I. Ideological Roots: Antecedents & Context - Historical Antecedents & Preconditions
Historic Roots of Nazism

FOUR German Racial Nationalism and Antisemitism. Why Germany?

Antisemitism in Germany - By-product of German Racial Nationalism

Roots of Nazism. Modern Germany up to 1914

“ ... specific German development made the rise of Nazism an unprecedented event in human history.”
(Y. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, p. 30)

Bauer, 50-56


Perpetrators: Why Germany and not France? Origins of Aryan racial antisemitism. Pre-Nazi racism and the rise of German racial nationalism in the nineteenth century. The conditions in Germany that preceded WWI, Adolph Hitler & the Nazi rise to power, and how German nationalists & racial theorists had laid the groundwork for anti-Jewish prejudice: German Volkish tradition, Aryan myth, racial nationalism, racial German antisemitism -by-product of radical racial nationalism, & political antisemitism, all established the view of the Jew as the quintessential non-German; a traditional authoritarian militaristic regime; right/conservatism mid-19th c

Objectives - Students will be able to:

1. Describe and explain German racial nationalism and German antisemitism (discuss the role of racism, nationalism, right/conservatism, the rise of racial nationalism) in the mid-19th century.
2. Discuss the historical circumstances behind the question: Why Germany?

Focus Questions

1. How the Final Solution Came About? How does a society get to this point?
2. What were the factors that produced National Socialism and Hitler’s ideology? What were the roots of Nazi policy?
3. How an antisemitic norm translated itself into the actual murder?
4. How could they? How does ideology turn into bullets or poison gas?

Study Questions

1. Explain ‘race’ and "Scientific Racism" in the 19th century. How did ideas about race in the 19th century influence antisemitic writers? From old religious antisemitism, Jews could escape through baptism. Why could they not escape racist antisemitism?

2. Describe and explain the rise of German racial nationalism. Discuss the ‘Volk’ idea. How did German racial nationalism make Jews outsiders in the nation? What role did German nationalism play in the rise of German antisemitism? Evaluate the impact of Paul de Lagarde, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Karl Lueger and others in promulgating antisemitism in their time.

3. Relate the rise of German racial nationalism and the development of pan-Germanism to Nazism.
4. What were The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
5. Why did many politicians see fit to form antisemitic political parties?
6. How did the pattern of authoritarianism & militarism set the stage for a dictator - Hitler?


Extreme nationalism, modern racial theories, and forged slanderous publications about Jews paved the way to Nazi antisemitism.


Chapter Content

Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust

Yehuda Bauer, Jewish historian, retired professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; former Director of the International Research Institute, Yad Vashem, Israel, in Rethinking the Holocaust, Yale University Press, 2001; How the Final Solution Came About, 28-31:

p. 28: Christian antisemitism, with all its anti-Jewish ideology and bloody persecutions, never produced a genocidal policy, as Steven T. Katz (The Holocaust in Historical context, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994) has argued convincingly, so there is a vast difference between persecutions of Jews in Christendom (and under Islam, where the attitudes toward Jews was less murderous) and the genocidal program of the Nazis.

How did the German people become band of murderers & murderers’ accomplices?
How could a people who had created, in Central Europe, one of the greatest civilization in history commit itself to such an ideology as the Nazi one and stick to it through the most destructive war in human annals (so far) to the bitter end? ...

p. 30: As Raul Hilberg has pointed out, German railway officials used the same administrative techniques to send German children to summer vacation camps and Jews to death camps. The question is why they did the latter, not why they did the former. ...
Why, then, did this particular dictatorship produce mass murder on an unprecedented scale, of Jews and many other?
What made the bureaucrats do it? ...

p. 31: Why German society lent itself to collaboration with such intent? ... The situation in Germany was not much different from situations in other Western European countries. In Eastern Europe, anti-Jewish feelings were very much stronger.

Why the Jews? Why the Holocaust sprang from German society and not, despite murderous antisemitism, in Russia or elsewhere?
....why the Holocaust happened in Germany and not in France or Russia ... (How did it happen) that by 1940-1941 the overwhelming majority of Germans became reservoir of willing murderers of Jews?

Racist ideology generally, and antisemitism particularly, essential ... one has to deal with German specificity ... we think that
- the relative primacy of ideology,
- the centrality of radical antisemitism in Nazi ideology, and
- specific German development made the rise of Nazism an unprecedented event in human history.
Antisemitism is the central element in understanding the Holocaust. ...

Historian Zygmunt Bauman: modernity," not antisemitism, responsible -enabled Holocaust to happen not new= combination ideology & modernity; Bauman never mentioned consensus. clear, aware that a murderous consensus was created in German society.”2

“ ... theories about centrality of antisemitism do not rest upon claims that anti-Jewish ideology was a predominantly German doctrine or a constant preoccupation of leaders of the 3rd Reich. Research suggested opposite. George mosse pointed out that in Europe of 1890 the country most dangerous for the Jews would be named as France (Czarist Russia, also a strong candidate). In early 1930s, Germany would be a much more likely prospect, certainly not the only contender. ...

There was antisemitic tide in Germany at end of 19th c., as in other European countries. Compared to Russia or Rumania, where Jews suffered extreme poverty, intense popular hostility & public discrimination, Germany was a Rechtssaat, according fundamental legal rights to Jews. No pogroms in German Empire -riotous outbreaks against Jews in which public authorities often failed to intervene or even assisted the violent assault upon Jews & destruction of their property. France, where there were pogroms at end of 19th c., became known to Jews elsewhere as country of the Dreyfus affair & home of very considerable popular anti-Jewish feeling.”3

“No purposeful investigation of the Holocaust can be divorced from the social, political & psychological conditions prevalent in modern German society. ... Nor, it must be stressed, is the Holocaust explicable -if it is explicable at all- in terms of German history alone.”4

“ ... 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.


Why Germany? Aryan racial antisemitism=by-product of radical German racial nationalism

“National Socialism/Origins of Nazism

Nazism has always meant different things to different people. For some it was an ideology, a political movement, a creed, an aspiration, ... for others it was an abomination, a manifestation of humanity’s darkest side, embodiment of Evil. ... Nazism managed to attract people from different social and educational origins ... In the Federal Republic of Germany attempts were made at the time to understand ‘how it could have happened” (to the nation of Goethe and Schiller), ... theories promulgated ... Nazism equivalent of foreign conquest by a group of gangsters ... mob leaders. (Like) ... in the German Democratic Republic ... Nazis (or rather fascists) and German were kept strictly apart.

A more profound trend in analysis of origins of National Socialism developed in the 1960s ... by exiles of the Third Reich. ... serious attempt to link Nazism (Nazi roots) to earlier periods in German history, & especially to the late 19th c., or, to birth of German nationalism some hundred years earlier.5

“New face of the old aversion less obvious, yet emotionally charged & as anti-intellectual as the old religious bias. Modern antisemitism (term introduced in Germany by Wilhelm Marr in 1873) emanated from 2 related sources: nationalism & racism.”6.


- Pride in one’s national heritage; a 19th c. modern political movement, which roots lie in a shared sense of regional and cultural identity. People with a shared culture, language, history, race and value systems, bonded together into political, economic, and social entities with distinct continuous geographical boundaries which we refer to today as nations. The group had a shared loyalty to the nation.

Extremist nationalism

‘In the 1st half of the 19th c., nationalism and liberalism -equal natural rights of the individuals & national independence and unification- went hand in hand. But pride in one’s national heritage became a competitive destructive chauvinism. Nationalism grew extreme, and its difference from liberalism became very apparent. Jews, as outsiders who did not share the common language, culture, religion, & values, were seen as a threat by extremists in the nationalist movement. As such, they became the targets of antisemitic persecution.
Nationalists claimed that Jews are forever aliens who cannot share the national ethos.”7

"German nationalists laid the groundwork for anti-Jewish prejudice. Rational concept of equality ran counter to the irrationality of the idealized & idolized state; obedience to that state was a must. From unification of Germany 1871, forces of modernism, progress, challenged by advocates of a return to the past. ...

*The extreme nationalism of the late 19th & early 20th centuries contributed to World War I & to the rise of Nazism & Fascism after the war; it was the seedbed of totalitarian nationalism.
Concerned exclusively with the greatness of the nation, extreme nationalists rejected the liberal emphasis on political liberty. They attacked parliamentary government as a barrier to national unity and greatness and maintained that authoritarian leadership was needed to meet national emergencies. The needs of the nation, they said, transcended the rights of the individual. Extreme nationalists also rejected the liberal ideal of equality.

*By the late 19th & early 20th centuries, extreme nationalism
a) was concerned exclusively with the greatness and the needs of the nation
b) rejected the liberal emphasis on political liberty, and ideal of equality
c) was the seedbed of totalitarian nationalism

Interpreting politics with the logic of emotions, extreme nationalists insisted that they had a sacred mission to regain lands once held in the Middle Ages, to unite their kinfolk in other lands, or to rule other peoples considered inferior. They organized patriotic societies, denounced national minorities, particularly Jews, and created a cult of ancestors and a mystique of blood, soil, and a sacred national past. Loyalty to the nation-state was elevated above all other allegiances. The ethnic state became an object of religious reverence; ... worship of the nation-state. In 1902, Friedrich Paulsen, a German philosopher, warned of nationalism’s threat to reason and morality: 8

A supersensitive nationalism has become a very serious danger for all the peoples of Europe; because of it, they are in danger of losing the feeling for human values. Nationalism, pushed to an extreme, just like sectarianism, destroys moral and even logic consciousness. Just and unjust, good and bad, true and false, lose their meaning; ...

Antisemitism in Germany - by-product of German racial nationalism

Napoleon’s conquests extended French influence & nationalism across the German states. Nationalism stirred up since Napoleon to action. Unification of Germany & Italy late. Pride in one’s national heritage, & competitive destructive chauvinism developed.

*Extreme nationalism was a general European phenomenon, but the combination of extreme nationalism & racism was more evident and more dangerous in Germany where racist nationalism was expressed in volkish thought’ - ‘the most ominous expression of German nationalism & a clear example of mythical thinking, *Volk= folk, people, race; people-integral nation; exclude Jews, Gypsies.

German Romanticism and Nationalism. Volkish Movement

*Romanticism, in reaction against the rationalism of the 18th century, it was a movement in philosophy & the arts, & a set of attitudes, in the latter part of the 18th c., initiated in Germany and England; it glorified feeling, emotion, sentimentality & the special characteristics of the historic past.

German thinkers concretely formulated a romantic nationalism. In Germany, these ideas were expounded by Johann Gottfried von Herder,1744-1803, August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Friedrich Melchior Grimm - German folktales in Grimm’s fairy tale, 1812-15. Herder, more interested in culture than in politics; most important contribution: conception of cultural nationalism; put together anthologies of traditional folk culture.

In Germany, nationalism went beyond the commonality of language & heritage."In Germany, sentimentality merged with patriotism to create a mystical concept of Germanness - the Voelkisch spirit. German citizenship was based on an obscure sense of commonality; Germanic blood & German soil created an innate ethos that could not be acquired. Only birth could infuse that volkisch spirit -German essence ... To be German truly German was not a mere matter of citizenship. ...Clearly, Jews could only pretend to be German; they were forever aliens."1

German nationalism burdened with a romantic quixotic aspect was founded by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. in 1807 -romantic nationalism; proclaimed German ethos to be the seedbed for human perfection; argued against Jewish emancipation. 1808: delivered series of ‘Addresses to the German Nation,’ rallied German-speaking people to resist French, & spoke of the superiority of the Germans. Anti-intellectual, anti-democratic sentiment woven into German fabric; destructive chauvinism

*With fanatical devotion, Volkish thinkers
-embraced all things German: medieval past, German landscape, the simple peasant, village; they sought to bind together the German people through a deep love of their language, traditions, and fatherland. These thinkers
-felt that Germans were animated by a higher spirit than that found in other peoples.

*To Volkish thinkers, the Enlightenment and parliamentary democracy were foreign ideas that corrupted the pure German spirit;
-denounced the liberal-humanist tradition of the West as alien to German soul.

During the same period, Ernst Arndt, Friedrich Jahn promoted exalted notion of a mystical "Volk," in which Jew could have no part.

*So, in the 19th c., the Romantic ‘Volkish’ movement excluded the Jews as strangers and second-class citizens, because
- it exalted folkway and emphasized the purity of the national tradition
- it evoked the image of a mythical golden past, with a supposed superiority
- it produced an idealization of the Middle Ages with Christian knights

Volkish thought attracted Germans frightened by modern age -industrialization, urbanization, materialism, class conflicts, alienation. movement appealed to farmers villagers who regarded industrial city threat to native values; artisans small shopkeepers, threatened by big business; scholars, writers, teachers, students, saw in Volkish nationalism cause worthy of their idealism. Schools leading agents for dissemination Volkish ideas... Volkish thinkers glorified ancient Germanic tribes

*German see themselves different from better than English French. led them to see German culture unique -innately superior in opposition to humanist outlook Enlightenment. Volkish held that the German people and culture had special destiny unique mission. Volkish thought widespread.

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.

Growth of Racial & Political antisemitism. The “New Antisemitism.” Biological Racism

Placing the nation above everything, nationalists accused national minorities of corrupting the nation’s spirit; and they glorified war as a symbol of the nation’s resolve and will. In the name of national power and unity, they persecuted minorities at home and stirred up hatred against other nations. In the pursuit of national power, nationalists increasingly embraced militaristic, imperialistic, and racist doctrines.

*Racism: belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others; discrimination or prejudice based on race. Division of people into races -black, white, yellow- a system of classification without value judgments. Race became racism when innate characteristics were assigned by pseudo-scientists to biological attributes=biological racism.

asserted that innate racial differences prevent Jews from assimilating with the superior culture of the host countries; ... the old religious bias fed this new strain of an old virus.9

Schleunes: Racism in late 19th c. became an all-embracing doctrine for explaining human behavior, whether it was religious, political, cultural or economic.

Racial Antisemitism and the Aryan Myth

*In the 19th c., national-racial considerations supplemented a traditional, biased Christian perception of Jews & Judaism.
*However, whereas Christian anti-Judaism believed that through conversion, Jews could escape the curse of their religion,
racial antisemites who used the language of Social Darwinism, said that Jews were racially stained and eternally condemned by their genes. Their evil & worthlessness derived from inherited racial characteristics, which could not be altered by conversion,’ or expulsion.

“Social Darwinism, with its theory of natural selection ... in the late 19th century also provided a rationale for the new antisemitism. The social Darwinist notion of the struggle of races for survival became a core doctrine of the Nazi party after World War I and provided the "scientific" and "ethical" justification for genocide. Jews’ destruction is a must.10

"In a climate of fervent nationalism & jingoism, there were increasing allegations of Jewish ‘cosmopolitanism’ and ‘clannish separatism.’ Books & pamphlets appeared in France & Germany alleging that the ‘Semites’ were responsible for everything that was dark, ... menacing & destructive, whereas all that was pure, creative, heroic & good was the product of ‘Aryan’ influence. This biological view of human potential & moral worth was, in effect, a pseudo-scientific hotchpotch of the new racial, linguistic & anthropological theories, blended with the vestige of old religious hatreds and fears.
The Jews, it was argued, were racially incapable of improvement. No matter how hard they tried to be German - ... to convert to Christianity -no matter how great the impression of integration, the Jews were depicted as parasitic, scheming, manipulative & venomous, constantly plotting to ‘take over’ economic control of the state. ...

*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.

Racial theorists of the 19th century, were the first to confuse the term ‘Aryan’ -a linguistic term, with race. The term ‘Semitic’ also had a linguistic origin). The actual categories of Semite & Aryan were borrowed very loosely from the filed of linguistics, in which these terms related to families of languages (and not to ‘racial’ groups).3

*Aryan - Originally, a term for peoples speaking the languages of Europe and India. Twisted by Nazis, who viewed those of Germanic background as the best examples of "superior," "Aryan race." ) As used by the Nazis, the term refers to a non-Jewish Caucasian, especially of the Nordic type.

*Influence of Arthur Joseph de Gobineau

*Of particular interest among the early racial theorists was Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), who used anthropology, linguistics and history to formulate a theory in which race explained virtually everything in the human experience. In mid-19th c., this Frenchman published Essay on the Inequality of Human Races; he argued that he and his fellow French aristocrats were superior to the French masses by virtue of their pure Aryan stock; and that the Germans had inherited their superior racial qualities; he warned that cross-breeding and race-mixing were threatening its very survival; used anthropology, linguistics and history to formulate a theory in which race explained virtually everything in the human experience.

He saw in what he called the ‘Aryan’ race -blond, tall, blue-eyed-‘a cultural people superior to the others, and ... that the Germans had inherited their superior racial qualities;’ in line with Social Darwinist thought. The decisive events of history are determined by the iron law of race, he asserted, and human destiny is decreed by nature and expressed in race.
"History shows that all civilization flows from the white race," and the jewel of this race is the Aryan, which survived as a superior race, he maintained. However, he warned that cross-breeding and race-mixing were threatening its very survival.
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.

German nationalism become racism

*Volkish thinkers were especially attracted to racist doctrines, & extreme nationalism was combined with racism.
*Like their Nazi successors, Volkish thinkers claimed that
- the German race was purer than, and therefore superior to, all other races. Its superiority was revealed in such physical characteristics as blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin -all signs of inner qualities lacking inn other races. German racists Claimed that Germans were descendants of ancient ‘Aryans’ (Aryan tongue became the basis of most European languages.
"Racial volkish thinkers held that race was the key to history and ... , a race demonstrated its vigor and achieved greatness when it preserved its purity;
- intermarriage
between races was contamination that would result in genetic, cultural, and military decline; and that
- Jews were international conspirators plotting to dominate the world.

*Richard Wagner (1813-83) composer, denounced the Jews with a poison pen; his operas gloried in the Teutonic past; loved by Hitler; fueled racial difference theory; expressed German nationalistic terminology called volkisch in racist terms. He talked about emancipation - but emancipation from Judaism & Christianity ... Hence his artistic attempts to glorify a Germanic religion based on pagan elements.’4
*He denounced the Jews for ‘Judaizing’/corrupting German culture.

Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,
founder of philosophy of dialectics, glorified the state, state must be superior to separate desires of individuals; & asserted that heroes function outside the norm of history even if trampling ordinary mortals.

*Historian Heinrich Treitschke persuaded many Germans that unquestioning homage to state was the ultimate expression of love & duty. Treitschke began writing in 1879, that ‘the Jews are our misfortune,’ to be repeated in Nazi propaganda, and that an unbridgeable chasm existed between the German and Jewish spirit.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

A German philosopher and poet best known for "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." He theorized that there were two moral codes that of the ruling class (master morality) and that of the oppressed class (slave morality). The ancient empires grew out of a master morality, and the religions of the day out of the slave morality (which denigrates the rich and powerful, rationalism, and sexuality). He developed the concept of the "overman" (superman) which symbolized man at his most creative and highest intellectual capacity - Nietzsche, formulated theories concerning super human individuals who stood high above slavish parliament & democratic disputation.
Clearly, a broad stripe of anti intellectual & antidemocratic sentiment was woven into German fabric.

* Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927)

Volkish thinkers also embraced the ideas of Wagner’s son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Englishman, who adopted German citizenship, & influenced Nazi racial doctrine. His book, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1900, "influenced millions of readers, analyses of insight; he ‘knew’ intuitively that the essential traits of a people were determined by the proper or improper race components in their biological heritage. Moral fiber, character, were fixed by interplay of specific racial strains. The Jews were a hopelessly bastardized race, while Germanic people were the inheritors of inevitable greatness;" emphasized the ‘spirit’ of race, & idealized the pure German spirit - ‘race-soul,’ which made Germans honest, loyal, & industrious. Everything Jewish was black & demonic, destructive & corruptive. Jews were materialistic, legalistic, & devoid of tolerance & morality. These 2 peoples were locked in a struggle, in which Jews must be defeated.

He pointed to Jews as a threat to Europe’s racial & cultural purity, and advanced program of eugenics to improve the race through selective breeding. This paranoid image of Jews as concocting conspiracies to enslave Aryan & corrupt them biologically would reappear later in Nazi movement.

* Chamberlain asserted that
-races differed not only physically, but also morally, spiritually, and intellectually; that the
- Germans, the only pure descendants of ancient Aryans, were physically superior & bearers of a higher culture; that the
-Jews, foreign intruders, were undermining German society; to save Western civilization from lower races -Jews, Negroes, Orientals.
This book gave Nazis the text for their racial myth & was very popular in Germany.

Racist antisemitism is based on the pseudo-scientific, quasi-rational findings of the late 19th century, as in the fields of racial biology, Social Darwinism, and eugenics.

Racial antisemitism left Jews no way out. They might change religion, but not their race.

*Modern German antisemitism was based on nationalism, racism, & false racial theories.

*German racial nationalists
insisted that as a superior race Germans had a national right to dominate other peoples, particularly the ‘racially inferior’ Slavs of the East’ and to make conquest -combined this belief in the superiority of German culture with the sense of a universal mission for the German people.

*German racial nationalists singled out Jews as the most wicked of races & a deadly enemy of the German people. Antisemitism, which was widespread in the late-19th c. Europe, provides a striking example of the perennial appeal, power, and danger of mythical thinking.

Theodor Fritsch, Handbook of Antisemitism, asserted in the 1880s that Jesus was not a Jew but of Aryan descent; Jews were intrinsically vicious & irredeemable. If German valued their own survival, they must destroy the accursed race.’

*Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891)

In late-19th c., ‘Lagarde, a racist German oriental scholar and a volkist antisemite developed the anti-Judaic & anti-Christian element still further -than Wagner. If the decisive element in a person ... was race, which was hereditary, then no amount of baptismal water could change a Jew. ... developed symbol of ‘blood.’ ... the biologization of antisemitism found its expression also in the idea that the Jew was not human. .. De Lagarde wrote about the Jews ‘One does not have dealing with pests and parasites; ... one destroys them.’ (He " called for a German faith ... that would unite the nation; he saw the Jews as enemies of Germany.)

To the imagery of the Jew as Satan, derived from earlier Christian antisemitism, was added the biologically oriented imagery of the parasite. Both images, that of the Devil and that of the parasite, dehumanized the Jews & made theorizing about their physical destruction possible."11 The ground for annihilation had been laid.

‘Racist writers of the 19th c. did not advocate mass murder, yet their theories played an important role in the coming disaster. They fostered the conceit that destiny had placed the German people on a separate course from the rest of the world.

Without Hitler, biological racism would have been worthy of a footnote in history. Theory of an innate unalterable Jewish malignancy would have remained the purview of quacks.

‘In center of Nazi policy stood hatred of Jews.
But hatred for the Jews was at the core of Hitler’s obsession. Hitler could call upon the past for instruction. He merely intensified & broadened the attack. Every crudity of Nazi misrepresentations had antecedents.
Claim that Jews were the bearers of an organic genetic flaw enabled the Nazis to rationalize their nearly successful genocide. If Jews despicable merely because they did not accept Christ, then conversion or emigration were possible options for their survival. If Jews could not share the enigmatic ethos of the Teutonic past, the German Volk, they might be excluded from official positions, or be subjected to social discrimination. But If the taint was congenital, if simply by their presence Jews contaminated society, then only their obliteration could make the world safe. And that delusion underlies the tragedy of the Holocaust.’

Late 19th c. racial antisemites had constructed an ideological foundation on which Hitler would later built his movement.

Modern Unified Germany - Before World War I (up to 1914)
Blood & Iron Generation, 1848-1871

*Germans has no tradition of democracy.
*The 1st Reich (German Empire),part of the Holy Roman Empire for over a 1000 years, had been a loosely patchwork of independent regions.

Unification of Germany. Autocratic Military Leaders German Empire in 1871

*Following the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870), Germany was finally unified under Count Otto von Bismarck's (1815-1898)‘blood and iron’ policy.
*Under Prussian leadership, a new German Empire was proclaimed on January 18, 1871, at Versailles. King William of Prussia became kaiser or Emperor William I of the 2nd Reich -German Empire; *& Jewish emancipation confirmed. The new German Reich of 1871 was dominated by Prussia, by Junker, and by militaristic interests.

*The Prussian leadership of German unification meant the triumph of authoritarian, militaristic values over liberal, constitutional sentiments in the development of the new German state. Chancellor Bismark & the Junkers, powerful noble army officers, continued to rule over the new nation with an iron hand. The Junkers were the commanders of the German army, held the majority of high government positions, and owned nearly all the land of Prussia, the largest of the 25 German states. The new imperial Germany continued as an authoritarian, conservative, military-bureaucratic power state, during Emperor William II (1888-1918). Men served in army until 45 yrs-old. Thus, obeying orders of military authorities had become acceptable long before Hitler and the Nazis arrived on the scene.

*Up until World War I, Germans were used to autocratic & military rulers.

In this new autocratic militaristic German nation, German nationalism was now able to move farther away from liberal, democratic ideas. In 1878, the Social Democratic Party was outlawed, and democratic efforts were stifled.

Political Antisemitism - The power & danger of mythical thinking

This period also coincided with a new cycle of antisemitism, with Jews being blamed for the severe economic depression of 1873, for manipulating peasants and small businessmen into resisting the traditional social and economic order.

Arriving in west. & central Europe in midst economic depression, Jews became scapegoats for ills of capitalism, unemployment & high prices. In Germany & Austria, during 1880 & 1890, conservatives founded right-wing antisemitic parties, used antisemitism to gain votes to traditional lower-middle-class groups.

*Jews who could not belong to German blood & soil, were held responsible for socialism, capitalism, stock market failures, & for labor strikes. Politicians from the ultra-conservative right could always count on public approbation, when they targeted Jews for painful economic dislocations because of industrialization.’

Antisemitic organizations and political parties sought to deprive Jews of their civil rights, and antisemitic publications proliferated.’

Coining the word ‘antisemitism’

*Wilhelm Marr
, a 19th century German racial thinker and a journalist, coined and was the 1st to use, in 1879, the term *antisemitism, the ‘modern,’ ‘scientific’ term for Jew-hatred & anti-Jewish movement, in a secular society (calling Jews, a physically and mentally inferior group); Jewish problem not a religious one, but a social one; view of Jews as race not religious group. He wrote a pamphlet, ‘The Victory of Jewry over Germandom.’ It was very successful, going through 12 editions in six years. Using ideas of race and Volkisch 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.’

Antisemitism is spelled unhyphenated & in the lower case. This spelling is more historically & etymological correct since Semitic refers not to a race of people, as Marr & other racists wrongly believed, but to a group of languages which includes Arabic as well as Hebrew.

The birth of antisemitic political parties

*In late 19th century, hatred of Jews developed into a systematic body of beliefs, in Germany & Austria. As historian Hans Kohn says, ‘Germany became the fatherland of modern antisemitism; there the systems were thought out and the slogans coined.’ Like conservatives in other lands,
*German conservatives -traditional opponents of liberalism on the political right, deliberately fanned the flames of antisemitism to win the masses over to conservative causes.

‘Antisemitism had become a cohesive political issue. Foes of democracy & reform had discovered the vote-getting appeal of rationalization over rationalism.’

*Political antisemitism: Using prejudice toward Jews to gain votes - using Jews as scapegoat for political & economic problems in order to gain political power

*‘The radical right saw Jew-hatred as a popular formula for mobilizing & uniting all social classes - a precondition for strengthening the nation & destroying liberal democracy.
* By manufacturing the myth of the wicked Jew, the radical right demonstrated the truth of Sorel’s insight that people are moved & united by myths that give emotionally satisfying explanations of life and history and simplify and clarify the complexities of the modern world.’

In Germany (unlike in France) ... a ‘Jewish issue’ (the Dreyfus affair) would hardly have aroused such a furor, and antisemitism was allowed to creep slowly, almost imperceptibly -& virtually unchallenged- into the body politic. It was ... the supreme indifference ... of most Germans that would permit the fanaticism of a relative few to wreak such havoc.

Indifference is, in most societies, a neutral force which can be harnessed either for good or ill by those who hold the reins of power. ... However, the indirect impact of the majority who, through their silence may condone or rubber-stamp the decisions and policies of others, should not be underestimated. Nor should it be overlooked that silence or indifference is a choice that individuals make. This, surely is one of the central lessons of the Nazi era."7

The rise of mass politics & the new right, 1880-1900

In 1878, the Social Democratic Party was outlawed, and democratic efforts were stifled.
Conservatives founded right-wing antisemitic political parties based on race -using antisemitism in party platforms. "In Germany, political parties which sought to disenfrahise or in some other way to victimize Jews, described themselves from the first as ‘socialist.’ Hitler’s party, in step with this tradition, would later call itself national Socialist. ...

In the late nineteenth century, political parties in Europe, especially in Germany, used antisemitism in their party platforms.
*The 1st was the
Christian Socialist Workers Party, founded in Berlin in 1878, to recruit the lower bourgeoisie to the cause of Prussian monarchy, and to rally working-class supporters of socialism; founded by Adolf Stoecker (1835-1909), a chaplain of the imperial court, a prominent Protestant preacher.
Stocker 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 & social middle classes the same groups to whom Hitler appealed who yearned for status and a strong state.

In 1879, Stocker joined Marr in founding the League of Antisemites.
Other parties included the German Social Antisemitic party, and the Antisemitic People’s Party. At their peak, in 1898, they attracted 250,000 votes (4% of the vote)

*In German-speaking Austria, Karl Lueger (1844-1928), leader of the Christian Socialist party, founded by conservative German nationalists, was elected mayor of Vienna, exploiting antisemitism.
*In Austria, Georg von Schonerer, founder of the German National party wanted to eliminate Jews from all areas of public life.

*Historian Heinrich Treitschke began writing in 1879, that ‘the Jews are our misfortune,’ to be repeated in Nazi propaganda, and that an unbridgeable chasm existed between the German and Jewish spirit.

In 1881, the philosopher Eugen Karl Duhring wrote ‘The Jewish Question as a Racial, Moral & 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 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.

In 1893, 250,000 voters sent 16 deputies (out of 397) pledged to antisemitic measures to the Reichstag, German legislature.

‘Antisemites invented a mythical evil to be blamed for all the social & economic ills caused by the rapid growth of industries & cities & for all the new ideas that were undermining the old order. Their anxieties & fears concentrated on the Jews, to whom they attributed everything they considered to be wrong with the modern age, all that threatened the German Volk.

The thought process of Volkish antisemites demonstrate the mind’s monumental capacity for irrational thinking. In the mythical world of Volkish thinkers, Jews were regarded as foreign intruders -stranger, outsider, the ‘other’- who could never be loyal to the fatherland; as racial inferiors whose genes could infect & weaken the German race and debase its culture; and as international conspirators who were plotting to dominate Germany and the world, by gaining control over political parties.’

The world-conspiracy theme - The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

"A favorite image from the turn of the century was that of the power-crazed Jews engaged in an international conspiracy to undermine the safe & peaceful world of the gentiles, fomenting wars, revolutions & the collapse of organized religion. The ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ is the single most notorious antisemitic publication of this type."8
In 1807, the Prussian Friedrich Buchholz accused the Jews of plotting with the aristocracy to rule society. In 1816, the world-conspiracy theme was repeated by Johann Ehrmann, a German anti-Napoleonic nationalist.

*In the 1890s the myth of a Jewish conspiracy, to take over the world, found its culminating expression in the notorious forgery, written in France by an unknown author: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; forged by Russian emigres in France, with the assistance of the Russian secret police, it alleged a massive Jewish international conspiracy to seize power all over the globe, to start wars and depressions. The Protocols purported to be minutes of part of the 1897 international meeting of Jewish leaders, known as the 1st World Zionist Congress, called by Theodor Herzl.
*The Protocols were 1st published in Russia in 1903, in Germany after World War I in 1919 & widely believed, in France & the US by Henry Ford in 1920, and in Britain in 1921.

This forgery was poorly-written, and was totally implausible from beginning to end. Preposterous as it was, however, The Protocols were believed by those among the populace who found Jews to be convenient scapegoats. The document was translated into at least seven languages. 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.

German antisemites regarded the Protocols as convincing evidence that the Jews were responsible for starting WWI, for Germany’s defeat, & for the revolution that toppled the monarchy.’
*In the 1920s, the Nazis exploited The Protocols to justify persecution of the Jews - in 1925, a German brochure advertise the book;
and the worldwide publication of the document persisted in fanning the flames of antisemitism years after the hoax of this forgery was proven. One can find copies of The Protocols today, as it remains one of the most popular tracts for distribution by individuals and groups which hate Jews.

*‘German antisemitic organizations & political parties who preceded Hitler, failed to get the state to pass antisemitic laws; by the early 1900s, these groups had declined in political power & importance.

Pan Germanism

But the mischief had been done.
*In the minds of many Germans, the image of the Jew as an evil & dangerous creature had been firmly planted. It was perpetuated by schools, youth groups, the Pan-German Association, & an array of racist pamphlets & books. The Pan-German association founded in 1893, had a membership of professors, schoolteachers, journalists, lawyers, and aristocrats. Pan Germanism, a growing force made blatant use of antisemitic slogans. & an array of racist pamphlets & books.

In 1908 the Pan-German Association spread racial nationalist theories, racist antisemitism, and glorified war as an expression of national vitality;’ (after Bismark’s triumphs, many Germans yearned to expand German power in the world). The pan-Germans wished to dominate ‘inferior’ races in central & eastern Europe. The Jews & the Slavs were targeted as their special enemies.
Exclusive biological racist nationalism - German phenomenon. Students societies pan-Germanism. Universities hotbed extremist rights.

“Long before the Nazis came to power, in the 19th c., the universities had become centers of an integralist, exclusive, and radical German nationalism, with growing racist-biological overtones. Jews were unwelcome as students, and student societies increasingly excluded them. few Jews became professors. Radical antisemitism spread. If there was a uniquely German phenomenon that prepared the ground for Nazism, it was not the spread of antisemitism among the population in general but its spread among intellectual elites. prepared ground to Nazism. ...
Racist ideology generally, and antisemitism particularly, is an essential part of the background, but it cannot explain the Holocaust by itself. . ..

Recent research in Germany ... motivations grew out of a con sensual ideology that was based on the radical, though not necessarily murderous, antisemitic convictions of students and university-trained intellectuals in the previous decades. ... Without enthusiastic support of intelligentsia, neither war nor Holocaust could have ensued. ... the various Nazi extermination plans were the practical result, or the practical translation, of a racist ideology. Germans possessed by a racist ideology, and they enacted it ... we have to see that the motivation was not bureaucratic but ideological. ... a murderous consensus created in German society.

For Aly, ideology, including antisemitism, exists as a necessary background against which the various Nazi extermination plans were developed. But the plans were not motivated by pragmatic considerations. They were the practical result, or the practical translation, of a racist ideology. Germans were possessed by a racist ideology, and they enacted it, which is why they tried to restructure the ethnic and national map of Eastern Europe ... we have to see that the motivation was not bureaucratic but ideological.”12

Socio-Economic Changes: Industrialization

*Rapid industrialization in the late 19th c., led to accelerated urbanization, explosion of population, & more peasants to become factory workers - a new industrial working class had emerged. So had a new middle class of shopkeepers, small farmers, & tradesmen. Socialist factory workers demanded more rights & better working conditions; formed labor unions, & their own political party, the Social Democratic Party. Tensions developed because of the changes.
Jews blamed for problems of industrialization
by new middle class, aristocratic landlords & wealthy industrialists, who resented the competition of Jews; ‘Jewish socialists’ were also blamed for organizing labor unions that they loathed.

Germany on the Eve of War

The Social Democratic party was the largest single party in Germany. The socialists talked revolutions.
By 1914, Germany had become the strongest military & industrial power on the continent.
‘The constitution was a peculiar mixture of aristocratic Prussian power in the upper house and democratic universal male suffrage that was manipulated to nonliberal ends. Bismark’s maneuvers against Catholic, liberals, & socialists had undermined the development of a viable parliamentary government. In 1914, the most highly industrialized & powerful European nation with the largest & most successful socialist party was nevertheless subject to a political regime that preserved aspects of an absolute monarchy.’


- Originally used to denote a member or descendant of the prehistoric people that spoke Proto-Indo-European. As used by the Nazis, the term refers to a non-Jewish Caucasian, especially of the Nordic type.

Nationalism - The popular sentiment that places the existence and well-being of the nation-state highest in the scale of political loyalties.

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.

Volk - A word for "people" or "nation." Nationalist Germans used the term to exclude Jews, Gypsies, and other "non-Aryan" people.

Copyright, Fall 1999, January 2004 Edith Shaked
Source/Credit: The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers. http://www.remember.org/guide/

1 Y. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust: Yale University Press, 2001p. 28-9

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


4 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, p. 75.

5 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, p. 83

6 Rita Steinhardt Botwinick, A History of the Holocaust - From Ideology to Annihilation, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996, p. 23.

7 Botwitnick, p. 23


9 Botwitnick, p. 23

10 Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. London-New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd Publishers,1992, pp. 59-60.

11 Y. Bauer, p. 50-1

12 Y. Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, p. 33