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The persecution of the Jews formed the core of a far reaching National Socialist racist policy as a number of historians have demonstrated. [2] Although widespread antisemitism in Germany might not have been as “brutally aggressive” as in other, particularly eastern European countries, “but in no other country did antisemitism eventually become the main pillar of the officially proclaimed-pseudo religious ideology of a totalitarian state. “ [3]

As historian George L. Mosse noted, “the Nazi revolution was the ‘ideal’ bourgeois revolution: it was a ‘revolution of the soul’ which actually threatened none of the vested interests of the middle class.” Instead, the focus was on the Jew, the “enemy within.” He represented “modernity in all its destructiveness.” He became the alleged “Jewish menace.” This animus “provided much of the cement” for antisemitism and provided “a dynamic it might otherwise have lacked.” In this “anti-Jewish revolution,” where “the revolutionary social and economic changes were excluded,” the Jew became a welcome and necessary substitute toward which the revolutionary fervor could be directed.” [4]

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German historian Michael Wildt added this “anti-Jewish revolution” required a dictatorship, concentration camps and secret state police. Employing terror was a key element of “Volksgemeinschaft’s utopia” (“people’s community”), that should not be limited. In other words, the National Socialists succeeded in linking their platform with the “political hopes and desires” of the nation. Antisemitism played a key role in establishing the Volksgemeinschaft by creating a Judenfrei (“Jew- free”) German Reich and a system to totally destroy the civil and constitutional order of Germany. German Jews would be eliminated from the Volksgemeinschaft through a myriad of government laws and ordinances, and by banishing them from daily life, while leaving the rest of the population unaffected. The rights of German Jews would be reduced, while Germany would be transformed into “an aggressive and racist Volksgemeinschaft.” [5]

Jews were perceived as seeking to destroy the nations of the world by spreading racial pollution, destabilizing the basic foundations of the state, and by leading the principal devastating forces of the 19th and 20th centuries: “Bolshevism, plutocracy, democracy, internationalism and pacifism.” [6] Jews were also accused of dominating German professional life [7] and international finance (Börsenkapital). Political parties on the Left were called “mercenaries of Jewry,” and parliaments and the League of Nations were similarly controlled by Jews. [8] . By harnessing and exploiting these systems, Jews attempted to accomplish the disintegration of the fundamental basis of all the countries in which they lived–and especially that of the German Volk (people)—in order to control of the world. [9]

The visible and “relative preponderance” of Jews in the stock exchange, banking, the administration of the press, and the in Jewish commercial innovations in the last decades of the 19th century, confirmed the Jew’s part in the development of this modernizing revolution, observed historian Jacob Katz. Individuals who lamented this transformation from a simpler way of life, and those threatened financially or in any other respect as a result of this process, would find the “concentration of vital public functions in Jewish hands…intolerable to them.” [10]

Jews were portrayed as a “spiritually barren people… devoid of profundity and totally lacking in creativity.” In contrast, the Germans, “who living in the dark, mist-shrouded forests, are deep, mysterious, profound.” In peasant novels, which sold in the millions, the image of the “alien Jew” was depicted as having moved from the city to the countryside to strip the peasant of his wealth and property. By depriving the peasant of his land, “he severed his bonds with nature, the Volk, and the life forces,” which would inevitably lead to his death. [11]

Stereotypes of this nature transformed the Jewish question into an “ethical question” according to Adolf Stöcker, a leading antisemite and a Lutheran theologian, who founded the Christian Social Party (Christlichsoziale Arbeiterpartei (CSAP). In a speech he delivered on September 19, 1879 entitled “What We Demand from Modern Jewry,” he reflected on Jewish emancipation. Jews, he said, misinterpreted what emancipation meant for them. They should have understood their place in Germany was as strangers who were to be tolerated, and therefore, should have acted accordingly. [12]

Stöcker’s party became the answer to the dissatisfied middle class, who found a panacea for all their afflictions—antisemitism. Stöcker became the key figure of the Berlin Movement, a sociopolitical movement, which originated in Berlin but extended far beyond. Historian Richard Levy said that Stöcker “put antisemitism on the map in Germany.” [13]

At stake Mosse pointed out, was “not race alone, nor nationality or religion.” Rather, an entire way of life was threatened by “alien values.” Judaism was “a materialistic fossil devoid of any ethical impulse, which, unlike the Germanic elements of Christianity, could not produce the virtues of honesty, loyalty, and forthrightness present in the German soul.” [14]

Various writers, who were intrigued by the Jewish ghettos with their dark narrow streets, small, overcrowded houses, and “mysterious caftan” residents, added to the increasing divide between the Jews and the Germans. The Jewish ghetto, with its barren stone streets, symbolized “the soul of Jewry.” [15]

“For Juda is the Plague of the World”-Adolph Hitler

Hitler’s fixation with the Jew is clearly demonstrated in Volume One of Mein Kampf, where he portrayed the Jew in very definite terms: “The Jew as a maggot in a rotting corpse, he is a plague worse than the Black Death of former times, a germ carrier of the worst sort; mankind’s eternal germ of disunion; the drone which insinuates its way into the rest of mankind; the spider that slowly sucks the people’s blood out of its pores; the pack of rats fighting bloodily among themselves; the parasite on the body of other peoples; the typical parasite; a sponger who, like a harmful bacillus, continues to spread; the eternal bloodsucker; the peoples’ parasite; the people’s vampire.” Historian Eberhard Jäckel notes that practically all these terms are from parasitology; the Jew was isolated from the rest of humanity; and “the use of language suggests the methods of his elimination.”[16]

In Volume Two of Mein Kampf, the theme of elimination is again discussed by Hitler when he wrote: “No Nation can dislodge the fist of the implacable world Jew from its throat except by the sword. Only the united, concentrated force of a mighty insurgent nationalist passion can defy the international enslavement of the nations, But such a development is and remains a bloody one.” [17]

He asserted that “by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting the work of the Lord.” [18] And for this relentless commitment to annihilate the Jewish people, he said during his last conversation on April 2, 1945, “the world will be eternally grateful to National Socialism that I have extinguished the Jews in Germany and Central Europe.” [19] In other words, even when the Germans were in the process of losing the war, “the destruction of the Jews became National Socialism’s gift to the world.” [20]


Footnotes

[1] https://twitter.com › holocaustmuseum › status.

[2] Peter Longerich, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 46; Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume 1 (New Haven: Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003); Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Teaneck, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), 53; Christian Gerlach, The Extermination of the European Jews (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936 To 1945 Nemesis(New York: W.W. Norton & company, 2000).

[3] Avraham Barkai, Volksgemeinschaft, ’Aryanization ‘ and the Holocaust,” in David Cesarani, Ed., The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation (New York: Routledge, 1996), 35.

[4] George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology : Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York: Grosset &Dunlap, 1964),7-8.

[5] Michael Wildt, Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft & Dynamics of Racial Exclusion: Violence against Jews in Provincial Germany, 1919–1939 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012),3.

[6] Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007), xviii-xix.

[7] Jeffrey Herf, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006),36.

[8] Eberhard Jäckel, Hitler’s World View: A Blueprint for Power (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1981),52.

[9] Friedländer, op.cit xviii-xix.; Jäckel, op.cit. 52; Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1961).

[10] Jacob Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980),303-304.

[11] Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, op.cit. 4-5-27.

[12] Jacob Katz, op.cit. 262.

[13] Richard S. Levy, Ed. Antisemitism :A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution Volume 1 (Santa Monica: California: ABC-Clio, 2005), 525.

[14] Mosse, op.cit. 128.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Jäckel, op.cit.58-59.

[17] Ibid. 60.

[18] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1969),60.

[19] Jäckel,op.cit.65.

[20] Ibid 64.

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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.