I. Ideological Roots: Antecedents & Context - Historical Antecedents & Preconditions

TWO-a Antisemitism. Who are the Jews? Judaism

moderate antisemitism ... , or even the queasiness that many, if not most, ... felt in connection with the Jews, was absolutely crucial. It prevented any effective opposition to the murder of an unpopular minority. ...1

‘When the Nazis came on the scene in Germany they were able to draw upon the legacy of Christian anti-Judaism. Christian antisemitism provided an indispensable seedbed for the success of Nazism on the popular level. It led some Christians to embrace the Nazi ideology and many others to stand on the sidelines as masses of Jews were exterminated.’ 2

“The preparations for mass murder were made possible by Germany’s military successes in the months following the invasion of Poland in 1939. But from the moment that Adolf Hitler had come to power in 1933, the devastating process had begun. It was a process which depended upon the rousing of historic hatreds and ancient prejudice ... .”3


Motivation and context for the silence of the bystanders - ‘Sounds of Silence.’ Antisemitism in history - ‘the longest hatred’: Ancient/classical and Medieval Christian anti-Judaism & antisemitism - religious antisemitism. The historical, religious, and social roots of antisemitism - history of prejudice. Judaism. History of the Jewish people and their relationship to the non-Jewish/Gentile world. Holocaust scholar Raoul Hilberg:

You should live like one of us -conversion;
you shouldn’t live among us -expulsion;
you shouldn’t live -annihilation


- Deal with the historical, philosophical, social and psychological forces, ideas and events providing a context to the attempted annihilation of all Jews and the almost complete destruction of the European Jewish communities

- Examine Jewish-Gentile relations, and trace history of the “Jewish Question” & origins of the “Final Solution.” Sketch brief picture of pre-modern antisemitism, its nature, limits, in the context of pre-modern, Christian & Muslim world.

Focus Questions
1. How does a society get to this point? Why did Western nations do so little and so very late to save the victims? Why were the Jews the chief victims? 2/3 European Jews killed; 1/2 world

Study Questions/Essays

1. Why have people hated Jews since ancient times?
2. What is antisemitism?
3. Why antisemitism? --->Who are the Jews/the other? ----> What is Judaism?



“On the level content the course begins from the premise that the Holocaust is, in the first instance, a case of murder & that therefore the initial tasks of the investigator are to establish the murderer’s motives & opportunity. From this exordium, the course examines various explanation that have been advanced by professional historians. Whereas investigation of motives involves, primarily, consideration of the murderer, investigation of opportunity also involves consideration of the victims & the bystanders.”

“ ... the more we study it -the Holocaust, the more we know about it, the less comprehensible it becomes. We still seek an answer to the most important questions: Why did it happen? How could it have happened? How could it happen in an advanced, civilized modern nation? There is no easy answer to that question, as is the case with most questions about the Holocaust.
No one reason alone paved the way for the Holocaust to occur. It was the combined result of many factors. Historians agree that the Holocaust resulted from a confluence of various factors in a complex historical situation. ... The Holocaust was made possible by the convergence of

- "centuries-old hatred/bigotry, ‘the longest hatred’ - of the Christians for the Jews: antisemitism fostered throughout the centuries in European culture ...”4

- Central & crucial element of the long-standing tradition of antisemitism in “explaining” crises and social problems.5

- international indifference. “The Jews were a rather unpopular minority. ... moderate antisemitism ... , or even the queasiness that many, if not most, ... felt in connection with the Jews, was absolutely crucial. It prevented any effective opposition to the murder of an unpopular minority. ...”6 World powers chose to look the other way and their silence essentially condoned the Nazis behavior.

- hard-core racial antisemites, who moved Germany in the direction of genocide;

“... Against the background of the crisis of modern Western society, against the background of political and economic dislocations, as well as of the specific impact of these crises on German society, Nazi antisemitism was the central motivation that drove the regime into the murder of the Jews (“the Holocaust is the logical consequence of ideological antisemitism. “The Holocaust was perpetrated by the Nazis for very specific reasons. They saw the Jews the ultimate enemy .”7 ?

In order for the Holocaust to have occurred, it required the perpetrators to have developed and spread the most virulent strain of antisemitism, whose roots can be traced back to ancient times.

History of Antisemitism. In order to understand the events of the Holocaust and how a supposedly civilized society could allow the brutal torture & killing of innocent men, women & children, it is necessary to examine the concept of antisemitism & the way in which it was strengthened in the years before & during the Holocaust.

“There is a common tendency to view the Holocaust as well-ordered plot, in which antisemitism led to Nazism, Nazism practiced genocide, and both were destroyed ... The Ho. is a story without a clear beginning, and with no resolution. ...
I would like to examine several aspects of the post war discourse on antisemitism, genocide, and Nazism. ... touching briefly on the role of the medical and legal professions in the formulation and realization of National Socialist policies ... the world in which we live in is still anyting but free from the profound contradictions of modernity that made Auschwitz possible.

Antisemitism -
2 basic perceptions/interpretations:

1. permanent aspect of Jewish life in the Diaspora since the Exile; view anti-Jewish sentiments as a cluster of religious, social, economic, and political prejudices. ... traditional anti-Jewish feelings and actions among Christian population of Europe, seen primarily related to religious differences and social exclusion (as well as economic activity),

2. the other view: a political/ideological/social phenomenon firmly rooted in the 19th c. European society ... largely discredited following 1945; stresses differences between traditional anti-Jewish feelings and actions among Christian population of Europe, seen primarily related to religious differences and social exclusion (as well as economic activity), and modern, political, demagogic, ‘scientific’ antisemitism, rooted in a combination of new racial theories, modernization and its effects on society, and nationalism, sometimes invoked along with imperialism and colonialism.”8

“Antisemitism the Longest Hatred”

Semitic: Shem Noah’s eldest son.
Antisemitism is the hatred of the Jewish people. Term first used by a German in 1879, William Marr, founder of the ‘League for Antisemitism.’ Marr advanced the view that Jews constituted a distinct racial group which was both physically and morally inferior. According to Marr, there was indisputable scientific evidence that the Jews were predisposed to be a ‘slave race’ while the ‘Aryans’ which included the Teutonic and Nordic peoples, were the ‘Master Race.’ Jews are not a race; are defined as an ethnic religious group.

What's in a Hyphen? by Shmuel Almog

“A seemingly minor point crops up from time to time but grows in importance the more you reflect upon it. Should one write 'anti-Semitism' with a hyphen or 'antisemitism' as one word? What is the importance of such a technical question and why should anyone, apart from type-setters and proof-readers, worry about it?....

 Let me start at the beginning: When did the word 'antisemitism' make its first appearance? It is generally attributed to Wilhelm Marr, who was called by the Israeli historian Moshe Zimmermann "The Patriarch of Antisemitism." Marr coined the term in the 1870s to distinguish between old-time Jew-hatred and modern, political, ethnic, or racial opposition to the Jews. This term made great advances and soon became common usage in many languages. So much so, that it applied not just to the modern brand of Jew-hatred but--against all logic--was attached to all kinds of enmity toward Jews, past and present. Thus we now say 'antisemitism', even when we talk about remote periods in the past, when one had no inkling of this modern usage. Purists no longer cry out in dismay against such anachronistic practice; it is currently established procedure to use 'antisemitism' for all types of Jew-hatred.

 Let's go back to the hyphen then. What's the difference? If you use the hyphenated form, you consider the words 'Semitism', 'Semite', 'Semitic' as meaningful. They supposedly convey an image of a real substance, of a real group of people--the Semites, who are said to be a race. This is a misnomer: firstly, because 'semitic' or 'aryan' were originally language groups, not people; but mainly because in antisemitic parlance, 'Semites' really stands for Jews,  just that.

 And mind you, Jews are not a race at all. They do not all have inherent characteristics in common that may distinguish them from other people. What unites them is a tradition, culture, history , destiny maybe, but not genetics. If you do assume for a moment that Semites are a special race, consider also the implication that this so-called race comprises both Jews and Arabs. One often talks of the kinship between these two, who are now at loggerheads with each other. Be that as it may, antisemites talking against 'Semites' do not generally refer to Arabs; they mean Jews. So did the Nazis who killed the Jews and invited cooperation from the Arabs.

 It is obvious then that 'anti-Semitism' is a non-term, because it is not directed against so-called 'Semitism'. If there is any substance to the term, it is only to denote a specifically anti-Jewish movement. Antisemitism is a generic term which signifies a singular attitude to a particular group of people. As the late philosopher Zvi Diesendruck pointed out, "There has never been coined a standing term for the merely negative attitude" to any other people in history. Only antisemitism; only against Jews. So the hyphen, or rather its omission, conveys a message; if you hyphenate your 'anti-Semitism', you attach some credence to the very foundation on which the whole thing rests. Strike out the hyphen and you will treat antisemitism for what it really is--a generic name for modern Jew-hatred which now embraces this phenomenon as a whole, past, present and--I am afraid--future as well.”9   

Y. Bauer said that

Why the murder happened? ***Why the Jews?
* why kill the Jews & not all bald-headed men & red-haired women?
Love of Jews or indifference to them did not produce the Holocaust.
Why the Jews, and not the proverbial Radfahrer (bicycle riders, as in the famous joke:

Who is responsible for the ills of the world?
Answer: The Jews and the bicycle riders.
Question: Why the bicycle riders? Answer: Why the Jews?).
Question arises, Why did the Nazis attack the Jews and not some other group? answer

Racist ideology generally, and antisemitism particularly, essential
Scholar J. Goldhagen places antisemitic ideology -eliminationist antisemitism- at center of explanation of Holocaust. Antisemitism is the central element in understanding the Holocaust.
Interrelationship between history of antisemitism & the Holocaust. ...

G. is right when he points to the central role of ideology ... A differentiated approach that recognizes the special position of antisemitism in Nazi ideology but sees the connection of that antisemitism with the Nazis’ racist and nationalistic program of reordering the map of Europe is essential. Such a connection would explain why the Jews occupied such a key role in Nazi ideology and why, therefore, the Nazi’s attitude toward the Jews was indeed different from their attitude toward others.

Nazi war against the Jews was an ideological war. therefore analysis of this ideology, its roots/roots of Nazi ideology
must be included in analysis of the Holocaust.”10

Who Are The Jews? Judaism


This chapter follows a natural sequence in detailing the consequences of being different, which stemmed from the prejudice of the majority toward the Jewish minority. They describe the religion, history, customs & culture of the Jewish people. A knowledge of ‘who are the Jews’ is a prerequisite to understanding prejudice against Jews, fear and hatred of Jews, opposition to them, discrimination against them, the roots and historical antecedents of antisemitism, and the development of antisemitism.

Instructional Objectives - Students will learn:

The basic rituals, observances, and customs of the Jewish religion.


Chapter Content

First section of of this lecture course attempts to sketch a brief but intelligible picture of pre-modern antisemitism, its nature, limits, in the context of pre-modern, Christian & Muslim world. Jewish history & identity: understanding Jewish identity, prerequisite to understanding roots of antisemitism. Jewish-Gentile relations relations ->no assimilation. Consequences being different which stemmed from prejudice of majority toward Jewish minority. Why the Jews? Why antisemitism?
-->Who are the Jews?
What is Judaism? Knowledge of ‘who are the Jews’ prerequisite to understanding Jewish identity, prejudice against Jews.

The Jews have a 5,750 year history, tracing their origins to Biblical times. Evolving out of a common religion, the Jewish people developed customs, culture, and an ethical system which identified them as Jews. The Hebrews (the ancient Jews), a nomadic, tribal people, were among only a handful of ancient peoples to survive, despite their dispersion (Diaspora) amongst the world's nations. The Jews adopted some local customs and folkways, but held onto the basic tenets of their cultural, religious, and social beliefs, and traditional ceremonies and rites.

*Judaism. Religious Roots of Antisemitism

Persistence, irrationality of antisemitism can be understood from its religious roots. Jews experienced hostility because they refused to convert.

What is Judaism? Jewish identity: Religion, nation/ citizenship, ethnicity, cutlure? It is not a race.
Judaism is the the religion of the Jews; a system of laws, culture and belief and a way of life; religion based on monotheism (belief in one God). Judaism traces its origins to Abraham and has its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Bible and the Talmud. It was the first religion based on ethical monotheism (moral conduct). All of the major Western religions found their roots in Judaism.

Judaism influenced the development of Christianity and Islam, and had a major influence on Western civilization. When we speak of the Judeo-Christian heritage of Western civilization, we refer not only to the concept of monotheism, but also to ideas of law, morality, and social justice that have become important parts of Western culture.
Judaism Christianity Islam: Moses Mohammed Jesus Bible star David cross crescent synagogue church mosque

How were Jews different from their neighbors?

A central tenet of Judaism is that God, the Creator of the World and the universal Creator of all humanity, made a special agreement called a covenant (Brit in Hebrew) with Abraham, from whom the Jewish people descended. The covenant provided that the Jews would be blessed with God's love and protection if they remained true to God's law and faithfully worshipped Him, and be accountable for sins and transgression against God and His laws.

The tenets of Judaism include a belief in a coming Messiah (derived from the Hebrew, meaning, "the anointed one") who will unite the Jewish people and lead them under a Kingdom of God on earth and bring peace and justice to all mankind.

Judaism traditionally emphasizes ethical conduct and the treatment of others "as one would wish to be treated themselves." ...

The major body of Jewish law is found in the Torah, which consists of the first Five Books of the Bible (also known as the Pentateuch), and which forms the first part of -what the Christians call- the Old Testament (‘to the Jews, the Bible is the Tanach, an acronym for the law -Torah, the prophets -Nevi’im, and the Writings -Ktuvim.11 ) This law has been supplemented by oral law and interpretations of the law which comprise the Talmud.

There are 613 commandments included in the Torah, which also includes the "Ten Commandments." These 613 commandments govern Jewish law covering such areas as philanthropy, sacrifices, prayer, ritual purity, dietary laws, and observances of the Sabbath and other holy days. The Torah has been supplemented by oral law and interpretations of the law which comprise the Talmud. The Jewish system of law, also referred to as Halacha, includes a civil and criminal justice system which is followed by observant Jews. Halacha regulates Jewish life, such as marriage and divorce, burial, relationships with non-Jews and education.

Each Jewish congregation is responsible for its own affairs and is usually, but not always, led by a spiritual leader called a rabbi. Jewish worship and study often takes place at a synagogue, and religious services often include prayer and readings from the Torah. Services held in a synagogue are traditionally led by a rabbi and assisted by a cantor, who leads the chanting and songs which accompany prayer.

Among the practices of observant Jews are:

1. Dietary Laws

Strict Jewish law requires that Jews may not eat certain foods, such as pork, certain seafood, or food without the blood removed, and may not mix dairy and meat products at the same meal. These laws also describe how animals must be slaughtered=kasher/kosher;
not sharing meals/food with neighbors --->social isolation
Jews were out of step.

2. Jewish Calendar
Jewish law utilizes both a lunar and solar calendar to set the dates of holidays. The dates of holidays and festivals are determined by a lunar calendar, which is based on the phases of the moon. The time from new moon to new moon is 29 days, 12.75 hours. Jewish months are thus either 29 or 30 days. Because a solar year is 365.25 days and a lunar year is about eleven days shorter (12 times 29.5), adjustments are made to the Jewish calendar to assure that holidays remain within the same season (which themselves are solar-based calculations rather than lunar) every year. A lunar month is inserted as a "leap month" as a part of this adjustment, with a total of seven months being added every 19 years.

The Jewish Sabbath and holidays traditionally begin at sunset the evening before the day the Sabbath or holiday is observed. Thus the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in 1990 was observed September 21st and 22nd, but began at sunset on September 20th.

3. Sabbath and Festival Observance

Shabbat: The fourth of the ten commandments is "Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy" (Exodus 20:8). Observant Jews do not perform any work on the Sabbath, which is spent in prayer and religious study. In addition to the Sabbath, Jews celebrate holidays and festivals, each of which have their own rituals associated with observance. Among these are:

Rosh Hashanah (New Year): Rosh Hashanah marks the new year of the Jewish calendar. It is both a joyous and a solemn holiday. The ram's horn (shofar) is blown ritually to serve as the beginning of ten days of repentance which culminates in Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur: This is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is considered by Jews to be the day in which every individual is judged by God, and thus it is a solemn day marked by fasting, prayer and repentance. Also called Day of Atonement.

Passover: An eight-day festival commemorating the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, and their exodus from Egypt. A ritual feast on the first two nights of this holiday, called a Seder, includes the recounting of the Passover story.

Shavuot (Feast of Weeks): Shavuot is a festival which marks the giving of the Torah/Law to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. Also called Pentecost.

Succot: Succot is a commemoration of the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness before they received the Torah. It is also a final harvest festival before the winter rains, commemorating the booths in which the Israelites resided during their 40 years in the wilderness. It is an eight-day holiday. It is customary to build a structure called a Succah as a symbol of the types of structures the Israelites lived in while in the desert.

Simchat Torah: Simchat Torah commemorates the conclusion and the beginning of the cycle of Torah readings which lasts one year. It occurs the day after Succot ends.

Hanukkah: An eight-day festival commemorating the victory in 165 B.C. of the ancient Israelites, led by Judah Maccabee, over the Syrian-Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 215-164 B.C.E.), and the rededication of the Temple at Jerusalem. Also called Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights.

Traditionally, Jews light a candle for each night of this holiday until there are eight on the eighth day, plus an extra "shammash" candle. In recent times, it has become traditional to exchange gifts on this holiday. Although Hanukkah usually occurs during the time of Christmas, it is in no way a comparable holiday to Christmas for the Jews.

This Guide uses the secular way of indicating years before the first century with the letters "B.C.E." - Before the Common Era. Years in the first century or later are followed by no letters unless there exists the possibility of confusion with a previously mentioned year. In that case, the year is followed by the letters "C.E." - Common Era. They are the equivalents of B.C. (before Christ) , and A.D. (Anno Domini, the year of the Lord).

Purim: observed in celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from massacre by Haman, an advisor to King Ahasuerus in Persia, in the fifth century B.C.E. It is a joyous festival celebrated by dressing up in costumes - one of the customs.

4. Ritual Clothing

For centuries, observant Jews have dressed differently than citizens of their host countries while engaged in secular and non-secular activities. During prayer, Jewish males have traditionally worn the following:

* Skull cap (Kippah, yarmulke): A skullcap worn by Jewish men and boys, especially those adhering to Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. Beard, earlocks; easily identified.

* Phylacteries (Tefillin): Either of two small leather boxes, each containing strips of parchment inscribed with quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures, one of which is strapped to the forehead and the other to the left arm by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish men during #morning worship, except on the Sabbath and holidays.

* Fringed Shawl (Tallit): these are worn during prayer.

5. Life Cycle Events
* Circumcision (Bris): To remove the prepuce of (a male). Male Jewish children are circumcised on the eighth day after their birth as a sign of a covenant between Abraham and God; physical difference. The boy is given his name at this ceremony.

* Bar Mitzvah: The ceremony that initiates and recognizes a boy as a bar mitzvah; at the age of thirteen, Jewish law considers boys to have reached adulthood, and responsible for his moral and religious duties.. A special service is held in the boy's honor, and he is permitted to read from the Torah for the firs time. The comparable ceremony for girls is a Bat Mitzvah which varies in religious significance depending on the sect of Judaism.

* Marriage and Divorce: at a marriage ceremony, observant Jews sign a marriage contract called a Ketuba. The Ketuba describes the conditions of marriage. The marriage ceremony often includes the breaking of a glass by the groom to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. Jewish law recognizes divorce, made official by a document called a Get. Even if observant Jews obtain a civil divorce, the spouse is unable to remarry in the absence of obtaining a Get from a Jewish court.

* Death & Mourning: upon the death of a Jew, the body is ritually washed and placed in a coffin for burial, generally the day after death; a prayer (Kaddish) in memory, is recited in the daily services and by mourners of a close relative. Some members of the family also observe a seven-day period of mourning called Shiva at which time religious services are held in the home of the bereaved. The anniversary of the death of a parent (Yahrzeit) is observed by lighting a candle and saying a prayer (Kaddish) in memory.

Consequences of being different

All that set Jews apart from others. The differences Jews had with their Gentile/non-Jewish neighbors led to separate social religious lives. No assimilation. Intolerance suspicion of these differences led to fear, hatred. -dislike unlike, hatred of Jews, roots of antisemitism seeds Holocaust. Classical, Christian & modern antisemitism.
These characteristics set Jews apart from their neighbors, & contributed to prejudice, discrimination & persecutions that were roots of Holocaust.

Jewish history documents prejudice, social economic isolation persecution violence against Jews 2, 300 yrs ago, explain expulsion without public condemnation/bystanders.


Assimilation: To accept the culture of another group while giving up one's own.
Blasphemy: Words written or spoken which express contempt or irreverence about God.

Circumcision: The removal of the foreskin of the penis, which is done ritually in newborn Jewish males eight days after birth to symbolize the covenant between God and Abraham.

Kosher: From the Hebrew for "proper," correct," or "valid," it usually refers to food or anything prepared under the proper ritual supervision.

Monotheism: The belief in one God.
Paganism: A follower of a polytheistic religion.
Polytheism: The belief in more than one God.
Rabbi: A Jewish scholar or religious leader - from the Hebrew for "my master."

Tanakh: the Bible to the Jews; an acronym for the Law -Torah, the prophets -Nevi’im, and the Writings -Ktuvim; 39 books of Hebrew Scriptures); the Old Testament, to the Christians

Torah: Law; literally meaning "teaching." The term also refers to the parchment scroll containing the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) of the Tanakh, used in a synagogue during services.

Copyright Fall 1999; Fall 2003 Edith Shaked
Credit/Source: The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers. http://www.remember.org/guide/

1 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001; p. 29-30

2 Christian persecution of Jews. http://www.ushmm.org/research/center/persecution/

3 Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, 1985, p. 18

4 Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, p. 361

5 Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, p. 361

6 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001; p. 29-30

7 Y. Bauer. “Genocide: Was it the Nazi’s Original Plan? pps. 13-15:

8 Omer Bartov, Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Reinterpretations of National Socialism, in The Holocaust and History - The Knowon, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined; eds: Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck; published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; 1998

9 This article appeared in the SICSA Report: Newsletter of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (Summer 1989)  

10 Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001

11 Yehuda Bauer, A History Of The Holocaust (Franklin Watts, 1982), p. 3