Events of the 1930s loom large in public debate these days.
What those events mean, filtered through events now unfolding, perhaps generates more heat than light.
One thing is certain: what seems a certitude now may well have been anything but, back when.
Seventy years after the end of World War II, the atrocities of the Nazis are fading from active memory. Those who survived are dwindling in number, and must hand the torch of memory on to new generations who will carry it on faith.
It was unbelievable- literally unbelievable- when the first reports of the death camps began to leak out of Europe during the war. It was incomprehensible, afterwards, to fully comprehend the scope of the Nazi death campaigns, the industrial planning methods they employed, the vastness of the horror as, suddenly, the camps were emptied and the wraithlike survivors poured out across Europe to find everyone they had ever known was dead.
We have treasured this book because it illustrates just how impossible it was to imagine even the possibility of the Holocaust. The author, a brilliant young American Jew, in love with the ancient German culture and celebrating that nation’s Jews into it, wrote this book in the firm belief that, whatever the Nazi’s more outlandish claims and undoubted militarism, Germany was simply too civilized a land for much long-term ill to come to its people.
He was, sadly- so sadly- wrong.
Marcus, Jacob R., Ph.D., The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew (Dept. of Synagogue and School Extension of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1st ed., 1934). Hardcover, no dust jacket, octavo, 417 pp. Black cloth boards with silver titling and four striking embossed red, black and silver allegorical illustrations of episodes in Jewish history in red-rimmed lozenges.
In one of his first books, America’s great Jewish historian considered the political situation in Germany during the advent of Nazism. Surveying the scene from German unification in 1871 forward, Marcus was confident German Jews would adapt and thrive under the newly installed Hitler, a 1935 review in Foreign Affairs summarized. Few at that time could foresee what was to come; Marcus felt the long-established and highly-intellectual Jewish community could flourish there in all seasons.
Very good condition other than some slight discoloration on the front pastedown and endpaper. Inscribed by the author on the front endpaper, “For Dr Diesendruck from J. R. Marcus.” HBB price: $50 obo.
Jacob Rader Marcus (1896-1995) was “the first trained historian of the Jewish people born in America and the first to devote himself fully to the scholarly study of America's Jews. Through the American Jewish Archives, which he founded in 1947, and through a parade of books—culminating in a magisterial, three-volume history entitled The Colonial American Jew: 1492–1776 (1970) and an even larger four-volume history of United States Jewry: 1776–1985 (1989-93), completed in his tenth decade of life—he defined, propagated, and professionalized his chosen field, achieving renown as its founding father and dean,” the AJA website remembers.
Marcus took his Ph.D in Jewish history from the University of Berlin in 1925.
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