Migration and Diaspora
Migration is a constitutive element in the history of diaspora populations (diaspora: Greek for scattering) and is closely linked to the continuous exchange of ideas and goods between different centres and subcentres, often over great distances and between different cultural regions. Already in the pre-Christian period, the Jewish Diaspora developed independent subcentres in regions far removed from each other. The historian Jonathan Israel coined the term "diasporas within a diaspora" for the continuous formation of new centres. He was referring to the communities that Jews expelled from Sephardic Diaspora, which primarily spread in the and the . Therefore, the more correct term for this subgroup would be "diasporas within the (Sephardic) Diaspora within the (general Jewish) Diaspora".1founded on both sides of the in the sixteenth century. The were widely dispersed and extremely varied but only represented a small part of the
The Jewish Diaspora is only one of several "historical diasporas", such as the Chinese or the Armenian Diasporas, whose roots can be traced back at least into the first millennium. No historical diaspora shows a greater degree of cultural diversity and dynamics than the Jewish. The encounters of Jews from differently constituted subcentres of the Diaspora, almost always the consequence of migration processes, is one of the most fascinating aspects of Jewish history. Usually, new emigrants met with relatively established Jewish communities – a pattern that can also be discerned for other diaspora populations. However, conflicts over social inclusion between "the Established and the Outsiders" are only superficially explained by cultural differences. At the heart lay the redistribution of social power in an expanding community.2
Traditionally, members of transterritorial diaspora populations play an important role as intercultural mediators, often in association with members of other diasporas. In their respective host societies, they usually form a small and exposed minority, whose well-being depends on the interaction with other groups, legal security, political stability and a favourable economic context. They predominantly occupy economic niches in an urban context, possess intercultural skills and often have a high degree of mobility. Maintaining a cultural difference is the precondition for the integrity of the diaspora community and its function as a mediator between different cultures. Strict, religiously defined commandments such as dietary rules or the prohibition of mixed marriages ensure the preservation of the community over several generations.3
In the five hundred years between 1450 and 1950, huge population shifts occurred in all of overseas trade and the of the . Therefore, the study of Jewish migration history opens a comprehensive perspective on the complex European (and global) migration events after 1500.that reached a completely new quality and dimension particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. Although Jews only constituted a very small minority of Europe's population, they lived in different parts of the continent and participated already in the sixteenth century in
Whether Jewish migrations were "normal" or extraordinary processes is hotly debated to the present day. The thesis that anti-Jewish persecutions and expulsions are the actual cause of Jewish migrations after (and also before) 1492 remains both influential and suggestive.4 Critics counter that migration, including violent expulsions, is a normal occurrence in human history and that Jewish history cannot be interpreted dissociated from its respective context. The Jewish social historian Salo Baron (1895–1989) distanced himself explicitly in 1928 from the "lachrymose" view of Jewish history before 1800 that emphasised discrimination and persecution and reduced Jews to the passive role of victims: "It is, then, not surprising and certainly no evidence of discrimination that the Jews did not have 'equal rights' – no one had them."5 The Russian-Jewish demographer and migration researcher Eugene Kulischer (1881–1956) explicitly warned against interpreting migration as a specific Jewish habitus. Such an attribution could promote widespread anti-Jewish prejudices, last but not least due to the idea of the eternally migrating, damned "Wandering Jew" ("Ewige Jude" or "Juif Errant") that is deeply rooted in Christian tradition.6
The normalisation thesis has gained influence since the 1960s – among representatives of general Jewish history as well as among those who study recent Jewish history. The migrations of Jews and their Christian and Muslim neighbours were in fact often closely intertwined and economic factors were usually decisive in Jewish migrations.7 However, this only holds true until the first half of the 20th century. The expulsions during and after the First World War in and especially the systematic "resettlement" and annihilation policies of the Nazis were specifically directed against Jews, economic motives were secondary at most. Nevertheless it is true to say that the discussion on the motives of Jewish migrants, regardless of the respective historiographic viewpoint, has effected a more nuanced assessment of Jewish migration processes and a better consideration of the respective context.
Jewish migrations between 1450 and 1950 can be divided into three sequential periods that are determined by the central data of general history:
1492–1789: Expulsion from Spain and the rise of the Eastern European Diaspora
1789–1914: Mass migration from Eastern Europe and "Metropolisation"
1914–1948: Expulsion, Shoah and the foundation of
1492–1789: Expulsion from Spain and the rise of the Eastern European Diaspora
About 1450 three independent and culturally very different "diasporas within a diaspora" had established themselves. A lively exchange occurred within these Jewish subcentres. The most significant centre was located in the (Ashkenazim), the second centre – partly they had been living there since the first century but were widely scattered over a large region. After brutal persecutions during the Crusades and the expulsion from most territories in the west of the continent during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the violent excesses and expulsions increased about 1450 in many parts of the . The third and oldest centre was located in the Muslim metropolises and port towns of the and . Smaller, relatively isolated communities existed in the south of the , in , and even on the west coast of the .8. A flourishing Jewish culture (Sephardim) had developed there in the Middle Ages under Muslim rule. Markedly fewer Jews lived in
Growing persecution and economic hardship explain why the Ashkenazi centre gradually shifted from Central Europe to Poland-Lithuania and to territories under Ottoman rule in 9. In Poland-Lithuania, Jews were protected by the Crown and found comparatively favourable conditions for life and work. Jewish migrants settled in small and large towns in the territories of the modern countries of , , , , , and the western part of . Within a few decades, the largest and most influential focus of the Jewish Diaspora developed there. Small groups of Ashkenazi Jews also migrated to Southeastern Europe in regions of modern Romania and , which were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire during the fifteenth century. Muslim rulers usually granted Jews (and Christians) a special status (dhimmi). This entailed an increased tax burden but, in turn, they also had the right to exercise their religion and were granted legal security and commercial privileges.
The rise of Eastern Europe as the new main centre of the Diaspora coincided with the dramatic decline of the Spanish centre. By the middle of the fifteenth century, most Spanish Jews had lived for several centuries under Christian rule. Unlike Muslims, Jews were initially tolerated unbelievers, but small groups already migrated in this period to Isabella I (1451–1504) and Ferdinand II (1452–1526) ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Spain. The Spanish expulsion edict also extended to and . The only alternative to flight was conversion to Christianity.10. However, increasing numbers of Jews were forced to become Christians while others converted voluntarily since the late fourteenth century. A considerable number of these conversos practiced Judaism in secret. With the rise of the Inquisition after 1478, anti-Jewish violence reached a new quality. The conquest of in 1492, the last Spanish city under Muslim rule, signified the completion of the Reconquista. In the same year, the ruling couple
In the 12, in Southeastern Europe and , Sephardic Jews encountered members of the Oriental and Ashkenazi Diasporas. Even though they were often perceived and treated as a unit from the outside, the members of the respective groups often found it difficult to bridge religious and cultural differences. Members of all three groups met in the prospering maritime Republic of . The establishment of the Venice Ghetto in 1516 illustrates the formal recognition of Jews as independent actors in the trans-Mediterranean trade network of Venice. The Ghetto was for a long time interpreted as the symbol of the separation and formal discrimination against Jews. However, recent research has revealed a more nuanced image. After the arbitrary persecutions and expulsions of the late Middle Ages, the Ghetto was rather a legally chartered concession to the Jewish communities. Jews were formally accepted as a part of the municipal economy but were pointedly separated from the city's society. The Ghetto also guaranteed Jews a high degree of cultural autonomy – in a clearly demarcated space but within the city walls.
While most Sephardic refugees and their descendants found a new home in the Maghreb and the eastern Mediterranean, two further centres arose in 13and the New World. Both owed their rise to the obligingness of Protestant rulers and attractive economic conditions. A Sephardic community that soon became influential established itself during the late sixteenth century in . Its members were mostly conversos from Portugal. Thanks to their many contacts, Sephardic Jews opened the gates to the lucrative trade with the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in for the Amsterdam merchant class. Smaller communities linked to Amsterdam also arose in , (near ), and also on the western side of the Atlantic.
Widely spread Sephardic successfully participated in opening up the New World. Contrary to widespread prejudices, only few Jews were involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. After the conquest of the Dutch colony of ( ) by Portuguese troops, 23 Jews made the journey to New Amsterdam (after 1664 ) in 1654, where they successfully established their right to settle and founded the first Jewish community in . In the seventeenth century, the first Ashkenazi Jews migrated to Amsterdam and then to the New World. While individual migrants to New York and were accepted rather quickly into the existing Sephardic communities, they met with clear rejection in the Amsterdam community (also because of their greater number) and formed a separate group for a long time.14
Looking back, the date of 1492 is imbued with great symbolic significance especially for American Jews. At the same time as the catastrophe of the expulsion, a new perspective of freedom opened with the discovery of America. However, the expulsion from the cultural home and further spread of the sub-Diaspora resulted in the long-term loss of the cultural and religious distinctiveness of the Sephardim.
The denser Ashkenazi centre in Eastern Europe experienced a flowering in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and replaced Spain as the most populous and culturally dominating centre of the Diaspora. However, the number of Ashkenazi Jews exceeded the number of Sephardic and Oriental Jews only in the middle of the eighteenth century. In Poland-Lithuania, Jews enjoyed a comparably high measure of autonomy, which was expressed in the Council of Four Lands. The most important communities sent delegates to this regularly convening protoparliament of the Polish Jewry.15
The Westphalian Peace of 1648 rang in a period of (relative) political stability in Central and Bohdan Chmielnicki (1595–1657) against the Polish Crown severely shook the Jewish sub-Diaspora and triggered a massive refugee wave within Eastern Europe. The unrest weakened the power of the Crown and exposed Jewish communities to growing danger. Against the background of the political and economic crisis, the attraction of a Shabtai Zvi (1626–1676) , who as the "Messiah" brought tens of thousands of followers under his spell in the middle of the seventeenth century and literally drew them with him, becomes understandable. The rise of in the middle of the eighteenth century in the territory of modern was a reaction to this legitimisation crisis of traditional Judaism. In the last third of the eighteenth century, Poland lost its political independence and was divided among , and .16, but the same year brought the start of a long-lasting crisis in Eastern European history. The Cossack rising of 1648 led by
An east to west migration that primarily had economic causes already began during the seventeenth century. Before the nineteenth century, this migration only involved several hundred individuals annually. Apart from a few very wealthy Jewish merchants from Poland, who regularly attended the 17Fair, poor Jews hoped for better opportunities in the West. However, settlement restrictions, the adverse attitude of established communities such as in Amsterdam as well as the costs and dangers associated with the long journey explain why only few Jews found their way to Central and Western Europe or even the New World. At the same time, young men from Central Europe still travelled until the nineteenth century to Eastern European yeshivot (Talmud schools) to study the Talmud with highly respected rabbis.
Retrospectively, the year 1789 constitutes a decisive turning point. The ideals of the were quite ambivalent for most Jews in Europe. The vision of freedom and equality opened undreamt possibilities to Jews (and Christians) as individuals. However, the project of emancipation put the Jewish community (kehillah), the core of Jewish solidarity and the Diaspora, in doubt. The erosion of autonomy threatened the cultural distinction of Jewish Diaspora communities.18
1789–1914: Mass migration from Eastern Europe and "Metropolisation"
The long nineteenth century was a century of movement. Millions of Europeans and Asians left their homes and moved to nearby towns and far-away continents. Globalising markets and technical innovations made safe journeys possible for more and more people over ever greater distances in ever shorter time periods. Migration restrictions soon lost their force after 1800 or were simply ignored. Countries of destination such as the were trying to attract more European settlers. Between 1850 and 1900, the average travel time from a village in Central Europe to any place in North America that was connected to the railway network shrank from several months to less than three weeks. The great ocean liners, who went on their maiden voyages soon after 1880, crossed the Atlantic in barely a week. Suddenly "America" was literally at the front door and the journey became affordable even for simple people. The anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire in 1881 were the final trigger for some Jews to leave their homes but economic factors were the underlying cause. However, it was the rapidly eastward-expanding railway network that finally made Jewish mass migration from Eastern Europe possible.19
The population of Europe had been strongly increasing since the second half of the eighteenth century. By 1870, the number of Jews in various regions of the Russian Empire, the and in Southeastern Europe had grown to four million; most lived in small towns, the shtetlach. They represented more than two thirds of the Jewish world population. , the largest community outside Eastern Europe, was home to 450,000 Jews. Jewish communities had been able to survive since the Middle Ages in a few towns such as and and in rural regions such as . The relatively high number was a consequence of natural growth and the Prussian annexation of Polish territories such as the Grand Duchy of in the late eighteenth century. The communities in Western Europe, the Mediterranean region, the and the United States, which were partially still dominated by Sephardic Jews, were markedly smaller.20
In Western Europe, most Jews were emancipated in the first half of the nineteenth century. In Germany, emancipation was only completed with the unification in 1871. In the United States, Jewish men enjoyed, like all white Americans, full civil rights at the federal level at the latest with the ratification of the Constitution in 1790. Therefore, Jews as well as Christian rural inhabitants, who had previously been subject to feudal restrictions, took their emancipation into their own hands by moving to America. The words of a young Jew, who complained about the very restrictive laws in his native 21, are representative for many migrants to America. During a short stay in in 1845, he answered the question of whether he could imagine a return to his homeland with the words: "I will only return when North America has become Bavarian!"
As new citizens, Jews identified with their respective home countries. New divisions formed, especially among the Ashkenazim. While Jews had been exempt from military service in Christian- (and Muslim-) ruled territories during the Early Modern Period, they now encountered each other on the battle fields of the nineteenth century. Loyalty to the respective Enlightenment and was especially developed in the United States, distanced itself from traditional Judaism and promulgated its own concept for Judaism in modern society. In Eastern Europe, secular and ethnic concepts of Jewish identity had great appeal in the second half of the nineteenth century. was an answer to the growing and the nationalistic currents in Eastern Europe, which already excluded Jews very early from its ranks. But after the First World War. The number of Zionist settlers in was relatively small before 1914.22counted for more than identification with the Diaspora. Apart from nationality, Jews in Europe were divided by a continuously expanding spectrum of differing perceptions of Jewish identity in modern society. The Jewish reform movement, which originated in Germany during the
Compared to the Eastern European Jewish mass migration, the Jewish migration from Central Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century was only a marginal phenomenon in the mighty trans-Atlantic movement. It was closely linked to a strong migration from 23, and Poznan to America that primarily had economic causes. However, the migrants represented a significant part of the Jewish population. In 1816, 260,000 Jews (1.09% of the total population) lived in the territory of the later German empire. In 1871, this number had almost doubled due to natural growth (470,000/1.2%). In the same period, about 100,000 Jews left the German states (and ), especially in the direction of North America.
While the Jews of the Habsburg monarchy were completely emancipated in 1867, but lived in great poverty in large parts of the empire, especially in which, due to this migration, had in 1900 already become the most important centre of Jewish life outside Eastern Europe. The Jewish migration from Eastern Europe was a global movement, it resulted in the foundation of numerous new communities. In many older centres of the Diaspora, within a few years, new immigrants constituted the majority, including in the United States, the , , and Palestine. The return migration was relatively low but not insignificant.24, the situation of the Jewish population in Russia and Romania worsened during the course of the nineteenth century. Apart from the miserable economic situation, enormous population growth, limited resources and political tensions, Jews were confronted with numerous restrictions and increasing violence. The Jewish migration from Eastern Europe, which began in the final third of the nineteenth century, completely redefined the system of centres of the Jewish Diaspora that had become established since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Almost three million Jews left Eastern Europe between 1870 and the early 1920s. More than two million moved to the United States,
The strong population growth in East and Central Europe as well as the United States marginalised the non-Ashkenazi Jews: By 1900, the Jewish population had grown to ten million worldwide – of these, nine million were Ashkenazim. The migration from the Russian empire, the Habsburg monarchy and Romania not only shifted the balance between the centres of the Jewish Diaspora inside and outside Europe, but it also was the driving force behind the "Metropolisation" of Jews. The Zionist and sociologist Arthur Ruppin (1876–1943) used this term not to describe the strong country-to-town migration of Jews after 1800 but to describe the preference of Jewish migrants for a handful of European and American metropolises: New York, 25, , Philadelphia, , , , London, and . One metropolis outshone all others: In 1880, about 60,000 Jews lived in New York and , in 1925 it was more than a million – almost two million even if the Greater New York Area is included. That was more than ten percent of the Jewish world population. Several metropolises were located in Eastern and Central Europe, an indicator of the strong Jewish internal migration in these countries.
The global mass migration also encountered resistance. Already in the 1880s, the United States de facto excluded the Chinese from immigration and began to expel undesirable immigrants. Jews early on came into the sights of the opponents of immigration, who made use of anti-Semitic stereotypes particularly in Britain, Jewish aid organisations such as the Parisian Alliance Israélite Universelle, the New York HIAS (Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society) and the Berlin Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden successfully advocated in public for Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe and set up an efficient care network along the main transit routes.26and Germany. Between 1885 and 1914, Germany deported thousands of undesirable Ostjuden (Eastern Jews) to Russia. Transnationally acting and closely cooperating
1914–1948: Expulsion, Shoah and the foundation of Israel
The First World War had a huge, worldwide impact on the history of Jewish migrations. The war hit the great Jewish settlement centre in Eastern Europe directly and hard. In 1915 and 1916, Russian military authorities drove tens of thousands of Jews and German-speaking Protestants as potential collaborators into the interior of the country, German occupation troops conscripted thousands of Jews and Poles as forced labourers, and in the Habsburg monarchy, a refugee wave to Vienna and Budapest began after massive destruction in Galicia. Although the war ended in the West in 1918, a series of armed conflicts began after the collapse of the multiethnic empires in Eastern Europe that would last into the early 1920s. According to a conservative estimate, at least 60,000 Jews became victims of pogroms in the western territories of modern Ukraine in 1918/1919 alone. Millions of Eastern Europeans lost their homes, among them several hundred thousand Jews. Large groups succeeded in fleeing to the West, but there most stood before closed doors.27
Fear of the spread of Bolshevism as well as explicit racist and anti-Semitic prejudices were behind the American restrictions on immigration of 1921 that were primarily aimed at East and South Europeans as well as Asians. Other traditional immigration countries such as 28and Argentina also put up obstacles; Britain didn't even bother to lift the mobility restrictions introduced during the war. After 1917/1918, it was only possible to cross international borders with valid passports. Many countries required visas and transit visas that often could only be acquired with great difficulties. This proved particularly fateful for many citizens of the former Russian and Ottoman empires as well as the perished Habsburg monarchy. The governments of the successor states often refused to issue passports to members of undesirable minorities. Without papers, stateless individuals had lost their right to freedom of movement. Tens of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe as well as Armenians and opponents of the Bolsheviks were in a state that is best described as permanent transit. Jewish refugees became stranded in refugee camps and inner city slums all over Europe. After 1939, many of these people fell into the clutches of the Nazi persecution machinery because they did not have valid identity documents.
Few countries were open to migrants from Eastern Europe after 1918. Apart from the Weimar Republic, which pursued a relatively liberal policy toward refugees, there was essentially France. France had not been able to demobilise its army and urgently required workers for its industries and for reconstruction in the North. Palestine gained considerable significance in the 1920s. However, the difficult conditions of life in the British mandate territory explain why in the second half of the 1920s the number of returnees was almost as high as the number of arrivals. In the Joseph Roth (1894–1939), especially in his essay Juden auf Wanderschaft (The Wandering Jews, 1927). But even in this crisis, Jews and other refugees were not only passive victims of state policies. Jews and other Eastern Europeans were significant contributors to the cultural boom in Berlin during the Twenties. For a few years, Berlin was an important crossroads of the Yiddish- and Hebrew-speaking Diaspora between Eastern Europe and North America.29, a strong Jewish country-to-town migration began. Many Jews were resettled in the East during the course of the Stalinist forced collectivisation of the 1920s. Jewish aid organisations were desperately looking for a new home for thousands of Jewish refugees long before the persecutions by the Nazis. Destinations like , Brazil and already gained in importance in the 1920s. No one described the hopelessness of Jewish refugees and migrants in the interwar period more vividly than the Galician Jewish journalist and writer
The Great Depression deprived numerous people of the financial means necessary for migration. Many countries, especially the United States, tightened their immigration restrictions further. This put great obstacles in the way of German-Jewish emigrants and refugees after 1933. In 1939, the size of the Jewish world population had grown to seventeen million – around fourteen million Jews were Ashkenazim. With more than eight million Jews, Eastern Europe was still the most important centre by far, followed by the United States (about 4.8 million). Germany (about 200,000) had clearly dropped in this ranking. About 250,000 Jews managed to emigrate after the Nazi's seizure of power, often after losing their property, after months and years of waiting, and by complicated routes. The Conference of Évian in June 1938, which was called by the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) to discuss possibilities of facilitating the emigration of German and Austrian Jews, marked a low point. Despite the brutal anti-Semitic excesses in Vienna only a few months earlier, none of the 32 participating nations was willing to receive more than a few Jewish refugees. The threatening situation for Jews in Eastern Europe was not even a topic of the negotiations. Many Eastern European states, especially Poland, pursued anti-Semitic policies in the mid-1930s and treated their Jewish citizens as de facto stateless.30
The situation worsened with the outbreak of war. Only a few boltholes remained, such as Shanghai which had long become unreachable for most. In October 1941, Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945), prohibited Jewish emigration from territories controlled by German troops. At this time, mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) – with the help of the army and allied troops such as those of Romania – had already murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews in the West of the Soviet Union. Shortly afterwards, the decision to implement the "Final Solution" was made. The deportation of millions of Jews from all Europe into extermination camps according to a refined schedule constitutes the most extreme form of forced migration. The Shoah completely extinguished the most important centre of the Jewish Diaspora in Eastern Europe in only four years. Sephardim, especially in Greece, and , were also among the victims of the Shoah. More than two million Jews in the Soviet Union were not reached by the German terror, some only because they had been deported into the Gulag after the Soviet invasion of East Poland in 1939. A minority of the Jewish population in Southeastern Europe, such as the Jews of Bulgaria, were spared deportation.31
After the Liberation, Jewish refugees and survivors were caught in a permanent transit similar to that after the First World War, but under the explicit protection of the US army. Only few countries were prepared to accept Jewish "displaced persons" – the term was coined by Kulischer in 1943. In the United States, opponents of immigration, such as the powerful anti-Semitic senator Patrick McCarran (1876–1954), scuttled attempts to let Jewish survivors enter the country in larger numbers than determined by the immigration quotas. In Palestine, the British attempted to prevent immigration. The foundation of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 changed this situation. However, most countries of the Middle East declared Jews an undesirable minority, partially already during the Israeli War of Independence. As a result, the centuries-old settlement centres in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean disappeared from the map within a few months. Jewish communities in , and , which were now subject to rapid and sometimes violent dissolution, could even be traced back to the pre-Christian era.32
After the Shoah, the United States were the largest, (though after the foundation of the State of Israel, not the most important) centre of the Jewish Diaspora. The population of Israel only exceeded that of the Greater New York Area by the middle of the 1960s. The territorial nation state solved the problem of millions of stateless Jewish refugees and Jewish minorities who were treated as de facto stateless, who after 1914 had largely been deprived of the right of mobility, and had predominantly fallen victim to the Shoah. It remains an irony of history that the experience of Palestinian refugees, despite all differences, exhibits parallels in regard to their statelessness after 1948 to that of Jewish refuges in the three decades before 1948. In the 1970s, a migration of Jews from the Soviet Union began. Initially, small numbers of politically motivated emigrations occurred, but economic motives have been centre stage after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Up to 2010, about one-and-a-half million Jews have migrated to Israel, the United States and Germany.33