Friday, April 24, 2015

Jeffrey S. Gurock's "Holocaust Averted"

Jeffrey S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. His Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City won the 2012 Jewish Book of the Year award from the Jewish Book Council.

Gurock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967, and reported the following:
I am pleased to report the following:

My page 99 describes a fictional meeting in 1941 between Winston Churchill and Peter Bergson where the militant Zionist proposes the creation of a Jewish army that would fight with the British in that nation’s struggle against the Japanese. Bergson hoped to leverage this offer as a means towards the establishment of Israel in a post-war world. But he was unable to garner American Jewish financial support for his initiative. Jewish leaders were skittish about how their involvement in a war that was not America’s own would play on their country’s isolationist streets.

This episode is but one of hundreds of intriguing scenarios that are at the heart of my counter-factual history of what American Jewish life would have been like had there been no Holocaust and if the U.S. had not been drawn into WWII. Both famous and not so renowned figures are placed in imaginative but compelling roles.

Basing my stories on actual historical documents, but with creative twists, I depict FDR as unsuccessful in attempting to run for a third term. I have Tokyo’s war council outvoting Tojo’s plan to attack Pearl Harbor. On the western European front, the Nazis get bogged down in their struggle against British and French troops and never succeed in invading eastern Europe where more than six million Jews live. The European war ends in 1944 when Hitler is assassinated. Meanwhile as late as 1946, the British are still fighting in Asia. This war-weary nation accepts American assistance in attempting to control a tumultuous Palestine where Jews and Arabs are squaring off. American peace-keepers arrive in 1946 but many are killed during the bombing of the King David Hotel. This provocation—viewed as terrorism in America—stokes anti-Zionist sentiments and American Jews run for cover. Their fear of dual loyalty creates a serious fissure between U.S. Jews and Israelis.

There are many real historical lessons to be learned from these and the many other contemplations that appear in my work. Most poignantly, without the war-time experience where American Jews felt empowered from their recognized role in defeating the Nazis, they would remain frightened about who they were and what they stood for. The roots of contemporary Jewish assertiveness for world Jewry and for social and political causes at home came out of the Holocaust where their brethren suffered. But American Jews emerged from WWII determined that their voices would be heard.
Visit Jeffrey S. Gurock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue