Simon Schama explores how the Enlightenment allowed Jews to integrate into modern European culture.
Simon Schama explores the bright, hopeful moment when Enlightenment thinkers and revolutionary armies brought ghetto walls crashing down - allowing Jews to weave their wisdom, creativity and energies into the very fabric of modern life in Europe. One of the most of fruitful branches of this Jewish renaissance was in music, and the stellar careers of Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn established the enduring tradition for Jewish musical prodigies. However, the remarkably successful integration of Jewish talent into the mainstream of European culture and commerce stirred up the ghosts of ancient prejudice, decked out in the new clothes of romantic nationalism and the pseudo-science of anti-semitism. The road to the hell of the Holocaust was paved by the diatribes of Richard Wagner, while the trial of Alfred Dreyfus led Theodor Herzl to conclude that without a homeland of their own, Jews would never be free of the millennia-old persecution.