Joseph Roth

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Joseph Roth

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Edited: Mar 19, 2012, 12:42 pm

The Radetsky March has been sitting on my shelf,unread, for several years but more recently, with the publication of Joseph Roth: A Life in letters, I again became interested in Joseph Roth's work and i read The Wandering Jews. This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in jewish history between the two great wars of the 20th century. below is a reveiw i wrote:

The Wandering Jews by Joseph Roth

Known best for his classic novel about the Austria-Hungary Empire, The Redetsky March, Joseph Roth was first and foremost known for his journalistic reports about the state of Europe following the first Great War.

In The Wandering Jews, his reports about the state of the Jewish people in Eastern and Western Europe is well documented. From the shtetls of Poland to the streets of Paris and the quarantines of Ellis Island the journeys and lives of the common Jew and the assimilated German Jews are portrayed.

In the first chapter, “Eastern European Jews in the West” while important to frame the time and environment within which he wrote this book, it is rather lengthy and thus boring, for the task at hand. It could have easily been addressed in ½ the time but why quibble, for what follows explodes off the page; in the richness of description and the wisdom of observation he captures all the intricacies of activities and personalities that persist within the Jewish communities of Eastern and Western Europe.

From the muddy streets of the shtetl to the boulevards of Berlin and Paris he reports on the unique qualities of the Jewish people, their history and tradition and the blind eye the German Jews turned on their own kind only to then be caught up in the horrors of the Nuremberg Laws and what followed.

“…The German Jew had grown arrogant. He had lost the God of his fathers and acquired an idol instead: the idol of civilizatory patriotism. But God had not forgotten him. And he sent him on his wanderings, a tribulation that is appropriate to Jews, and to all others besides. Lest we forget that nothing in this world endures, not even a home; and that our life is short, shorter even than the life of the elephant, the crocodile, and the crow. Even parrots outlive us”.

His reports were probably among the first to foretell the coming Holocaust and the damage it left in its wake for both the Jewish people and their tormentors.

Mar 19, 2012, 1:00 pm

I have that book on my " next to read" pile of books! Thanks for the review.

Edited: Dec 8, 2012, 3:16 pm

Hanukkah Sameah - Please keep the Group alive!

Nov 3, 2014, 12:29 pm

thank you- good article and review