eja Ajalugu

Thanks to the Germans! Jewish cultural autonomy in interwar Estonia

Anton Weiss-Wendt

a Norwegian Holocaust Centre, Oslo, Norway


The article explores the context of the Estonian law on cultural autonomy from February 1925. It argues that the Jewish minority was an unintended beneficiary of the concession granted by the Estonian government to the Baltic Germans whose land ownership had been previously revoked. Unlike the ethnic Germans, who considered cultural autonomy a tactical retreat, the Jews took full advantage of the opportunity to strengthen communal bonds. Cultural autonomy was upheld throughout the 1930s mainly due to the strenuous desire of the authoritarian regime that ceased power in Estonia in 1934 to avoid a conflict with Nazi Germany. As for the Jews, the lack of irredentist tendencies ensured that they could preserve their status.

Keywords: Estonia; Jews; cultural autonomy; antisemitism; ethnic minorities; nationalism; the League of Nations

The full text of the article can be purchased here

The Russian translation is available on this site

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