|Part II: Bukovina and Czernowitz/ Cernauti/ Czernowtsy/ Chernivtsi
2. Between German and Jewish Identity or Nationality — the Problematic German-Jewish Symbiosis
"Into the fourth decade of the 19th century, the Chassidim had the upper hand. It was only after 1848, as freedom spread across the land, that their influence began to recede and Jewish lifestyle outwardly adapted itself to the spirit of the age, such as moving out of the Jewish Quarter, European clothing, German as the language of everyday use and a diminishment in the observance of all the traditional commandments ..."54 Much later than in Central Europe, namely in the aftermath of 1848, the ideas of the Enlightenment found great resonance among the Jews of Bukovina, and they saw their future political course in the Liberalism of the Germans, whom they seemingly had to thank for their newly-acquired rights. The attractiveness of the Germans did not stop short of religious life: in 1855, the German-Israelite School was opened and, from 1872 on, sermons in the main Czernowitz synagogue were preached in German55.
This also marked the beginning of the phase in which the German hegemonial culture set up institutions in order to solidly established its influence. These were primarily institutions of Kultur and education such as the university and the new municipal theater. German influence was enormous, particularly in the school system, since Yiddish, the actual language of most of the Jews of Bukovina, was disavowed and ignored while the other languages of the province exerted only a modest attraction upon Jewish students.
The previously cited quote from Karl Emil Franzos could speak for an entire generation of enlightened and/or already secularized Jews who wished to give up their old ways and fully assimilate into German-Austria society. The Jewish religion seemed to be a matter of little importance; above all, one was conscious of being a citizen and, after 1867, a citizen with equal rights. As was also true in the west of the Monarchy in the 1860s, Germans and Jews worked closely together in Bukovina. For example, in 1861 in the elections for the first session of the provincial legislature in Bukovina, the Jewish vice-mayor of Czernowitz, the German-Liberal Dr. Josef Fechner, was elected together with the Germans56. The historian Martin Broszat, however, came to the conclusion that this was not a matter of adaptation toward the culture of the Germans of Bukovina, since, with respect to social or civilizational level, this group was by no means superior to the Jews. This process of acculturation was much more strongly oriented towards "Kulturdeutschtum" as this was hegemonially transmitted by the Austrian state through its government officials, army officers and teachers57.
Although the process of separation of this German-Jewish symbiosis did not proceed as brutally as it did in regions of the Monarchy which were poisoned by anti-Semitism, segregation according to so-called nationalities did not stop short of Bukovina. Here, at the very latest, the meager extent to which the provisions of law were anchored in the attitudes of citizens became amply evident, such that the Jews were regarded merely as a religious community. The rest of the population including the Germans of Bukovina continued to view Jews as a nationality, as "others."
Prior to the final end of the Hapsburg Monarchy, the most important political representative of the Jews of Bukovina was the attorney Dr. Benno Straucher, born in 1854 in Rohozna near Sadagura58. From 1897, he was a delegate to the Austrian Imperial Parliament, where he was a spokesman for an unusual mixture of German Liberalism and Jewish Nationalism — a sort of half-hearted Zionism. His chief innovation was to break with German Liberalism and, in the 1890s, to refuse further cooperation with the Germans. He then pursued his own independent course, a declared policy advancing Jewish interests. He joined none of the parliamentary fractions, though he was later chairman of the short-lived "Jewish Club."59 As a parliamentary representative and, from 1903, as president of the Jewish Community of Czernowitz, he dominated Jewish political life in Bukovina for several decades until after World War I.60 In Parliament, Straucher was immediately confronted with massive and verbally aggressive anti-Semitism, which reached its high point with the stand he took on the Hilsner Affair — the supposed ritual murder of Polna. Similar to the efforts of Rabbi Josef Samuel Bloch who had previously represented legislative districts in Galicia, Benno Straucher also attempted to employ argumentation in the fight against anti-Semitism61.
Those who have written about Bukovina are quite fond of depicting it as a region in which there was peaceful coexistence; nevertheless, Bukovina can not be separated and viewed in isolation from the context of the Empire as a whole. Naturally, those secular Jews — whose acculturation had been a modern one, for whom religion and tradition retained little significance and for whom German Kultur had assumed almost mythological stature as a substitute for the traditional culture they had given up — were shocked by the rise of German Nationalist anti-Semitism in the western provinces of the Monarchy, since it endangered their perspective of their own identity. The extent to which the sense of security in this German identity was undermined among Jews beginning in the 1890s can be vividly illustrated with a quote taken from a heated exchange of words in which Benno Straucher was involved in Parliament — an example taken from a budget debate:
The gradual dissolution of the German-Jewish symbiosis was advanced in Bukovina by segregationist developments on both sides. As in Vienna, the first symptom appeared among German students who founded German Nationalist and/or exclusively Christian fraternities in Czernowitz as early as the 1880s. As a countermove, Jewish students at the University of Czernowitz — among them, Mayer Ebner, the future leader of the Bukovina Zionists — reacted with the founding of the Jewish Nationalist fraternity Hasmonäa in 1891; more were to follow63. The influence of nationalism among the German populace also made its presence felt on the general political level with the emergence, after some delay, of a nationalist political wing. For instance, both German parliamentary representatives, Arthur Skedl and Michael Kipper, joined the "Society of Christian Germans in Bukovina" which was founded in 189764. This society and the German Nationalist fraternities were behind the establishment of the "Deutsches Haus" in the Herrengasse, a prominent address in Czernowitz.
Along with the supporters of Straucher, the development of Zionism brought forth a second wing of Jewish Nationalism which would take on historical weight as a result of its subsequent significance. Mayer Ebner, born in 1872 in Czernowitz, was the leading Zionist activist in Czernowitz and embodied the new mood of skepticism toward the potential for integration. This attitude characterized his speech at the First Zionist Congress: "The Jews have felt themselves to be German and have remained loyal to the Germans ... After the German Liberal Party collapsed, the Society of Christian Germans in Bukovina came into being. That was the thanks we got! That was the reward for the decades of chauvinistic emphasis on all things German on the part of the Jews."65 For reasons of Realpolitik, Zionists aligned with Mayer Ebner initially supported Benno Straucher in the parliamentary elections of 1901 and founded with him the Jewish-nationalistic "Jüdischer Volksverein" in Czernowitz. Zionism in Bukovina, however, suffered as a result of the highly emotionally charged quarrels between those who advocated a course of Realpolitik and the Herzl-Zionists who completely rejected a Jewish national policy in the Diaspora.