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Book Notes: Jewish Politics in Vienna 1918-1938, Harriet Pass Freidenreich

John Klier

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Politics in Vienna, 1918-1938, Harriet Pass Freidenreich (Indiana University Press; Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1991) 273pp. ?I5-5? The history of 19th-century Viennese Jewry has been fruitfully studied in English, most recently by Robert Wistrich and Steven Beller. Harriet Pass Freidenreich now carries the theme through the inter-war period. What a contrast emerges! From the position of an imperial capital, interwar Vienna shrank to the status of bloated centre of a second-class national state, frequendy teetering on the verge of economic collapse. Jews fully shared the travails of Austria as a whole, while also confronting a set 383</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes of problems unique to them. The postwar inflation and depression of the 1930s reinvigorated the strong tradition of prewar Viennese anti-Semitism. To this problem of external hostility was added Jewish internal insecurity, growing from specifically 'Jewish' economic and social crises. With the effective cessation of immigration, and the decision of many Jews to apostatize or declare non-confes? sional status, the Jewish community itself lost much of its demographic dynamism. The concentration of Viennese Jews in the professions and the lower-middle class ensured that they were especially hard-hit by postwar inflation and depression, especially as these were reinforced by the impact of resurgent anti-Semitism. Dr Freidenreich chronicles the responses of Viennese Jews to those myriad dilemmas, which took the form of Liberal, Jewish Nationalist, Socialist and Orthodox political groupings. She explores the two internal splits which defined Jewish political life. The first was between the Non- or Anti-Nationalists (who regarded Jewry as a religious confession) and the Jewish Nationalists, or Zionists. The second divided the 'native' Viennese Jews, assimilated, Western-type Jews, from the 'foreign' Ostjuden, the culturally alien and less-integrated Eastern Jews. Events continually conspired to confront Viennese Jewry with the reality of the 'Jewish Question', and Freidenreich demonstrates that they energetically rose to the challenge, even if their political options grew increasingly narrow, and their efforts were insufficient to escape the tragedy that overwhelmed European Jewry. Based on archival research and wide reading in memoirs, newspapers and the contemporary press, Freidenreich's book is an important contribution to the study and understanding of modern European Jewish history. John Klier</page></plain_text>