By William Markiewicz
The Jews, who played predominant social and demographic part in Central and Eastern Europe, simply vanished in just a few years time. In this they join another vanished population, the Celts. The Celts vanished because they didn't develop written history and the Jews, because they didn't have weapons.
Yet the Jews of antiquity were ferocious warriors. Alexander the Great declared: "With Jewish archers I conquered Persia." At the beginning of the Jewish revolt against Rome, the Romans were not eager to fight (Josephus Flavius: "Bellum Judaicum"). Finally, when they could no longer withstand the Zealots' provocations, they reacted swiftly and their revenge was terrible. This was the first holocaust; practically all Jerusalemites were crucified. For this reason the forests surrounding Jerusalem were totally cut down. The Jews were exiled from their land and they largely lost their identity. The Romans sent the Jewish women to be raped by slaves, the usual Roman treatment of defeated enemies. The offspring was considered automatically Jewish since Jewishness proceeds from the mother according to Jewish law. The consequences of the foolish anti-Roman revolt completely broke Jew's combative spirit. So, post-antique Europe witnessed an influx of frightened heterogenous masses united only by their religion and totally at the mercy of the powerful and the mobs. The semi-barbarian societies inhabiting Roman and post-Roman Europe valued physical bravery over all other qualities. Jewish "pacifism" was neither understood nor respected. So "anti-Semitism" was born. Anti-Semitism was never a sign of hatred, but of lack of respect.
I will give the example of my native Poland. Poland was a theatre of vast immigrations from approximately the eleventh to the fourteenth century -- perhaps much earlier. The Germans, the Flemish, Jews, Scots, came en masse. The Jews and Gypsies were the only ones who didn't carry weapons. In the tenth or eleventh century, the Statute of Kalisz legislated the rights and duties of the Jews in Poland. The penalty for any Christian who would rob, wound or kill a Jew was laid down in great detail. Not a single word was written about what would happen to a Jew who would rob, wound or kill a Christian. Such a possibility was not even considered.
The original question posed in this article: "How many Jews were killed?" is linked with another question: how numerous were the Jews from the beginning of their history to modern times? This could never have been clear. In the "dark ages" there wasn't really such a thing as precise census. Logically, we link population size to two factors: the people's historical age and amount of territory. We know how these factors relate to the Chinese and the Indian populations. The Jews are as old as the Chinese and the Hindus. They were extensive wanderers, even in Biblical times, so they didn't lack territory either. We don't know the exact number of exiled Jews that entered Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. They were confined in ghettoes, persecuted, killed in pogroms, but on the other hand they didn't take part in the devastating wars which decimated other youths and because of their ritual nutrition and hygienic habits they were less affected by plagues. They probably coped with their own population explosion within ghettoes by travelling from country to country, from ghetto to ghetto. Their number still remained an enigma for the authorities who really weren't too interested in knowing.
The French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, opened the gates of ghettoes and gave the Jews the opportunity to merge with the larger societies. At the same time the great number of Jews progressively lost interest in their own religion. So, the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries have seen, particularly in Europe, the birth of a new Jewry; not so much religion, but a people.
Another example from Poland: Polish cities were largely inhabited by Jews who were non-religious but represented all facets of what the word 'nation' can mean; they socialized mainly among themselves, they married among themselves. They maintained common roots simply because they were numerous enough to do so. They spoke Polish but they had their own theatres, their own books, their own newspapers, their own locals. They went to synagogue once or twice a year, mostly as social ritual. They dominated the urban landscape because of their activity in liberal professions, in crafts like fur, shoes, light industry, commerce. . . They were numerous and active enough to pay, seemingly, the majority of Polish taxes! They did not have powerful positions in government or in the army - still, ten percent of Polish officers managed to be Jewish. On the municipal level the Jews were very visible. On my last visit to Poland a short time ago, I went to Krakow, a city which was not damaged at all by the war. In the City Hall, a tablet on the wall lists the Councillors over the last two centuries. I was surprised to find so many Jewish names. I am also surprised that the Nazis didn't destroy this testimony as they destroyed any trace of Jewishness in Poland, even cemeteries. At the beginning of the century one Jewish historian, I don't remember his name, wrote, "Poland is a country of Jews and Poles (he put the Jews first) and both nations must coexist and respect each other." Because the Hasidic movement was born in Poland the percentage of non-religious Jews was even higher in countries like Hungary, Rumania, Germany, Czechoslovakia, etc. And nobody knew how many they were, because there was no such thing as a census of non-religious Jews. They simply were Jews by the fact that they were not Christians. Many Poles believed that the Jews were the majority in the country. This belief is certainly exaggerated but the official ten percent is a gross underestimation. The ten percent were probably the religious Jews.
There was at least one massive conversion of Jews in Poland. One Jew named Frank declared himself the Messiah and attracted numerous followers. Finally he converted to Catholicism and his flock with him. They took names of the month as family names. Today their descendants have no idea of their Jewish origin. The Nazis certainly knew, but didn't touch them, probably to avoid a mass panic among the general population; after all, many have "Mars" or "December" in their families.
After WWI when Czechoslovakia was formed, journalists jokingly questioned some of the new-born Republic's politicians: "We know Czechs, we know Slovaks - but who are Czechoslovaks?" The answer was: "The Jews will be Czechoslovaks!" In France there was a joke: "Came a Jew - Moses - and gave us Saturday. Then came another Jew - Jesus - and gave us Sunday. Then came a third Jew - Leon Blum (the Socialist Premier) and gave us Friday. Now we expect some more Jews... to give us a real break!" Impossible to recall all the anecdotes linked to the Jews, and all of them underlining the importance of their role in Europe's life.
The Jews were the first pan-Europeans. They all spoke Yiddish or pure German. They were the only inhabitants of occupied countries that the Nazis could freely communicate with. With the extermination of the European Jews, Germany lost its only historical chance for German to become the language of Europe.
All those Jews who had no interest in counting themselves and weren't counted by any census - simply vanished fifty years ago. They joined the Celts in the anonymity. The Nazis had an easy job detecting them; anybody who couldn't present baptismal certificate for three generations back, was automatically classified as a Jew. In light of all this, I believe that the supposed six million may be only a tip of the iceberg. What was the real number of Jews killed? Twelve million? Eighteen million? We will never know.
I'm adding this appendix supporting my contention that the real number of Jewish population in pre-Hitler Europe has never been researched in depth:
The present revelations about Jewish accounts in Swiss banks already gives us an idea of how important the Jewish population must have been, considering that the majority of the Jews were too poor to have accounts in Swiss banks. The majority of the European population was poor, and the Jews were no exception. Ancient Polish literature (Orzeszkowa and others) abounds in description of Jewish misery. And how about the Ashkenaze (Yiddish) literature, art and folksongs?
Another 'hint' -- the percentage of Jewish officers in pre-war Polish army, as I mentioned in the article above: I think it's universally known that Polish culture and history is based very much on the Romantic spirit of faith and chivalry, love for the homeland, pride of the glorious army... Not so long ago, almost every family wanted its sons to be priests or soldiers. We know that this kind of mystique was not common among the Polish Jews. In sum, the army didn't like the Jews and the Jews didn't like the army. In those uncomfortable conditions, how could the Jews and the Christians be represented by the same percentage of officers? I believe that the probability equals zero. What should the real percentage of the Jewish population be in order to produce ten percent of the officers? Let statisticians speculate about it if interested but in advance I reject the official claim that the Jewish population in Poland equaled only ten percent.
The last hint: The Jews are one of the oldest continuous populations in Europe. As I mention in the article, Alexander the Great declared: "with Jewish archers I conquered Persia." How important must the population have been to offer enough archers "to conquer Persia?" The Jews were everywhere and were appreciated and respected because of their skills and fighting spirit. Even "anti-semitism" which started after the disastrous Jewish revolt against the Romans couldn't seriously affect their number. A French writer, Alain Peyrefitte, wrote a book in the sixties "Les Juifs" ("The Jews") in which he maintains that practically everybody in Europe is of Jewish extraction. If the Jews were numerous enough to mark the majority of the non-Jewish population then Hitler may have killed more people in Europe than all the plagues in history combined.