The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967.

Author:Shapiro, Edward S.
Position:Book review
 
FREE EXCERPT

The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967. By Jeffrey S. Gurock. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2015. x + 301 pp.

Jeffrey S. Gurock, the Libby M. Klaperman professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, is unquestionably the leading authority on the history of Jewish Orthodoxy in the United States. In a series of books, including The Men and Women of Yeshiva: Higher Education, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism (1988), American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective (1996), A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism (1997; Jacob J. Schacter coauthor), and Orthodox Jews in America (2.009), he has deftly chronicled the often difficult and contentious but successful adaptation of the Orthodox laity and rabbinic leadership to a social and intellectual environment radically different from what they had known in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

In his new book Gurock has struck out in a different direction, writing an "alternate" history of 1938 to 1967 which assumes that Great Britain and France stood up to Germany in 1938 during the Munich crisis, Roosevelt never ran for a third and fourth term, the war in Europe ended with Hitler's death and Germany's defeat in 1944, and the Holocaust never occurred. Alternate history is the opposite of historical determinism, and it emphasizes the role of individuals rather than broad social and economic trends. It assumes that much of the past resulted from happenstance and that decision makers had the freedom to select from a variety of different policy options. Not surprisingly, alternate history has been more popular among political and military historians than among their social and economic counterparts. The former have wondered whether slavery would have persisted in the United States if the South had won the Civil War, whether World War I would have broken out had the procession of Archduke Franz Ferdinand taken a different route in Sarajevo, whether Germany would have become the dominant power in Europe if she had not invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 or if the D-Day landings had been unsuccessful, whether the United States would have become so deeply involved in Vietnam if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated in 1963, whether the politics of the Middle East would have been fundamentally different had Israel returned to its pre-1967 borders after the Six-Day War, and how...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP