Otto Heller, the Austrian-Czech-German communist intellectual of Jewish origin, was known almost exclusively for his 1931 orthodox Marxist book, Der Untergang des Judentums (The Decline of Judaism). A recently rediscovered unpublished manuscript of a second book on the “Jewish Question,” written by Heller in 1939 and entitled Der Jude wird verbrannt (The Jew Is to Be Burned), sheds new light on the man and his work. Furthermore, the unknown manuscript, as one of the longest communist accounts of the Jewish Question and antisemitism from that period, reveals a substantial turning point in the history of the communist discussion on those issues. Existing scholarship has identified novel political stances among communists, such as recognizing the Jews as a nation and as unique victims of Nazism only from 1942 onwards. Although Heller did not express such far-reaching political views in this lost manuscript, he did introduce an original theoretical approach to the Jewish Question. This article analyzes Heller’s theoretical innovations as early intellectual precursors of later dramatic developments in the communist political discourse.
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Navon, T. The Jew Is to Be Burned: A Turning Point in the Communist Approach to the “Jewish Question” on the Eve of Catastrophe. JEW HIST 34, 331–359 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10835-021-09388-1
- Otto Heller
- The Jewish Question