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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jewry: Population figures 1882-1970

1918: approx. 14 mio. Jews - 1937: 16 mio. Jews - 1970: 14 mio. Jews

from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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Jewish population figures 1882-1970

<From the 1880s to the Present (1970).

The absolute growth of the Jewish population was constant and impressive up to the *Holocaust. There were approximately 14 million Jews in the world around 1918 and 16 million Jews around 1937. Even the terrible loss of about six million Jews through the horrors of the Holocaust still left at the end of World War II a nation of approximately 11 to 12 million.

[[According to the latest research the figure of 6 million victims can be reached when the heavy losses of the concentration camps, of bunker constructioning and in the Red Army are considered, together with mass death in the ghetto, at shootings, and in the guerilla war in the forests, together with the death of "non-Aryans" (half Jews, quarter Jews, three quarter Jews etc.), together with the not born Jews after 1945 because of damage of fertility of Jewish women after the long period of underweight 1941-1945, see the Holocaust table]].

According to estimates, the number of Jews in the world by 1970 was higher than immediately after World War I.

[early 20th century: Reduced birth rate by ideal of one- or two-child family - and mixed marriages in the Western world]

The rate of growth slowed down continuously. The use of contraceptives and the ideal of a one-child or two-child family, which became increasingly prevalent among town populations in general, were felt among Jews in most of Europe and other continents, in particular from the middle of the 1920s. The effects - social as well as emotional - of the Holocaust caused, according to some estimates, a slight reversal of this trend and of the diminution in the Jewish birth rate.

Mixed marriages up to the rise of Hitler to power became a continuous drain on the Jewish population. Their proportion in some countries and cities grew to more than one quarter of the total of Jewish marriages. Over three-quarters of the children of such marriages were brought up as non-Jews.

The above-mentioned phenomena were evident in the European Jewish family; communities in the Mediterranean lands and particularly in Muslim countries (col. 731)

were almost not affected by them until quite recently.

In Europe again racist anti-Semitism and the revulsion felt by Jews at its appearance led to both a decrease in the number of such marriages from the late 1930s and a much higher proportion of affiliation among the offspring of such marriages to Jewish identity.

From the end of World War II mixed marriages multiplied, in particular in Western Europe and the United States, while the degree of attachment of such couples and their children to the Jewish nation remained very much in the balance. As a result of the combination of these phenomena the rate of growth of the Jewish population decreased from 2% annually before World War I to 1.1% in the 1920s, and to 0,8% in the 1930s.

Although East European Jewry (except in Soviet Russia) was relatively little affected by the phenomena of the small family and mixed marriages, other factors, such as the persecutions, the years of hunger and of massacres between 1918 and 1923, the economic crisis of 1929, and the anti-Jewish economic and social policies in most of the "successor states" to Austria-Hungary and Russia between the two world wars, combined to produce the same effects on the Jewish population as in the West.

[Emigration movements since 1881: Jews in the colonies of the racist Europeans]

Two processes changed the dispersion and ecology of the Jews in the world throughout this period. Emigration, from 1881, transferred masses of Jews from Eastern Europe overseas (largely to the United States), and shifted the center of gravity for Jews in terms of environment and cultural influence. Societies and cultures which had been molded predominantly by English tradition, and by the pluralist pattern created by the "melting pot" of multinational immigration, increasingly became the hosts for Jews.

These were now the matrix of the challenge and response of Diaspora life, instead of the Germanic or Slav environment and the homogeneous, predominantly intolerant, cultures by which the Jews had been surrounded before the great wave of emigration. In its own macabre way the Holocaust led in the same direction, for extermination overwhelmingly affected the communities of Central and Eastern Europe.

[since 1881:The Jews of the diaspora of the diaspora are mostly living in megacities]

Secondly, in the whole of this period the Jews in the world underwent a constant and accelerating process of urbanization and even megalopolitization. Even while the shtetl society and economy were still almost intact in Eastern Europe, though much changed by the effects of emigration and economic and social nutrients, in 1914 there were already over 100,000 Jews living in each of 11 cities in the world. In the old area of Jewish settlement *Warsaw numbered approximately 350,000 Jews, *Lodz more than 150,000, Budapest approximately a quarter of a million, and Vienna more than 150,000. In the new area of Jewish settlement created by the pace of emigration (see below) *London numbered more than 150,000 Jews, *Philadelphia in the United States more than 175,000, *Chicago about 350,000, and New York 1,350,000.

The trend has continued, both in absolute numbers as well as in the proportion of Jews in metropolitan cities relative to the general Jewish population in a country. On the eve of World War II over one-third of the Jews in the world were concentrated in 19 cities, which each numbered more than 100,000 Jews. New York alone numbered about two million Jews, somewhat less than half of the total of Jews in the United States.

[since 1917: The Jews in Russia come more and more to live in the megacities]

After Jewish emancipation in Russia in 1917 and the abolition of the Pale of Settlement (see below), and in particular after the industrialization of Soviet Russia from the 1930s, Russian Jewry also tended to become increasingly concentrated in the big industrial and administrative centers. This development is in line with the general trend in the world toward urbanization, but far outpaces it.

[1970: Jews in the megacities]

In 1970, Jews outside the State of *Israel were concentrated in the largest (col. 732)

and most complex urban settlements in the world. New York having the largest single concentration of Jews in any place and at any time. The mass exodus of Jews from Arab states under pressure after the creation of the State of Israel again assisted this trend. Many of the small Jewish communities in backward towns were liquidated and their members resettled in large urban concentrations, mostly in the State of Israel or in France.

[1937: Distribution of the 16 million Jews worldwide]

By 1937 the dispersion of the 16 million Jews in the world and their proportion among the general population was as follows:

Table 1. Distribution of Jews by 1937 [[16 million Jews]]
Percentage of Jews in General Population
Erez Israel
384,000*xxxxxxxxx over 20%xxxxxxxxxx
3,000,000*xxxxxxxxx 10.4%*xxxxxxxxx
Rumania [[Romania]]
1,130,000xxxxxxxxxx 6.2%xxxxxxxxxx
485,000xxxxxxxxxx 5.9%xxxxxxxxxx
94,388xxxxxxxxxx 5.0%xxxxxxxxxx
Turkey (Europe)
58,000xxxxxxxxxx 4.7%xxxxxxxxxx
285,000xxxxxxxxxx 4.6%xxxxxxxxxx
The Maghreb (present Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunis)
310,000xxxxxxxxxx from 5.6 to 1.3%xxxxxxxxxx


4,350,000xxxxxxxxxx 3.6%xxxxxxxxxx
100,000xxxxxxxxxx 3.1%xxxxxxxxxx
375,000xxxxxxxxxx 2.6%xxxxxxxxxx
Soviet Russia (in Europe)
2,700,000xxxxxxxxxx 1.9%xxxxxxxxxx
120,000xxxxxxxxxx 2.2%xxxxxxxxxx
The Netherlands
120,000xxxxxxxxxx 1.7%xxxxxxxxxx
250,000xxxxxxxxxx 1.5%xxxxxxxxxx
170,000xxxxxxxxxx 1.4%xxxxxxxxxx
300,000xxxxxxxxxx 0.7%xxxxxxxxxx
250,000xxxxxxxxxx 0.7%xxxxxxxxxx
from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8, col. 733

[[These are the main countries of Jewish settlement. Other countries are unfortunately missing in the table]].

After the Holocaust about 50% of the Jews were living on the American continent, while only one-third remained in Europe and the Soviet Union. From 1945 Erez Israel became the main haven of refuge; France also absorbed many Jews from North Africa.

[1970: 14 mio. Jews and their dispersion]

Among approximately 14 million Jews in the world in 1970, about 6 million were living in North America, predominantly in the United States. About 2 1/2 million were living in the State of Israel. There were about three-quarters of a million in Southern and Central America, and about 200,000 in South Africa and *Australia. The majority of Jews living in France in 1970 arrived there through very recent emigration, mainly from North Africa, and the majority of Jews in England and *Switzerland were the result of immigrations from 1880. The distribution and concentration of Jews in various parts of the Soviet Union was the result both of movements toward the east after 1917 and of movements even farther east during World War II.

The emerging pattern therefore reveals that the vast majority of Jews live in new surroundings, though for a considerable number this change was ardently wished by them (in the State of Israel for historical and ideological reasons, and in the United States because of its attitude toward them). Western Europe in 1970 numbered more than one million Jews, of whom about half a million were living in France and about 450,000 in Great Britain. The Soviet Union numbered approximately three million Jews; (col. 733)

the number of Jews in other communist countries was contracting steadily; they had reached a vanishing point in Poland, because of its current virulent anti-Semitism. Jews had also left most Arab and Muslim states. The history of the Jewish population between 1880 and 1970 shows great vitality in movement, in adjustment to new environments and patterns of living, and in the creation of a state. Its present ecology makes the problems of Western urban civilization paramount in Jewish life. Their location and numbers have changed through their own dynamics as well as through the forces of human cruelty, of racism, and *anti-Semitism.> (col. 734)

[[Table. Jews in 1970
"USA" and Canada
about 6,000,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
about 2,500,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Southern and Central America
about 200,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
South Africa and Australia
about 200,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Western Europe
more than 1,000,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
about 500,000xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Great Britain
about 450,000xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Soviet Union
approx. 3,000,000xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Table by Michael Palomino; from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8, col. 733]]

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History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol.
                    8, col. 731-732
vergrössernHistory; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8, col. 731-732
History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol.
                      8, col. 733-734
vergrössernHistory; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8, col. 733-734