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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in France 07: France 1871-1918

Jews from Alsace-Lorraine and from Algeria - anti-Semitism - immigration of Russian and Ottoman Jews - more anti-Semitism - Dreyfus scandal - separation of state and religion in 1905 - Jewish artists - WW I - immigration of Ottoman, East European and German Jews 1919-1939

from: France; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 7

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[Jewish migration movement from Alsace-Lorraine to central France in 1870 - new consistories]

The 1870 war not only revived Franco-German hostility and put an end to many of the hopes for greater unity, but cut off from French Jewry its vital sources in Alsace and Lorraine. There was also the problem of integrating the Alsatian Jews who had opted to stay in France. This immigration considerably increased the importance of the communities in Paris and that part of Lorraine which had remained French. It also led to the creation of new consistories in Vesoul, Lille, and Besançon. [[The Jews of Alsace and Lorraine did not want the German passport, so they went to central France and could be Frenchmen, see also: *Alsace]].

[Algerian Jews get French passports in 1870]

The effects of the war also speeded up the naturalization of the Jews of *Algeria, where at the time of the French conquest there were a number of old-established communities. The French authorities took their existing arrangements into account but limited the powers of the "head of the Jewish nation" by attaching to him a "Hebrew council". The powers of the rabbinical courts were also restricted. However the Jews of Algeria officially remained part of the indigenous population with a personal status which was variously interpreted.

In 1870, on the eve of the war with Prussia, and following numerous petitions by the Jews in Algeria, the imperial government was on the point of declaring the collective naturalization of Algerian Jewry. (col. 28)

The Government of National Defense sitting at Tours, at the pressing insistence of Crémieux, then minister of justice, proclaimed this naturalization by a decree issued on Oct. 24, 1870. Having become French citizens, the Jews of Algeria gave up their personal status and were on the same footing as the Jews of France. The consistorial system, which had been introduced in Algeria in 1845, was modified to permit a more active participation of the members of the Algerian community in the consistorial elections. The appointment of rabbis and grand rabbins was made by the central consistory. (col. 29)


[Anti-Semitic newspapers and political parties growing after the elimination of the Emperor since 1871]

[[German militarism always had the plan to germanize whole Europe, England inclusive. French politicians used the press for agitation and found the Jews as a scapegoat. The primitive agitators forgot the circumstance that the French Jews had come to central France and never wanted to be German. But a big part of the stupid mob followed the agitators...]]

Withdrawn into itself but enriched by the Algerian accession, the Jewish community of France soon had to face a formidable test. The advent of the Third Republic was not received by Jews with unmixed enthusiasm. Concerned at the progress of secularism and of movements demanding reform, royalist and clerical circles in France attempted to create an anti-Jewish diversion. Anti-Semitic newspapers began to appear. In 1883 the Assumptionists established the daily La *Croix [[The Cross]] which, with other publications, set out to prove that the Revolution had been the work of the Jews allied with the Freemasons. This trend was strengthened by the socialist anti-Semitism of the followers of *Fourier and *Proudhon. (col. 29)


[Numbers 1880 - immigration from Russia since 1881, and from Ottoman countries - transit]

[[...]] In 1880, following the loss of Alsace and Lorraine [[and following the Jewish migration movement from Alsace and Lorraine to central France]], 40,000 out of a total of 60,000 French Jews were living in Paris. This proportion has remained substantially unchanged. (col. 31)

The pogroms in Russia of 1881 [[[after the murder of the czar]] gave rise to a wave of Jewish emigration to the free countries and marked the beginning of the Russian, Polish, and Rumanian immigration into France. a second wave of immigration took place after the abortive 1905 Russian revolution. From 1881 to 1914 over 25,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in France. The Russian element was in the minority. From 1908 a large Jewish influx also began from the Ottoman countries, chiefly from Salonika, Constantinople, and Smyrna. However, for a large number of immigrants, France served as a country of transit and not of refuge. (col. 31)

[[The Jewish emigration to the criminal, racist "United States" became a Jewish "tradition". The natives were never asked...]]

[Further anti-Semitism in reaction to the immigration waves: scandals and Dreyfus case provoking more anti-Jewish propaganda]

The various shades of anti-Semitism converged in Edouard *Drumont's La France Juive [[The Jewish France]] (1886), which became a bestseller. After the collapse of the Union Générale [[General Union]], a leading Catholic bank, the Jews in France provided a convenient scapegoat. In 1889 Drumont's ideas culminated in the formation of the French National Anti-Semitic League (see *Anti-Semitic Political Parties and Organizations). In 1891, 32 deputies demanded that the Jews be expelled from France. In 1892 Drumont was able, with Jesuit support, to found his daily La Libre Parole [[The Free Word]] which immediately launched a defamation campaign against Jewish officers who were accused of having plotted treason and of trafficking in secrets of the national defense. It also blamed Jews for the crash of the Panama Canal Company, creating a scandal which greatly increased its circulation.

It was in this climate that Captain Alfred *Dreyfus was arrested on Oct. 15, 1894, on the charge of having spied in the interests of Germany. Many aspects of the affair are still unclear, although Dreyfus' innocence has been fully recognized. In any event, the affair went beyond the individual case of the unfortunate captain to rock the whole of France and Jews throughout the world.

In France the matter at stake was not the survival of the Jewish community: even its most virulent adversaries did not desire its physical disappearance, although cries of "death to the Jews" were uttered time and again by Paris crowds. On its part, the Catholic and right-wing press, and especially Drumont's La Libre Parole [[The Free Word]], frequently published "facts" about the  machinations of a "World Jewish Syndicate" aimed at world domination. [[Christianity already had a big part of the world domination, this was never said]].

The *Dreyfus case hastened the crystallization of the ideas of Theodor *Herzl, then press correspondent in Paris and a bewildered witness of the unleashing of anti-Semitism in a country reputed to be the most enlightened in Europe. The affair, by opposing the general trends of public opinion in France, led to a crisis of conscience rarely equaled in intensity. Its repercussions caused an upheaval in French political life with similar consequences for Jewish life. (col. 29)


[1905: The state quits support for religions after the Dreyfus case - reorganization of Jewry in France]

The disproportion between the origin of the affair and its consequences does not fail to astonish. In 1905, as a result of the victory of Dreyfus' supporters, a law was passed separating church and state. With the other recognized religions, the Jewish religion lost its official status, and state financial support was withdrawn with the abolition of state participation in religious expenses.

Like the Protestants, but in contradistinction (col. 29)

to the Catholics, the Jews accepted this resolution with goodwill. It would also have been difficult for them to oppose those who had supported Dreyfus. At the same time Grand Rabbin Zadoc *Kahn died. His strong personality had dominated Jewish life since his election to the chief rabbinate of Paris in 1869 and a few years later to the chief rabbinate of France. His astonishing activity had revived French Judaism after the truncation of Alsatian Jewry, and he had interested Baron Edmond de *Rothschild in the colonization of Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel).

The central consistory, disorientated after the passing of the 1905 act, thus had to transform itself while preserving its former framework as far as possible. Synagogues built with public subsidies were nationalized, but were immediately placed at the disposal of the successor religious associations.

the central consistory became the Union des Associations Culturelles de France et d'Algérie ("Union of the Religious Associations of France and Algeria"), and its office adopted the name Central Consistory. The regional consistories disappeared, but the large communities were changed into consistorial or religious associations. Practically all the departmental consistories remained in existence when the offices of the successor associations adopted the name consistory. The internal hierarchy, sanctioned by a century of tradition, continued. The perpetuation of the system, however, did not alter the fact that the organization of the Jewish community of France rested purely on a voluntary basis and on the recognition of a central authority freely accepted.

In fact the French Jewish community became a federation of local communities which maintained a few joint central services, such as the chief rabbinate of France and the rabbinical seminary. Although this system increased the possibilities of fragmentation and disruption, the force of tradition maintained the moral authority of the various consistories, which became the principal, but not the exclusive, representation of a community undergoing a fundamental demographic transformation. (col. 29)


[Jewish artists in Paris 1850-1918: painters, actors, writers]

In the economic sphere, the position of French Jewry continued to improve. After 1850, the number of Jews engaged in crafts increased considerably, and many Jews entered the technical professions. Few were attracted to agriculture. In the period before World War I Jewish painters and sculptors had made the Paris school famous (see *Paris School of Art). Among a brilliant galaxy, the names of *Pissaro, *Soutine, *Pascin, *Kisling, *Chagall [[from Belarus]], and *Modigliani are well known. Sarah *Bernhardt, who was eventually baptized, brought luster to the French theater. Outstanding in literature and philosophy were Adolphe *Franck, Salomon *Munk, Henry *Bergson, Emile *Durkheim, Lucien *Lévy-Bruhl, Marcel *Proust, and André *Maurois.

Purely Jewish studies were not abandoned. From 1880 the *Société des Études Juives regularly published a learned periodical, Revue des Études Juives [["Jewish Learning Review"]], and was responsible for the publication of the classic works of Heinrich *Gross (Gallia Judaica, 1897) and T. *Reinach (Textes d'auteurs Grecs et Romains relatifs au Judaďsme [["Texts of Greek and Romanian writers corresponding with Judaism"]] 1895), and a modern translation of the works of Josephus. The French rabbinate published a magnificent translation of the Bible. On the other hand, talmudic studies in France ceased. (col. 32)


[French re-occupation of Alsace-Lorraine - unification of Jewish families]

The advent of World War I halted this immigration. In uniting all the forces of the nation. the war also put a stop to the anti-Semitic campaigns. The necessity for maintaining a common front (union sacrée) [[Holy Front]] brought all the religions together. For some Jewish soldiers the war was to be a means of rejoining their families after the reconquest of Alsace and Lorraine.

The victory restored to French Jewry these most vital communities. They had preserved their former consistorial organization since they had been in German territory in 1905 when the law separating church and state was passed. The French government, following a policy of pacification and taking into consideration the strong religious attachment of the population, did not apply the law to the regained territories. Thus religious life there continued to be organized on the old system. (col. 31)

[[The plan of the German racist militarists to germanize whole Europe had failed. The French government dictated the Treaty of Versailles. The allies robbed all German colonies. Add to this there were Jews in the French government. So, the nationalist German propaganda was easy to be anti-Semitic. The French policy performed the occupation of the Ruhr sector in 1923 which was not supported by England. The German masses did not follow anti-Semitism up to the stock exchange crash of 1929 when unemployment was so high that anti-Semitism was less important than the bread in the kitchen. And hatred against France with it's Jewish governments was very high in Germany by all this forgetting that there were also poor Jews who had no bread in the kitchen, e.g. coming from eastern Europe...]]


[Jewish immigration movements from Ottoman countries and from eastern Europe - German Jewish refugees since 1933]

After the war, Jewish immigration from the former Ottoman countries was resumed with greater intensity. The Jews from Turkey and Greece settled chiefly in Paris and in the large cities of the south. However, the largest immigration came from eastern Europe in the wake of the Ukrainian and Polish pogroms [[and wars]]. Rumania [[Romania]] also provided a significant number of Jews. One again the Russian and Lithuanian elements were not numerous. This trend increased after 1924 following the prohibition of free immigration into the [[criminal, racist]] United States.

From 1933 many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany passed through France en route for America or Palestine. The number remaining in France was relatively insignificant. (col. 32)

[[This indication is wrong. There were - above all since the German occupation of Austria since spring 1938 - many German Jewish refugees in France who were not helped by the French Jews (Rothschild!) and landed in French concentration camps or in prison. See: Yehuda Bauer: Joint]].


By then the use of Yiddish had become widespread and the "Ashkenazation" of the community had increased.

[Community structures 1919-1939]

The freedom of religious organization, which the law separating church and state had ratified by abolishing the official organization of religion, had enabled the different groups of immigrants to organize an appropriate framework for their religious and social life. Thus in 1923 the Fédération des Sociétés Juives de France (F.S.J.F.) [[Federation of Jewish Societies of France]], a body which united the majority of Landsmanschaften, was created. However, these organizations did not impair the prestige of the old-established French Jewish communal bodies. The new bodies lost much of their meaningfulness as their members assimilated into French life, and with the progress of social security which deprived them of much of their usefulness. Many of their members subsequently joined the ranks of the established community. (col. 32)


[[...]] The process of social assimilation continued, and in 1936 Léon *Blum became the first Jewish premier of France.

It is estimated that there were 180,000 Jews resident in Paris in 1939, one-third of them belonging to the old French Jewish community. (col. 32)

[S.SCH.]> (col. 32)

<In 1939 the Jewish population was concentrated in Paris and the surrounding region, Alsace-Lorraine, and several large towns.> (col. 37)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 27-28
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 27-28
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 29-30
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 29-30
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 31-32
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 31-32
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7,
                    col. 37-38
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): France, vol. 7, col. 37-38

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