The 1919 Central European revolutions and the Judeo-Bolshevik myth

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Both contemporaries and historians have associated the Soviet-style revolutions in Munich and Budapest in the spring of 1919 (and the earlier autumn 1918 revolutions) with prominent Jewish revolutionaries. From a transnational and comparative context, we unhinge the connections often made between the role of Jews in the revolutions and the role of the revolutions in explaining later Central European anti-Semitism. In 1919, there was no option other than cosmopolitanism in these two cities. Communism and anti-Communism were both consciously international and transnational ideologies. Revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries worked through transnational conspiratorial networks. Ideological and historical perspectives were similarly cosmopolitan; the battle for control of Munich and Budapest was understood in the context of the European historical narrative of revolution, an undeniably cosmopolitan narrative. In this 1919 Central European iteration of the narrative, the trope of Jews as particularly drawn to internationalism, and as ‘rootless’ or foreign played an pivotal role in how the revolutionary moment was understood and remembered. ‘Judeo-Bolshevism,’ the idea that Jewish and communist interests were the same, and even that ‘Jew’ and ‘communist’ were interchangeable identifiers, was a powerful myth that shaped events and perceptions in Central Europe in 1919.