The formation of Israel was the culmination of nearly 2,000 years of hopes by Jewish people that they would one day return to the land from which the Romans expelled them. The Holocaust of European Jewry in the Second World War had strengthened their determination to reclaim their ancestors land. In 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel and he became its first Prime Minister. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognised the new nation on the same day. Currently the Jewish population makes up 6,377,000 (74.8%); 1,771,000 (20.8%) are Arabs; and those identified as “others” (non-Arab Christians, Baha’i, etc) make up 4.4% of the population (374,000 people). When the state was established, there were only 806,000 residents and the total population reached its first and second millions in 1949 and 1958 respectively after the Holocaust and when 850,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries.
Before the Second World War, approximately 76,000 Jews lived in Greece. Between 60,000 and 65,000 Greek Jews died in the Holocaust, though there were Jewish communities that at least partially survived the war. The total remaining Jewish population in Greece was 10,000 in 1945.
Jews constituted 0.8 percent of the 6 million Bulgarians in 1934, roughly 50,000 individuals. In 1945, the Jewish population of Bulgaria was still about 50,000, its pre-war level. Next to the rescue of Danish Jews, Bulgarian Jewry’s escape from deportation and the extermination represents the most significant exception of any Jewish population in Nazi-occupied Europe. Beginning in 1948, however, more than 35,000 Bulgarian Jews chose to emigrate to the new state of Israel.
The 1930 Romanian census recorded 728,115 persons who identified themselves as Jewish, comprising approximately 4 percent of the population. Between 1941 and 1944, German and Romanian authorities murdered or caused the deaths of between 150,000 and 250,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews in Transnistria. At least 270,000 Romanian Jews were killed or died from mistreatment during the Holocaust.
Of approximately 825,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1941, about 63,000 died or were killed prior to the German occupation of March 1944. Under German occupation, just over 500,000 died from maltreatment or were murdered. Of the 255,000 Jews remaining, less than one-third who had lived within enlarged Hungary in March 1944, survived the Holocaust. Today, the Jewish population of Hungary is approximately 48,200 people, the sixth largest Jewish community in Europe.
Poland had the largest Jewish community with about 3,000,000 Jews, 9.5% of the population. After the Second World War 85% of Polish Jews had been killed. At the end of 1947, only 100,000 Jews remained in Poland.
According to the 1930 census, 356,830 persons in the Czechoslovak Republic identified themselves as Jews by religion: 117,551 in Bohemia and Moravia, 136,737 in Slovakia, and 102,542 in Subcarpathian Rus. About 80,000 Czech Jews, 85% of the Czech community, were killed in the Holocaust. During the first years after the war, Czechoslovakia supported the establishment of a Jewish state. After 1948, it transferred significant quantities of arms and ammunition to Israel, including fighter aircraft. It also helped train Israeli soldiers.
In the beginning of 1933 approximately 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. Over 304,000 Jews emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving only approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany on the eve of World War II. On May 19, 1943, Germany was declared Judenrein (“free of Jews”), though it is estimated that as many as 19,000 Jews remained in Germany in hiding. The remaining total number after the Holocaust barely reached five percent of the Jewish population before the war. This number decreased further as many German Jews immigrated to Israel in the 1950s.