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Wir Juden (We Jews) is a 1934 book by German rabbi Joachim Prinz that concerns Hitler's rise to power as a demonstration of the defeat of liberalism and assimilation as a solution for the Jewish Question, and advocated a Zionist alternative to save German Jews.
Lost fortunes of liberalism
Written in 1933 and published in 1934, it was, according to historian Francis R. Nicosia a "pointed rejection of the largely assimilationist tradition in German Jewry and a call to all Jews to embrace Jewish culture and heritage". In it, Prinz promotes Theodor Herzl's rejection of assimilation and support of Zionism, and argues that antisemites have done "... more to preserve Jewry and to awaken an active Jewish impulse than the Jews themselves...". Historian Michael A. Meyer writes that "... Prinz argued that the triumph of nationalism over political liberalism should now drive the Jews to the only possible solution of the Jewish question: the acceptance of their own status as a nation". To that end, Prinz proposed "a new law to replace assimilation with the avowal of the Jewish nation and the Jewish race"; Nicosia writes that "Prinz clearly saw little alternative to embellishing the ethno-nationalist basis of Zionism with terminology that the Nazis might find familiar and, perhaps, even appealing".
Prinz theorized that fall of liberalism, as signified by Hitler's ascension, meant the end to practical assimilation of Jews into the larger European community:
- The meaning of the German Revolution for the German nation will eventually be clear to those who have created it and formed its image. Its meaning for us must be set forth there: the fortunes of liberalism are lost. The only form of political life which has helped Jewish assimilation is sunk.
Support for anti-assimilation efforts
Another notable passage concerns Jewish assimilation:
- We want assimilation to be replaced by a new law: the declaration of belonging to the Jewish nation and the Jewish race. A state built upon the principle of the purity of nation and race can only be honored and respected by a Jew who declares his belonging to his own kind. Having so declared himself, he will never be capable of faulty loyalty towards a state. The state cannot want other Jews but such as declare themselves as belonging to their nation.
Practical aims of collaboration
He adds that :
- For its practical aims, Zionism hopes to be able to win the collaboration even of a government fundamentally hostile to Jews, because in dealing with the Jewish question not sentimentalities are involved but a real problem whose solution interests all people’s, and at the present moment especially the German people.
Usage by critics of Judaism
Controversial Israeli critic Israel Shahak mentioned Wir Juden in his notorious attack on Judaism, "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight Of Three Thousand Years." Shahak claimed that the book was full of crude flatteries of Nazi ideology and glee about the decline of the ideas of the French Revolution. Shahak accuses Prinz of representing various evils of the Jewish religion.
Usage by anti-Zionists
The book has also been controversial because anti-Zionists have attempted to make the case that Zionists like Prinz were not primarily concerned helping Jews to escape Nazi oppression, discrimination, bigotry, and persecution. Anti-Zionists like Lenni Brenner have claimed that Prinz's advocacy for German Jews to escape to a Homeland for the Jewish people is somehow an indication that the Zionists approved of Nazi opposition to German Jews having equal citizenship rights to those of non-Jewish Germans. </ref> Even though Prinz's subsequent career in the United States was intimately involved with the Civil Rights movement, the March on Washington, and other anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigns, there is no doubt that Prinz, like many of the volkish German Zionists, approved of the Nazis' opposition to Jewish 'assimilation'.
Subsequent defense of Prinz
Defenders of Prinz say that while he may have been naive at first, he was also a vocal opponent to Nazism. They contrast this with those who did not see the coming danger and add that he saw some ideas as useful only in limited context at best.
- Nicosia, Francis R. (2008). Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. Cambridge University Press. p. 93.
- Meyer, Michael A. (1998). S. Almog, Jehuda Reinharz, Anita Shapira, eds. Liberal Judaism and Zionism in Germany. University Press of New England. p. 105.
- Wise, Tim (2001). "Reflections on Zionism From a Dissident Jew". Media Monitors Network. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Glaser, N. "Some of my Best Friends are Nazis" (PDF). Jewish Guardian. 2 (2). New York.
- Shahak, Israel (1994). Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight Of Three Thousand Years.
- Brenner, Lenni (1983). Zionism in the Age of the Dictators.
- Fowler, Glenn (October 1, 1988). "Joachim Prinz, Leader in Protests For Civil-Rights Causes, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Halpern, Ben (1987). A clash of heroes : Brandeis, Weizmann, and American Zionism.