The Anti-Semitic Moment by Pierre Birnbaum
A Tour of France in 1898

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A controversial new look at a turning point in modern European history

In 1898, the Dreyfus Affair plunged French society into a year-long frenzy. In small villages and big cities, angry crowds paraded through the streets, attacking Jews and destroying Jewish-owned businesses. Anger about the imagined power of Jewish capital as well as fears of treason and racial degeneration made anti-Semitism a convenient banner behind which many social and political factions could fall in line. The anti-Semitic feelings that had been simmering in France for decades came boiling to the surface.

Until now, the details of this pogrom have slumbered in local archives, but here Pierre Birnbaum, the first to study the full range of events set in motion during the Dreyfus crisis, guides the reader on a tour of France during this tumultuous year. His innovative study makes it clear why, though prolonged violence threatened to topple the government, the institution of the state did not give way. Birnbaum shows not only that many Jews defended themselves but that police officers made mass arrests and Jewish lives and property were protected. His analysis of how and why public order was maintained offers surprising new insights.

About Pierre Birnbaum

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Pierre Birnbaum is a professor of politics and philosophy at the University of Paris I (the Sorbonne). He is the author of numerous books, several of which have been translated into English. He lives in Paris.
Published October 1, 2002 by Hill and Wang. 400 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel. Non-fiction

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In the main, the French people, he writes, responded badly, taking the occasion of the charge that French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus had spied for the Germans to initiate anti-Semitic demonstrations—and, in some cases, anti-Semitic violence—throughout the nation.

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