Spot the Difference
A SHORT historical quiz: Which state:
(1) Arose after a holocaust in which a third of its people were destroyed?
(2) Drew from that holocaust the conclusion that only superior military forces could ensure its survival?
(3) Accorded the army a central role in its life, making it “an army that had a state, rather than a state that had an army”?
(4) Began by buying the land it took, and continued to expand by conquest and annexation?
(5) Endeavored by all possible means to attract new immigrants?
(6) Conducted a systematic policy of settlement in the occupied territories?
(7) Strove to push out the national minority by creeping ethnic cleansing?
For anyone who has not yet found the answer: it’s the state of
But if some readers were tempted to believe that it all applies to the State of
THE STATE that was respected and feared for 350 years as
A historical curiosity: the land was first paid for in cash. The house of Hohenzollern, a noble family from South Germany, bought the
The event that largely determined the entire history of
At the beginning, the army was an essential instrument for the defense of the state’s very existence. In the course of time, it became the center of national life. What started out as the Prussian defense forces became an aggressive army of conquest that terrified all its neighbors. For some of the Prussian kings, the army was the main interest in life. For a time, the soldiers and their families constituted about a quarter of the
One of those was the area that came to give the state its name:
The lack of homogeneity of the Prussian lands, composed as they were of diverse and unconnected areas, gave birth to the main Prussian creation: the “State”. This was the factor that was to unite all the different populations, each of which stuck to its local patriotism and traditions. The “State” – Der Staat – became a sacred being, transcending all other loyalties. Prussian philosophers saw the “State” as the incarnation of all the social virtues, the final triumph of human reason.
The Prussian state became proverbial. Demonized by its enemies, it was, however, exemplary in many ways – a well organized, orderly and law-abiding structure, its bureaucracy untainted by corruption. The Prussian official received a paltry salary, lived modestly and was intensely proud of his status. He detested ostentation. A hundred years ago
PRUSSIA WAS a very poor country, lacking natural resources, minerals and good agricultural soil. It used its army to procure richer territories.
Because of the poverty, the population was thinly spread. The Prussian kings expended much effort in recruiting new immigrants. In 1731, when tens of thousands of Protestants in the
This Prussian effort had a direct impact on the Jewish colonization of
IT IS impossible to exaggerate the influence of the Prussian model on the Zionist movement in almost all spheres of life.
Theodor Herzl, the founder of the movement, was born in
Herzl was not the only one to imprint a Prussian-German pattern on the Zionist enterprise. In this he was overshadowed by Ruppin, who is known today to Israeli children mainly as a street name. But Ruppin had an immense impact on the Zionist enterprise, more than any other single person. He was the real leader of the Zionist immigrants in
If so, why has he been almost eradicated from official memory? Because some sides of Ruppin are best forgotten. Before becoming a Zionist, he was an extreme Prussian-German nationalist. He was one of the fathers of the “scientific” racist creed and believed in the superiority of the Aryan race. Up to the end he occupied himself with measuring skulls and noses in order to provide support for assorted racist ideas. His partners and friends created the “science” that inspired Adolf Hitler and his disciples.
The Zionist movement would have been impossible were it not for the work of Heinrich Graetz, the historian who created the historical image of the Jews which we all learned at school. Graetz, who was also born in the Polish area of Prussia, was a pupil of the Prussian-German historians who “invented” the German nation, much as he “invented” the Jewish nation.
Perhaps the most important thing we inherited from
WHEN I first brought up the similarity between Prussia and Israel (in a chapter dedicated to this theme in the Hebrew and German editions of my 1967 book, “Israel Without Zionists”) it might have looked like a baseless comparison. Today, the picture is clearer. Not only does the senior officers corps occupy a central place in all the spheres of our life, and not only is the huge military budget beyond any discussion, but our daily news is full of typically “Prussian” items. For example: it transpires that the salary of the Army Chief of Staff is double that of the Prime Minister. The Minister of Education has announced that henceforth schools will be assessed by the number of their pupils who volunteer for army combat units. That sounds familiar – in German.
After the fall of the Third Reich, the four occupying powers decided to break up
Those who believe in the transmigration of souls can draw their own conclusions. It is certainly food for thought.