Prelude to Israel;: The memoirs of M.I. Bodenheimerjan peczkis|Saturday, August 25, 2012
This work includes Bodenheimer's conversations with fellow Zionists such as Teodor Herzl and Max Nordau, his ideas about such developments as the Jewish farming colony in Argentina, his interactions with top German officials during WWI, and his rejoicing at the Balfour Declaration. Bodenheimer developed an admiration for Jabotinsky, and eventually joined the Revisionists. (p. 313).
Bodenheimer was strongly anti-assimilationist. He believed that, whereas Zionism preserves and revives the Jewish people, assimilation only leads to their dissolution. (p. 138). He also rejected the Social Democrats and the Communists, contending that equal reward for unequal performance was contrary to human nature, and that transferring the means of production to society would merely be a change in authority. (p. 53).
Although condemning Polish anti-Semitism, and disagreeing with Polish ideas about mass Jewish emigration, Bodenheimer tacitly recognized the fact that Polish hostility to Jews was not absolute, and that it was driven primarily by economic factors. Poles hoped that Zionism would induce most of the local Jews to emigrate to Palestine, so that the positions of merchants and tradespeople would open up for Poles, and so that the smaller number of remaining Jews could be assimilated. (p. 271).
While travelling in Poland, Bodenheimer evidently forgot that he was in Poland (albeit a foreign-ruled Poland). He contended that Yiddish should be the official language in cities that have a Jewish majority, and expressed a sort of surprise that leading Poles did not agree. (p. 258).
To Poles, Bodenheimer is remembered as one of the architects of Judeopolonia. (in Bodenheimer's case, jointly German- and Jewish-ruled Polish territories). See the Peczkis review of Jews in Poland: A Documentary History.
Although Bodenheimer recognized the virulence of German anti-Semitism (p. 61), and the mistreatment of Jews by the WWI German Army (p. 248), this did not change his Germanocentric orientation relative to the Slavs. When he was just about to describe his concept of Judeopolonia, Bodenheimer, as if bending over backwards to confirm the Endeks, pointed to the Jews' Yiddish language as an anti-Slavic weapon for the Germans: (quote) One of the war aims of Germany was the destruction of Russia. That is why I thought of utilizing the impending overthrow in the East for a new political orientation of Russo-Polish Jewry. In 1898 I had already pointed out in a memorandum to the Foreign Office the importance that Yiddish, which was nothing other than a German folk dialect, could have for the German Empire. (unquote)(p. 234).
A few sentences later, Bodenheimer describes his vision for Judeopolonia. It would have not only denied Poles their nation, but also reduced Poles to a third-place status in this German- and Jewish-ruled conglomeration of subjugated, disjointed nations. He writes, (quote) My memorandum became the basis of a comprehensive plan which I submitted to the Foreign Office. In the event of a German victory a League of East European States should be created, which would run approximately along the edge of the Pale of Jewish settlement. In this League the Poles would be the strongest nation, but Ukrainians, White Russians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Letts would maintain the balance. The Jews together with the Germans would turn the scales. For the constitution of this new State I set up the principle of the national autonomy of the alien peoples within the Russian Empire. (unquote).
Again, as if out to confirm the Endeks beyond doubt, Bodenheimer, as an embodiment of German Zionism, made obvious his fundamental hostility to an independent Polish state. Worse yet, his concept of Judeopolonia was no idle talk. It had the ear of influential Germans. Bodenheimer comments: (quote) It was Ludendorff who best grasped the significance of my plan. He had at once recognized that a national autonomy of the alien peoples of Russia such as I proposed must make the new State permanently dependent upon the German Reich, whereas a Polish national State would be a danger. This is why he was inclined, just as he had made use of the Jew Rathenau in his economic and industrial preparations for war, to harness the Jew Bodenheimer to his political cart. After the creation of the Polish State he had no further interest in the Committee." (unquote). It is evident, from the quote above, that Bodenheimer's notion of "national autonomy" of nations, under this Judeopolonia, was a thinly disguised DIVIDE ET IMPERA tactic designed to facilitate German-Jewish rule.
Germany lost WWI. What if Germany had won?
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