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Hilaire Belloc    The Jewish Tragic Cycle
"The various nations of Europe have every one of them, in the course of their long histories, passed through successive phases towards the Jew which I have called the tragic cycle." Hilaire Belloc
Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Hilaire Belloc
on the
Jewish Tragic Cycle

At the bottom of the present page are two quotes from Hilaire Belloc

Two excerpts are provided below from Hilaire Belloc's The Jews.  No publisher is specified in the version of the book in my possession, but at the end of the book appears "Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London."  Yes, it does say "Frome."  The date of printing given at the front of the book is 1983, and the date of Belloc's Introductory Chapter to the Third Edition is 1937, so that we may guess that the first edition of the book was originally published several years prior to 1937.  For purposes of the citations to the two excerpts below, I use the date of the third edition, 1937.

Who was Hilaire Belloc?

My Webster's Biographical Dictionary points out that Hilaire Belloc is a pen name used by Hilary Belloc, his full name being Joseph Hilary Pierre Belloc:

1870-1953.  English author.  Son of French barrister and English mother; naturalized British subject (1902); grad. Oxford (1895); newspaper and magazine writer; M.P. (1906-10).  Author of essays, verse, novels, history, biography, criticism, including The Path to Rome (1902; a travel journal), Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896; nonsense verse), Cautionary Tales (1907; light verse), the novels Mr. Clutterbuck's Election (1908), The Girondin (1911), The Green Overcoat (1912), and The Man Who Made Gold (1930); History of England (1925-31), Marie Antoinette (1910), Richelieu (1929), Wolsey (1930), Cromwell (1934), Characters of the Reformation (1936), The Crisis of our Civilization (1937), The Great Heresies (1938), The Last Rally (1940); Elizabeth: Creature of Circumstances (1942).
Webster's Biographical Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Co., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1971, p. 131.

Repeated allusions to a Jewish Tragic Cycle.

The possibility that a cycle of the sort described by Belloc below recurs throughout Jewish history has already been alluded to in the Ukrainian Archive, at least in the following three locations:

(1) In which I ask Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich to comment on Israel Shahak's mentioning such a Jewish Tragic Cycle:
Yesterday's Ukrainians, today's Palestinians

(2) In which I present data concerning Jewish control of Communism:
Jewish conquest of the Slavs

(3) In which I review historian Bernard Weinryb's essay on Bohdan Khmelnytsky:
The Hebrew Chronicles on Bohdan Khmelnytsky

What events would Belloc consider to be examples of the Jewish Tragic Cycle?  It is not clear exactly how many repetitions Belloc had found to support his hypothesis of a Jewish Tragic Cycle, or precisely which historical events he counted as instances of the cycle, though in the second excerpt below, he does allude to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492 as the conclusions of two such cycles.  I did not find Belloc referring to the Khmelnytsky rebellion of 1648 at all, though in places I merely skimmed his book (it is wordy and repetitious, and thin in substance), and so I may have missed Belloc's reference.  My version of Belloc's book did not come with an index.  We do not know, then, whether Belloc had in mind to include such pre-Christian events as the Exodus from Egypt, or the Assyrian Exile, or the Babylonian Exile, and we do not know what Christian-era events he may have had in mind.

Are we witness to three cycles that postdate Belloc's writing?  However, since Belloc's writing, we see what may be three further instances of the cycle either concluding or threatening to conclude, which from a historical point of view may be described as cycles concluding thick and fast: (1) the expulsion and destruction of Jews by Hitler's Germany could be taken to mark the end of one such cycle, (2) the contemporary evacuation of Jews from the Slavic lands could be taken to mark the end of another cycle, and (3) the failing hope that Israel will be able to add another fifty years of life to its first fifty may presage the end of a third cycle.  The threat to Israel's survival, in my view, is the demographic one of being unable to match the growth of the hostile Arab population in the region, combined with a brain and manpower drain from Israel that has always constituted the single greatest tax on its strength, and that once the influx of refugees from the Slavic lands slows to a trickle may begin to erode Israel's ability to maintain the critical mass needed for survival.  That the need to evacuate Israel is imminent has already been broached in Philip Roth's discussion of Diasporism, and it is my prediction that Roth will go down in history less for his novels than for his remarkable prescience and courage in articulating profound but unpalatable truths in the realm of political commentary.

Relevance of the Jewish Tragic Cycle to Ukraine.  At least two of the Jewish Tragic Cycles have ended in Ukraine.  One of these cycles ended with the Khmelnytsky rebellion beginning in 1648, which rebellion has been severely distorted in Jewish memory, and is used today to inflame Jewish fear and hatred of Ukrainians, resulting of course in considerable injury to Ukraine.  The other of these cycles is ending as I write, it being the stampeding of Ukrainian Jews to Israel, with an incited fear and hatred on the Jewish side being one of the tools which keep the flow moving.  The resulting loss of a significant proportion of Ukraine's intelligentsia has also injured Ukraine.  As Ukraine has suffered injury and loss as a result of the Jewish Tragic Cycle on at least these two occasions, Ukrainians have an interest in understanding the cycle so as to be able to prevent it recurring in the future, and so as to prevent any similar destructive events recurring in the future.

The Jewish Tragic Cycle must be understood.  If there is such a thing as a recurring Jewish Tragic Cycle, then it is of the utmost importance to examine it and to understand it.  The call, "Never again!" expresses a determination to avoid being victimized in the future as one has been in the past, but surely one can avoid only what one can understand.  If one does not know the causes of the Nazi Holocaust, one will not know what causes to monitor today, and to remove should it be necessary, so as to avoid any future Holocaust.

But some say that the Holocaust cannot be understood.  And yet, instead of following the seemingly obvious and prudent path of comprehension, Jewish leaders sometimes follow the opposite path they claim in the first place that the Holocaust is beyond comprehension:

The task of rendering tangible the meaning of the Holocaust for those who did not experience it, however, remains insurmountable.  The Holocaust defies comprehension.  It is beyond my abilities to understand what happened; no one can understand it and make others understand.
David Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary, The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1990, p. ix.

And they even sometimes say that the Holocaust should not be understood.  And Jewish leaders sometimes go beyond saying that they have failed to understand the Holocaust, to issuing the prohibition that anybody should even try to understood it:

It seems that our generation should give up attempting to provide an answer based on logic and reason.  We must reconcile ourselves to the fact that the Holocaust will remain an opaque, horror-ridden riddle conceived by the Creator.
David Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary, The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1990, p. x.

Is the notion that something is not understandable and should not be understood retrogressive?  A view opposite to Kahane's which I call the scientific view is that everything is understandable and everything should be understood.  Many things cannot be understood today, but the longer we examine them using scientific method, the more we will understand about them.  Viewing the Nazi Holocaust from this perspective, it does not appear at all unique or difficult to understand, but rather takes its place alongside the countless other violent eruptions that have occurred not only against Jews themselves but against non-Jews as well.  Indeed, from the scientific perspective, there cannot ever be anything truly new under the sun, but rather only the same fundamental stories repeating themselves at different times, in other settings, with a new set of actors, and so with their own peculiar details.  Although massacres and expulsions may be rare over the lifetimes of particular individuals, they are far from rare in a historical perspective, and their rarity from the individual point of view does not make them any harder to understand than other similarly rare events, of which the world is full.  To the primitive mind, every rare event seems like a miracle beyond comprehension an earthquake, a volcano, a flood, a plague, even an individual death all of these in the primitive mind evoke explanations of no greater merit than that they have been sent by a deity, or in David Kahane's words, that they have been "conceived by the Creator."

Scientific thinking, in contrast, views all such events as explainable under mechanistic laws.  The same attitude that typifies the physical sciences typifies as well the psychological or sociological or political realms that everything follows laws, that what can be understood only in small part today will, upon further investigation, become understandable in larger part tomorrow, and so on day after day, with understanding gradually approaching the asymptote of perfection.  To the scientist, as to most modern thinkers, the exhortation to give up efforts at understanding appears as an abomination, it seems a throwback to the Middle Ages, it elicits the repugnance which any call to stop the growth of human knowledge deserves.  With respect to the Jewish Holocaust, the exhortation to not understand renders obedience to the call "Never again!" an impossibility.  In fact, so puzzling is Kahane's exhortation to us that we should abstain from understanding the Holocaust, that we must note his exhortation as a major incongruity calling for explanation.

Does Jewish culture cause the Jewish Tragic Cycle?  If Jewish history does indeed show a repeating cycle, and if Jewish culture demonstrates some continuity over this same historical interval, then a hypothesis which cannot be rejected out of hand is that Jewish culture triggers the Jewish Tragic Cycle.  If this were the case, then Kahane's call to refuse to understand the Holocaust becomes itself understandable perhaps what motivates Kahane is that he sees that Jewish culture causes the Jewish Tragic Cycle, but wishes to displace responsibility for the cycle especially responsibility for the tragic culmination of the cycle to a non-Jewish origin.



[I]f we do not get peace [...], then we are doomed to the perpetual recurrence of those persecutions which have marred the history of Europe since the first consolidation of the Roman Empire.

It has been a series of cycles invariably following the same steps.  The Jew comes to an alien society, at first in small numbers.  He thrives.  His presence is not resented.  He is rather treated as a friend.  Whether from mere contrast in type what I have called "friction" or from some apparent divergence between his objects and those of his hosts, or through his increasing numbers, he creates (or discovers) a growing animosity.  He resents it.  He opposes his hosts.  They call themselves masters in their own house.  The Jew resists their claim.  It comes to violence.

It is always the same miserable sequence.  First a welcome; then a growing, half-conscious ill-ease; next a culmination in acute ill-ease; lastly catastrophe and disaster; insult, persecution, even massacre, the exiles flying from the place of persecution into a new district where the Jew is hardly known, where the problem has never existed or has been forgotten.  He meets again with the largest hospitality.  There follows here also, after a period of amicable interfusion, a growing, half-conscious ill-ease, which next becomes acute and leads to new explosions, and so on, in a fatal round.
Hilaire Belloc, The Jews, Butler and Tanner, London, 1937, pp. 11-12.

The various nations of Europe have every one of them, in the course of their long histories, passed through successive phases towards the Jew which I have called the tragic cycle.  Each has in turn welcomed, tolerated, persecuted, attempted to exile often actually exiled welcomed again, and so forth.  The two chief examples of extremes in action, are, as I have also pointed out in an earlier part of this book, Spain and England.  Spaniards, and in particular the Spaniards of the Kingdom of Castile, went through every phase of this cycle in its fullest form.  England passed through even greater extremes, for England was the only country which absolutely got rid of the Jews for hundreds of years, and England is the only country which has, even for a brief period, entered into something like an alliance with them.
Hilaire Belloc, The Jews, Butler and Tanner, London, 1937, p. 215.


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