1. The Enlightenment made possible the growth of secular anti-Semitism, which flourished during the 19th century and which was a precursor to the Holocaust.
2. Modern secular anti-Semitism has a historical continuity with religious anti-Semitism.
3. Extreme nationalism, modern racial theories, and the publication and distribution of forged and slanderous publications about the Jews paved the way to Nazi anti-Semitism.
The Enlightenment describes the period in European history (17th-18th century) when the dominant philosophical idea was that human reason, through rational thought, could alone be used to solve problems and serve as the ethical system for living. It had as its roots the scientific revolution of the late 1600s when scientists and philosophers such as Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes advanced theories about the physical universe. Their discoveries directly contradicted and challenged the rule of the Church. In attacking both superstition and the non-secular rule of Western Europe, many scientists and philosophers of the Enlightenment also attacked Jews for their mystical and religious beliefs and separatist ways, and pointed to the Jews as a scapegoat for national problems.
Eighteenth Century Enlightenment was based on three assumptions:
1) the entire universe is fully intelligible and governed by natural rather than supernatural forces;
2) the "scientific method" can answer fundamental questions; and
3) the human race can be "educated" to improve itself, even to overcome limitations of birth and class.
Jews, as outsiders who did not share the common language, culture, religion, and values, were seen as a threat by extremists in the nationalist movement. As such, they became the targets of anti-Semitic persecution.
These arguments were used in the intense debates over whether Jews were worthy to be accepted as citizens debates in the first phase of the struggle for Emancipation, from 1780 to 1814. Would Jews constitute a "state within a state" (a phrase first used by the German philosopher Fichte in 1793)? If they were given the right to own land, to join the guilds, to work at varied occupations outside the ghettos, could they qualify as citizens?
In France, among some Catholics and anti-republican militarists, the Revolution was viewed as the incarnation of evil, planned by mysterious anti-French and anti-Christian forces. The international Alliance Israelite Universelle, organized to protect Jews, had its headquarters in Paris and was attacked as the center of an international French conspiracy. In 1886, Edouard Drumont's anti-Semitic tract, La France Juive, went through 114 editions in one year and paved the way for large-scale anti-Semitic propaganda. Drumont, too, contrasted the greedy, mercantile Jew with the heroic and trusting Aryan.
A French, Jewish military officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was arrested and charged in 1894 with selling state secrets to Germany. Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of trumped up evidence, and he was deported. After his trial, evidence surfaced which proved that Dreyfus was innocent, and his conviction was eventually overturned. However, the Dreyfus case inflamed the hatred for the Jews of many French conservatives and reactionaries. The case divided the country politically, and anti-Jewish violence erupted.
Ironically, the anti-Semitism unveiled by the Dreyfus case served as the motivation for an Austrian journalist, Theodor Herzl, to organize the Zionist movement. This movement culminated in the establishment of a Jewish national homeland, the State of Israel, in 1948.
It was not until 1921 that a London Times newspaper reporter uncovered that the story described in The Protocols was a direct plagiarism of two obscure fictional works, one a satire on Napoleon by a French writer, Maurice Joly, and the other a story by Herman Goedsche. The damage, however, could not be erased. The Nazis relied on The Protocols to justify persecution of the Jews, and the worldwide publication of the document persisted in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism years after the hoax of this forgery was proven. It is still possible to find copies of The Protocols today, as it remains one of the most popular tracts for distribution by individuals and groups which hate Jews.
Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, German hopes for national sovereignty were thwarted by the Austrian statesman, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. A period of reaction set in, and violent attacks against Jews occurred in many cities of Germany.
Gobineau's essay was translated into German forty years later and had a powerful influence on Germans such as composer Richard Wagner and his son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who, in turn, influenced Nazi racial doctrine.
Following the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870), Germany was finally unified under Otto von Bismarck's "blood and iron" policy. German nationalism was now able to move farther away from liberal, democratic ideas. The new German Reich of 1871 was dominated by Prussia, by Junker, and by militaristic interests.
In 1878, the Social Democratic Party was outlawed, and democratic efforts were stifled. In the 1890s, political democracy was blocked by the rising power of German industrialists and diverted by imperialist expansion. This period also coincided with a new cycle of anti-Semitism, with Jews being blamed for manipulating peasants and small businessmen into resisting the traditional social and economic order. Jews were blamed for the severe economic depression of 1873. In the same year, Wilhelm Marr, a journalist who coined the term "anti-Semitism," wrote a pamphlet, "The Victory of Jewry over Germandom." It was very successful, going through twelve editions in six years. Using ideas of race and Vilkisch nationalism, Marr argued that Jews had become the "first major power in the West" in the 19th century. He accused the Jews of being liberals, a people without roots who had Judaized Germans "beyond salvation." In 1879, he founded the League for Anti-Semitism.
In the late nineteenth century, political parties in Europe, especially in Germany, used anti-Semitism in their party platforms. The first was the Christian Socialist Workers Party, founded in 1878 by Adolf Stricker, a chaplain of the imperial court. Stricker blamed Jews for business failures, domination of liberal political movements, and for being "a foreign drop of blood in the German body one with destructive power!" He appealed to many Germans in the lower economic and social classes the same groups to whom Hitler appealed who yearned for status and a strong state. In 1879, Stricker joined Marr in founding the League for Anti-Semitism.
In 1879, the historian Heinrich V. Treitschke began writing that "the Jews are our misfortune," and that an unbridgeable chasm existed between the German and Jewish spirit. In 1881, the philosopher Eugen Karl Dîhring wrote The Jewish Question as a Racial, Moral and Cultural Question, in which he argued that Jews were causing Germany's decline, and that they constituted a "counter-race" which neither conversation nor assimilation could change. His influence among university students was considerable.
In 1893, 250,000 voters sent 16 deputies (out of 397) pledged to anti-Semitic measures to the Reichstag, the German legislature. In 1900, H. S. Chamberlain, an Englishman who settled in Germany, wrote The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, in which he idealized the German "race-soul," which made Germans honest, loyal, and industrious. By contrast, Jews were materialistic, legalistic, and devoid of tolerance and morality. These two peoples were locked in a struggle, in which the Jews must be defeated. This book gave Nazis the text for their racial myth and had enormous sales success in Germany.
During World War I, when the German war effort began to deteriorate, a new cycle of anti-Semitism was the response as Jews became the popular scapegoat. They were accused of profiteering, not participating in combat, and causing food shortages. Anti-Semitic literature proliferated.
Germany's military defeat in 1918 was blamed on the Jews and the Socialists. The German General Erich Ludendorff participated in the failed coup attempt with Hitler in 1923, and denounced Jews and their "deadly superstition of Jehovah." The destructive hyper-inflation, the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty which set the terms for peace after the war, and widespread misery created in concert an atmosphere which promoted anti-Semitism. In 1922, Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister of Germany, was assassinated. Volkisch movements and parties sprang up, including the German Worker's Party (which later evolved into the Nazi party), which Hitler joined in 1919.
In 1920, the Nazi party issued its 25-point platform, asserting that no Jew could ever be a member of the German Volk. Discontented with social and economic conditions as well as Germany's humiliation in the war, often violent ex-soldiers joined the Free Corps (see Chapter 6). The Free Corps broke up left-wing meetings and crushed uprisings. The members of these paramilitary groups formed the nucleus of Ernst Rîhm's Stormtroops (S.A. Sturm Abteilung).
The post-war violence of right-wing groups and parties became a school for murderers later involved in the annihilation of the Jews. In 1930, Alfred Rosenberg, who brought The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to Germany and to Hitler's attention, wrote "The Myth of the Twentieth Century" which emphasized the superiority of the Nordic race and the creation of a German national church based on race and purity of blood. In the same year, the Nazi party polled over six million votes, giving it 107 seats in the Reichstag, making it the second largest party in the country.
Aryan- Originally used to denote a member or descendant of the pre-historic people that spoke Proto-Indo-European. As used by the Nazis, the term refers to a non-Jewish Caucasian, especially of the Nordic type.
Capitalism- An economic system in which the ownership of property is chiefly by private individuals or corporations and allows the free marketplace to determine the supply and demand for goods and services.
The Enlightenment- A European philosophical and cultural movement of the 17th and 18th centuries characterized by belief in the supreme power of human reason, and concerned with the critical examination of previously accepted doctrines and instructions from the point of view of that reason.
Imperialism - A foreign policy which emphasizes the importance of extending the rule of a state beyond its present borders and subjugating native peoples.
Nationalism - The popular sentiment that places the existence and well-being of the nation-state highest in the scale of political loyalties. Non-secular Philosophes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion Racial theorists Reactionary Revisionism
Non-secular- Concern with religious beliefs, ideas or rule.
Philosophes- Any of the leading "popular" intellectuals and social philosophers of the French Enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Rousseau, or Diderot.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion- An anti-Semitic forgery fabricated in France by Russian emigrÇs during the reign of Czar Nicholas II (1894-1917) which alleged to be the minutes of a meeting of Jewish leaders plotting for world domination.
Racial theorists- Those who developed theories, which were based primarily on opinions, prejudices, and non-scientific observation, to prove that one race was superior to another.
Reactionary- Extreme political conservatism which is usually a reaction in the opposite direction to a liberal or progressive idea.
Revisionism- The rewriting of history for political or ideological purposes.
Secular - That which relates to non-religious or worldly concerns, ideas or rule. Socialism
Socialism- An economic system in which those who produce the goods and services own the machinery of production, share the profits, and make the decisions governing production and distribution of the goods and services.
Volk - A word for "people" or "nation." Nationalist Germans used the term to exclude Jews, Gypsies, and other "non-Aryan" people. Zionism
Zionism- The nationalistic movement of the Jewish people. In modern times, it referred to the establishment of a Jewish state in what is now the modern State of Israel.
2. What was the Enlightenment?
3. How and why was anti-Semitism fostered during the period of the Enlightenment?
4. Define nationalism, and discuss why nationalist movements in Germany in the mid-19th century contributed to the development of Modern anti-Semitism.
5. What were The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and for wha purpose were they written?
6. What were the beliefs of the racial theorists of 19th century Germany and France, and what were their views about the "Aryan" and Jewish "races?"
7. What were the social and economic conditions in post-World War I Germany which fostered anti-Semitism, and who were some of the politicians who exploited these conditions?
8. Who was Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and why was his case significant to 19th century France?
9. In what major respects does Modern anti-Semitism differ from Classical anti-Semitism and Christian anti-Semitism?
10. Name two 19th century anti-Semitic publications and their authors as well as a major theme of each.
a) TV advertisers
b) the U.S. government
c) foreign governments
d) political parties
f) teachers and school administrators
g) neo-Nazi groups
Copyright 1990 Gary M. Grobman