by such a door, provided one were strong enough to suggest that such a …

Gershom Scholem and the Fate of the Jews

The attempt to reclaim traditions of Jewish spirituality, which I discussed in the first part of this review (NYR, March 31), was not the only response to the sclerosis of Jewish life in Germany at the turn of the century. Other forms of rebellion, more widespread and combative, were possible: …

The Revolt of Gershom Scholem

To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was” [Ranke]. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger…. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers…. Only that historian will …

In a Universe of Ghosts

One splendid evening last July I was sitting in a tourist-ridden outdoor café in Florence, talking with a friend about the recent Entebbe rescue. At the next table sat a wiry, middle-aged American woman nervously smoking Gitanes and nursing a bright red drink. Apologizing for having overheard our conversation, she …

You Don’t Have to Be Khazarian…

“I have been visiting Lord Derby,” the aristocrat-prone Lewis Namier once told Isaiah Berlin. “He said to me: ‘Namier, you are a Jew. Why do you write our English history, why do you not write Jewish history?’ I replied, ‘Derby! There is no Jewish history, only a Jewish martyrology, and …

Only in America

You can change your religion but not your grandfather, said Ludwig Börne, who should have known. This, presumably, is the wisdom prevailing behind the torrents of nostalgia inundating the American Jewish community. When the Jewish Museum a few years ago mounted a lavish exhibition about the lower East Side, droves …

A Man for the Hour

Nicola Chiaromonte was born in southern Italy in 1901, and studied at the University of Rome. His true education, however, was of a different kind, the “real European education” of which Jan Kott has recently written. As an anti-Fascist he went into exile in Paris in 1934, where he was …

Summoning Up the Kabbalah

It is Bloomsday for the study of literature. The stale air of academic literary criticism now bristles with the heated language of the works of Professor Harold Bloom of Yale. Seminars and symposia hunt for “precursors” and “ephebes,” instate or banish poets from Bloom’s canon of modern English poetry. His …