In “The Tears of History”, Pierre Birnbaum delves into the history of American anti-Semitism

The Kishinev pogrom, which killed around 40 people in 1903, was not the only one committed in the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century.e century nor the most terrible. This massacre nonetheless occupies a very special place in the imagination of American Jews, a symbol of a “tearful history” for millions of their emigrants, convinced of having found a haven of peace in the United States. This American “exceptionalism” is at the heart of the work of historian Salo Baron. [1895-1989], born in Galicia, on the eastern fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and having emigrated across the Atlantic. He was celebrating a New World which seemed to him immune to the pervasive anti-Semitism on the Old Continent.

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By weaving this double thread, the historian Pierre Birnbaum draws up a very erudite and fascinating history of American Judaism and anti-Semitism, an area rather neglected until now. In a previous work, The Two Houses (Gallimard, 2012), he compared the history of the citizenship of Jews in France and in the United States, the two nations which first emancipated them, but according to radically different models, statist and secular for one, communitarian for one. the other.

This new book highlights the rise in recent years in the United States of anti-Semitic hatred fueled by the ultra-right. But, as Pierre Birnbaum shows, the history of the Jews in the country was less happy. that it seems. One of its most tragic moments was the lynching in 1915 of Leo Frank, a prominent and Jewish industrialist from Atlanta wrongly accused of the rape and murder of one of his workers. A case which aroused a shock similar to that of the Dreyfus affair in France. But, one hundred and seven years later, Leo Frank has still not been rehabilitated.

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