Cross Currents

•    CROSS-CURRENTS 1 On the evidence quoted in previous chapters, one can easily understand why Polish historians – who are, after all, closest to the sources – are in agreement that `in earlier times, the main bulk of the Jewish population originated from the Khazar country`.1 One might even be tempted to overstate the case by claiming – as Kutschera does – that Eastern Jewry was a hundred per cent of Khazar origin.
•    But in the later Middle Ages things become more complicated by the rise and fall of Jewish settlements all over the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and the Balkans.
•    By the end of the fifteenth century, the Jews were expelled from both provinces, and went to Italy, Poland and Hungary; but where did they originally come from?
•    As Mieses put it in his survey of these scattered communities: During the high Middle Ages we thus find in the east a chain of settlements stretching from Bavaria to Persia, the Causcasus, Asia Minor and Byzantium.
•    Just how this immigration of Jews into the Alpine regions came about we do not know, but without doubt the three great reservoirs of Jews from late antiquity played their part: Italy, Byzantium and Persia.2 The missing link in this enumeration is, once again, Khazaria, which, as we have seen earlier on, served as a receptacle and transit-station for Jews emigrating from Byzantium and the Caliphate.
•    Mieses has acquired great merit in refuting the legend of the Rhenish origin of Eastern Jewry, but he, too, knew little of Khazar history, and was unaware of its demographic importance.
•    Italy was not only quasi-saturated with Jews since Roman times, but, like Khazaria, also received its share of immigrants from Byzantium.
•    So here we might have a trickle of `genuine` Jews of Semitic origin into Eastern Europe; yet it could not have been more than a trickle, for there is no trace in the records of any substantial immigration of Italian Jews into Austria, whereas there is plenty of evidence of a reverse migration of Jews into Italy after their expulsion from the Alpine provinces at the end of the fifteenth century.
•    The Alpine settlements were in all likelihood westerly offshoots of the general Khazar migration toward Poland, which was spread over several centuries and followed several different routes – through the Ukraine, the Slavonic regions north of Hungary, perhaps also through the Balkans.
•    It was launched by Christian chroniclers in the Middle Ages, but was repeated in all seriousness by historians as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century.
•    In pre-Christian days, so the legend goes, the Austrian provinces were ruled by a succession of Jewish princes.
•    After these Jews came five pagan princes, followed by Christian rulers.
•    Let us listen to Mieses again: `The very fact that such a legend could develop and stubbornly maintain itself through several centuries, indicates that deep in the national consciousness of ancient Austria dim memories persisted of a Jewish presence in the lands on the upper Danube in bygone days.
•    The confabulations of mediaeval chroniclers could evoke a popular echo only if they were supported by collective recollections, however vague.`5 As already mentioned, Mieses is rather inclined to underestimate the Khazar contribution to Jewish history, but even so he hit on the only plausible hypothesis which could explain the origin of the persistent legend.
•    The Hungarians at the time were not yet converted to Christianity (that happened only a century later, AD 1000) and the only monotheistic religion familiar to them was Khazar Judaism.

•    5 `In a sense,` wrote Cecil Roth, `the Jewish dark ages may be said to begin with the Renaissance.`17 Earlier on, there had been massacres and other forms of persecution – during the crusades, the Black Death, and under other pretexts; but these had been lawless outbreaks of mass-violence, actively opposed or passively tolerated by the authorities.
•    `The few communities suffered to remain in Western Europe – i.e., in Italy, Germany, and the papal possessions in southern France – were subjected at last to all the restrictions which earlier ages had usually allowed to remain an ideal`18 – i.e., which had existed on ecclesiastical and other decrees, but had remained on paper (as, for instance, in Hungary, see above, V, 2).
•    In 1555 Pope Paul IV in his bull cum nimis absurdum insisted on the strict and consistent enforcement of earlier edicts, confining Jews to closed ghettoes.
•    The result was a new wave of massive emigration into Hungary, Bohemia, Rumania and Germany, where the Jews who had all but vanished with the Black Death were still thinly spread.
•    It was to continue through nearly three centuries until the Second World War, and became the principal source of the existing Jewish communities in Europe, the United States and Israel.
•    `The second Western movement,` writes Roth (dating the first from the destruction of Jerusalem), `which continued into the twentieth century, may be said to begin with the deadly Chmelničky massacres of 1648–49 in Poland.`19 6 The evidence quoted in previous chapters adds up to a strong case in favour of those modern historians – whether Austrian, Israeli or Polish – who, independently from each other, have argued that the bulk of modern Jewry is not of Palestinian, but of Caucasian origin.
•    The mainstream of Jewish migrations did not flow from the Mediterranean across France and Germany to the east and then back again.
•    When that unprecedented mass-settlement in Poland came into being, there were simply not enough Jews around in the west to account for it; while in the east a whole nation was on the move to new frontiers.
•    It would of course be foolish to deny that Jews of different origin also contributed to the existing Jewish world-community.
•    But the cumulative evidence makes one inclined to agree with the concensus of Polish historians that `in earlier times the main bulk originated from the Khazar country`; and that, accordingly, the Khazar contribution to the genetic make-up of the Jews must be substantial, and in all likelihood dominant.