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[Dawidowicz has a very definite opinion about the cause of the Holocaust. Her source goes back to the Middle Ages and even before. It was antisemitism and it infected most of Europe. ]
Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 1933-1945
Anti_Semitism in Modern Germany
A line of anti_Semitic descent from Martin Luther to Adolf Hitler is easy to draw. Both Luther and Hitler were obsessed by a demonologized universe inhabited by Jews. "Know, Christian," wrote Luther, "that next to the devil thou hast no enemy more cruel, more venomous and violent than a true Jew." Hitler himself, in that early dialogue with Dietrich Eckart, asserted that the later Luther-that is, the violently anti_Semitic Luther-was the genuine Luther. Luther's protective authority was invoked by the Nazis when they came to power, and his anti_Semitic writings enjoyed a reviva} of popularity. To be sure, the similarities of Luther's anti_Jewish exhortations with modern racial anti_Semitism and even with Hitler's racial policies are not merely coincidental. They all derive from a common historic tradition of Jew_hatred, whose provenance can be traced back to Haman's advice to Ahasuerus. [who called for the murder of all the Jews in the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia]. But modern German anti_Semitism had more recent roots than Luther and grew out of a different soil-not that German anti_Semitism was new; it drew part of its sustenance from Christian anti_Semitism, whose foundation had been laid by the Catholic Church and upon which Luther built. It was equally a product of German nationalism. Modern German anti_Semitism was the bastard child of the union of Christian anti_Semitism with German nationalism.
German nationalism arose out of the ashes of German defeat in the Napoleonic wars. Fragmented, without nationhood, without political definition, lacking military power and economic vitality, the Germans searched for a shared identity that would restore the self_esteem that the defeats by the French had shattered. Since the real world, in its materiality, its politics, economics, and the force of arms, could give them no solace, they turned inward for self_definition, in search of psychic and metaphysical values, qualities of feeling and spirit. And they turned backward-to a remote past of glory and mastery, to a past deep in the womb of historic time, where they had once been secure.
This German backward_lookingness had emerged even before the Napoleonic wars, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century as a reaction against the Enlightenment, especially its French and English protagonists. The Enlightenment represented the break with the medieval world and its concepts of man's innate sinfulness, whose only hope of salvation was through divine providence. For this world view the Enlightenment substituted the idea of progress, of man's perfectibility through the attainment of knowledge, and the theory that the universe was governed by reason. This idea of progress was to catch hold particularly among the French and the English, not only among the philosophers and sociologists, but in political circles as well.
In Germany these ideas spread too, but they were soon aborted by Germany's dominant conservative forces. The Holy Roman Empire, a paralytic, sclerotic, thousand_year survival, managed to exist, propped up by the strength of tradition and the inertia of apathy.' The Germans preferred to retain their loyalties to the past and resisted accommodation of their customs and folkways to the enormous changes of modernity. Instead they romanticized the values and ideals of their remote past. This commitment to the past explains the German preference for Kultur over
Civilization. Culture was for them something innate, intrinsic, inherited, a tradition handed down from the past. Civilization was external, an artificial product of modernity, lacking the essence of a specific people, race, or culture.
Progress and enlightenment were associated not only with the French and English, but also with Jews. Invoking the universality of these concepts, Jews asked for emancipation, political equality. All France was astir over the pros and cons. The Alsatian Jews asked Moses Mendelssohn, then Europe's most eminent Jew, to help them. Believing that a plea for Jewish emancipation would have a better reception if presented by a Christian, Mendelssohn asked his friend Christian Wilhelm von Dohm (1751_1820), historian, political writer, and Prussian diplomat, to under_take the task. Dohm decided to extend his plea also on behalf of the
German Jews. His work On the Civic Betterment of the Jews, Berlin, 1781, presented the case for granting Jews political equality. Its basic argument was .the extraordinary notion that "the Jew is a human being even before he is a Jew." But the idea was too radical for the Germans.
Most participants in the ensuing public discussion disagreed with Dohm's belief that the Jews would become better citizens if the conditions under which they lived were improved. Adducing traditional medieval objections and citing Scripture or the Devil as evidence, some maintained that the Jews were unfit for emancipation and that there was no reason to think that things would change in the future. Others presented the argument of "Asiatic temperament": certain basic racial qualities inhered in Jews that were at variance with those of Germans. This fundamental difference between German and Jew was cited also, to the astonishment of Moses Mendelssohn, by Johann David Michaelis (1717_1791), an aged, prestigious scholar of biblical ("Old Testament") and Mosaic law at the University of Gottingen. Mendelssohn replied to Michaelis and other opponents of Jewish emancipation in classical terms: "Instead of using the expression 'Christians and Jews,' Herr Michaelis is continually served by 'Germans and Jews.' He refuses to recognize that the difference is in religion only and prefers to have us regarded as foreigners who must accept the conditions laid down to them by the owners of the land." Being himself a man of progress and enlightenment, he could not then, in 1783, foretell that the Germans could and would indeed choose another road.
The German response to the Enlightenment was an intimation of the future. From 1789 to 1815, the quarter_century between the French Revolution and the Congress of Vienna, the ethos of modern Germany took shape. The doctrines of the revolution were anathema to the princely, priestly, and knightly rulers of the German states and principalities. But the ideas had begun to infiltrate Germany, and within a few short years, as Napoleon's military success spread French influence across the face of Europe, French political domination of the German lands converted those ideas into political realities. German discomfiture with the new ideas of emancipation and equality turned into a deadly rancor both for the French and for the ideas and policies they had unleashed in Europe.
Wherever the French occupied German lands, Jews were the beneficiaries of the Rights of Man, winning emancipation in most of southern and western Germany. In some places under French command, the obligatory extension of equality to Jews enraged the Germans even more
than French domination. Nevertheless, the trend toward emancipation reached even into the stronghold of Prussia. In 1812, as part of a sweeping program of legislative and economic reform, Minister Karl August von Hardenberg, himself under the influence of the ideas of 1789, persuaded the reluctant Frederick William III to grant the Jews citizenship and political rights.
Napoleon destroyed the Holy Roman Empire, that is, the shadow of it that had persisted. After Jena, in 1806, he reorganized the German lands, secularizing the ecclesiastical states and incorporating most of the free cities into territorial states. He hastened the demise of the medieval order of Free Imperial Knights, reorganized the six hundred myriad political units in a manageable number of middle_sized states, and formed a confederation of German states under French protection. (Ironically, that confederation would later provide a basis for German unification.) The formal bonds of historic empire that had linked the Germans to their Teutonic past had been destroyed. To compensate for the loss, for the humiliations at the hands of the French, for the fragmentation, the Germans began to forge a new nationalism that transcended the boundaries of the German states and the realities of their contemporary political life. That quarter_century, inaugurated by the French Revolution and closed by the Congress of Vienna, was the formative period in shaping German national character. From it emerged a national ethos that was to animate German cultural, social, and political life for well over a century.
To begin with, at the simplest and most obvious level, the Germans defined themselves in contrast to the French. What was French was un_German. Ernst Moritz Arndt (1769_1860), poet and pamphleteer, wrote of the war winter of 1812 that the German fatherland was located "where every Frenchman is called foe, and every German is called friend."2 The great liberal ideas of the time-liberty, equality, fraternity - were French ideas, and Germans of that generation denounced liberal ideas as un_German. That outlook proved to be a durable one.
The philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762_1814), in his Reden an die deutsche Nation (1808), admonished Germans to "have character and be German" ("Charakter haben and Deutsch sein"). His Gallo_phobia was equal to that of his contemporaries, but he excelled in his exaltation of Germanness. At a time when the Germans had been abjectly defeated, he consoled them with a messianic future: "... Among all modern peoples it is you in whom the seed of human perfection most decidedly lies, and you who are charged with progress in human development. If you perish in this your essential nature, then there perishes
together with you every hope of the whole human race for salvation from the depths of its miseries."
Called the father of German nationalism, Fichte has also been called the father of modern German anti_Semitism. His celebration of German nationalism was matched by his denigration of Jews. In 1793 he had argued against Jewish emancipation, characterizing the Jews as a state within a state that would undermine the German nation. Jewish ideas were as obnoxious as French ideas. The only way in which he could concede giving rights to Jews, he said, would be "to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea."
Similarly, Arndt, who had defined German specificity by distinguishing the Germans from their external enemy, the French, refined that uniqueness by further distinguishing the Germans from an internal enemy-the Jews. The Jews, beneficiaries of political emancipation that the French had thrust upon the unprepared and unwilling Germans, became identified in the German mind with the ideas and values of revolutionary France. They were not seen as true insiders. In Christian feudal Germany, the Jews had been outsiders, and in the newly emergent idea of an ethnic, national Germany, the Jews continued to be outsiders.
Arndt and his disciple, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778_1852), are credited with developing that particular concept of German nationalism associated with the word "Volk." It is a word that has come to mean more than simply "a people," more than the usual idea of a people united by common traditions and cultural heritage, language, territory, values, and morality. "Volk," according to George Mosse, signified the union of a group of people with a transcendental "essence," never specified, some_times called "nature," "cosmos," "mythos." This essence, Mosse says, "was fused to man's innermost nature, and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality, and his unity with other members of the Volk."
Jahn, a fiery German patriot who fought in the wars of liberation against Napoleon, in his book Deutsches Volkstum (German Volkdom), published in 1810, elaborated on the concept of Volk: "A state without Volk is nothing, a soulless artifice; a Volk without a state is nothing, a bodiless airy phantom, like the Gypsies and the Jews. Only state and Volk together can form a Reich, and such a Reich cannot be preserved without Volkdom." (Is it mere coincidence that the two wandering peoples, Gypsies and Jews, against whom Jahn contrasted the "rooted" Germans, were precisely the two ethnic groups that Hitler consigned to the gas chambers?) In this work Jahn used the word Volksthiimlichkeit
(literally, "quality of Volkdom") to express his glorification of the simple people, the little folk, and the qualities associated with them-simplicity, naturalness, homespunness unspoiled by education and civilization.
According to Jahn, the Volk needed a state to house its soul and pro_vide the means for its preservation. The German state was to serve some "larger" purpose - the preservation of the Volk and vehicle through which it could exercise its will. It was a Volkist idea that was to persist in Germany down to Hitler, who incorporated it into his ideology. The state was conceived as a kind of metahistorical entity that was identical with national spirit.
The "Christian" state had once been meant to serve "Christian" purposes, that is, the expansion of Christianity. The Volkist state appropriated that purpose. The Jew, by definition an outsider in the "Christian" state, remained an outsider in the Volkist conception of the state. Indeed, the idea of a "Christian" country of which Jews were outsiders served as a transition to the idea of the Volkist state. Thus Christian Friedrich Ruhs (1781_182o), who held the chair for history at the University of Berlin, denied the claims of the Jews to the rights of German citizenship, because "a foreign people cannot obtain the rights which Germans enjoy partly through being Christians. . . . Everything should be done to induce [the Jews] ... to accept Christianity and through it to be led to a true acquisition of German ethnic characteristics and thus to effect the destruction of the Jewish people."
Because Jews were loyal to their own "state within the state," Ruhs said they could not be loyal to the Christian state. They could, therefore, be only its subjects, but not its citizens. (That distinction was to be made by Hitler- at first, with regard to the Jews, but later, when in his scheme of things they were not even entitled to the status of subjects, it was a distinction made between the Czechs in the Protectorate, who were subjects, in contrast to the Sudeten Germans, who were citizens.) The Jews, Ruhs believed, as a tolerated alien group, should be excluded from holding public office, from the army, and from the guilds and corporations, that is, from institutions representing the economic as well as public and national life of the country. To identify this alien and hostile group within the German midst, Ruhs proposed reviving the medieval yellow patch.
Emancipation was the consequence of revolution and of the political realization that all men, even Jews, were equal, but the concept of Volk was the consequence of counterrevolution and of a belief in superiority and inferiority among peoples, of difference and inequality. Out of the defeat inflicted upon them by the French, the Germans devised a notion
of national, Volkist superiority to redeem their self_image. That self_image could not have been drawn without the Jew as antagonist.
The glorification of the natural man, the simple life, uncontaminated by the artificialities of civilization and the fetters of organized society, was a Romantic Rousseauist idea. The romanticization of the peasant as the natural man turned him into a receptacle of certain mystic qualities in his relationship to the land. The Volkist conception turned these universal qualities into specifically German ones. The peasant, by virtue of his descent from Germanic_Teutonic stock and by virtue of the mysterious qualities of Germanness in the very soil he worked, became the embodiment not merely of natural man, but of Germanic man. The antagonist of Germanic man became the Jew, the embodiment of the urban man, the man of civilization. A money economy, for example, as the product of disintegrative civilization, was associated with Jews, who were buyers, sellers, and lenders. Whereas rootedness was an essential element of Volk, the Wandering Jew became the symbol of the flesh_and- blood Jews, condemned to eternal homelessness for having rejected the Messiah, whose fathers or forefathers had lived outside Germany, in other lands.
After Napoleon's defeat and the Congress of Vienna, the Germans took their revenge on the French and the Jews. The Congress of Vienna had provided for full civil and political rights "to differing parties of the Christian religion," but the "civil betterment" of the Jews was put off for further study. The Congress stated that Jews could retain such rights as they already had, but nearly everywhere in Germany the rights that the Jews had won were disavowed and rescinded. (Prussia was an exception: only some Jewish rights were abolished; most were retained.) A period of reaction set in, in which anti_Semitism was a major component.
A cyclical pattern in German political life began to emerge. The Congress of Vienna marked the first of four such cycles in subsequent German history that were to appear with startling regularity every two decades - long periods of reaction, repression, conservatism, and anti_Semitism following brief spells of liberalism and the expansion of rights. In all cycles the position of the Jews gradually improved, economically and educationally, even if their political rights were curtailed or denied. The changes in Jewish occupational or educational status did not appreciably decrease the deep hostility to them. The changes merely served to alter the specific arguments of anti_Semitic agitation.
The second cycle was defined by the short_lived Revolution of 1848 and the subsequent decade of reaction. The third cycle opened with the
unification of Germany as a triumph of German liberalism that began to turn conservative, reactionary, and anti_Semitic in 1873. The fourth cycle, beginning after World War I, was marked by the simultaneity of both its liberal and its reactionary phases.
Not only did the German states abrogate Jewish rights from 1813 on, but the furor teutonicus that had found no satisfaction in the Congress of Vienna expressed itself in violent attacks and pogroms against the Jews. Peasants and burghers demonstrated and rioted in Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and elsewhere against Jewish rights. Some cities even attempted to banish the Jews altogether. But the most violent pogroms, whose like had not been witnessed in Europe since the Middle Ages, came with the "Hep! Hep!" movement, first erupting in Wurzburg in 1819 and rapidly spreading throughout Germany. The origin of this movement was obscure, but it is generally conceded to have been an outburst of resentment against Metternich's repression of German nationalistic propaganda and activities. The movement called for "revenge" against the Jews, "who are living among us and who are increasing like locusts.... Our battlecry will be 'Hep! Hep! Hep! Death and destruction to all the Jews!' " It was the first major chapter in the history of German nationalism in which the Jews were marked as the enemy.
Meanwhile, hostility to the Jews began to emerge from the newly developing socialist movement. That anti_Jewish outlook had two sources: first, the atheist, anti_Christian bias condemning Judaism as the antecedent of Christianity, and second, the anti_capitalist ideology that depicted the Jew as the embodiment of capitalism, the banker, the middle_man, the parasitic profiteer. First to articulate this leftist anti_Semitism was Bruno Bauer (1809_1882), who in 1842 published an article on the Jewish question, which he supplemented and issued the following year as a separate book, Die Judenfrage. In this work he argued against political equality for the Jews. Orthodox Judaism was, in his view, an anachronistic phenomenon, whereas Reform Judaism was worthless; the Jews had never contributed to the civilization of the world-arguments that were later to become the stock_in_trade of the anti_Semitic right. Marx disputed Bauer's ideas on the ground that his view of the Jews as a religious group was distorted. The true Jewish religion, Marx argued, was Schacher (haggling, huckstering) and their god was money. Jews would first have to emancipate themselves from this "religion" of theirs; then their religious consciousness would disappear and human emancipation would be possible. _
But despite the opposition to Jewish emancipation and the antipathy to Jews, the oncoming Revolution of 1848 heralded a growing liberalization in public opinion. When the National Assembly convened in Frank_
furt and formulated a constitution, it included a section on "the fundamental rights of the German people," which declared that "the enjoyment of civil and political rights is neither depenjlent upon, nor restricted by, religious creed." There was no question here of a bountiful bestowal of rights upon Jews by a graciously consenting ruler. The Jews were here equal beneficiaries of rights granted to all. The accomplishment was due to the overwhelmingly liberal character of the body. It was also the achievement of Gabriel Riesser (18o6_1863), the notable advocate of Jewish emancipation during the previous two decades, who had been elected to the Frankfurt parliament. But within a year reaction set in. Bismarck was later to say that the great mistake of 1848û1849 was to think that the great questions of the day would be settled by "resolutions and majorities" rather than by "blood and iron." It was a judgment that bespoke the spirit that would later dominate German politics, where blood would erase resolutions and iron crush majorities.
For Jews 1848 was two_faced. The liberal constitution enacted a great principle that remained barely fulfilled, for its implementation depended on the individual states. In the very heat of revolutionary ardor counter_emancipatory trends came alive, and their pressure on the state governments was irresistible. When news of the revolution in Paris reached the peasants in the Rhineland, they too revolted, seizing land, destroying tax and tithe records, burning castles, and pogromizing Jews. Revolutionary propaganda called for wiping out the nobility, assassinating the officials, establishing a republic, and expelling the Jews from Germany. The popular agitation in many states brought about restrictions of Jewish rights or failure even to grant them. In Bavaria, for example, petitions with eighty thousand signatures submitted to the Chamber of Reich Counselors opposing Jewish emancipation succeeded in their purpose.
The liberals were too weak and too indecisive to withstand the reaction of the next decade. (Weakness and indecisiveness became hallmarks of German liberal politics-in the late 187os vis_a_vis Bismarck and, still later, in the Weimar regime.) The Conservative party was founded in 1848 as a vehicle for the counterrevolution, and the 185os witnessed the expansion and elaboration of an anti_Semitism that was not only political, but also Volkist and racist. Then Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (1823-1897), historian and novelist, began publishing his massive The Natural History of the Volk as the Foundation of a Germanic Sociopolitical System, idealizing precapitalist German society, condemning contemporary commercial and industrial developments. Then Paul de Lagarde (1827-1891), later the Volkist patron saint of the anti_Semitic movement, began his career with an attack on Christianity and contemporary theology. Event_
ually Lagarde would call for an expurgation of the Jewish elements from Christianity and for its transformation into a Christian_Germanic faith. The Germans, he believed, were too soft for the Jews to be allowed to live together with them: "Every Jew is proof of the enfeeblement of our national life and of the worthlessness of what we call the Christian religion."a
Lagarde, in another essay, was to write of Jews as vermin:
One would need a heart as hard as crocodile hide not to feel sorry for the poor exploited Germans and-which is identical-not to hate the Jews and despise those who-out of humanity! -defend these Jews or who are too cowardly to trample this usurious vermin to death. With trichinae and bacilli one does not negotiate, nor are trichinae and bacilli to be educated; they are exterminated as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
That imagery was to be repeated time and again until Hitler appropriated it and applied it with terrible literalness.
Meanwhile, the new "science" of race was developing, under the impetus of advances in anthropology and philology. Christian Lassen (1802û1871), a learned professor of ancient civilizations at the University of Bonn, in his Indische Alterturnskunde (Indian Antiquities), argued that among the Caucasians, only Semites and Aryans built up human civilizations. He counterposed one against the other: "History proves that Semites do not possess the harmony of psychical forces that distinguishes the Aryans." But the Semite has other qualities: he is "selfish and exclusive."
Then Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) became convinced that "the racial question overshadows all other problems of history, that it holds the key to them all, and that the inequality of the races from whose fusion a people is formed is enough to explain the whole course of its destiny." Though Gobineau's Essay on the inequality of races , published in Paris 1853_1855, was not to be translated into German for another forty years, the idea of race as the determinant of the rise and fall of civilizations appeared among the German philologists and ethnologists and philosophers. Social degeneration, they believed, was caused by racial degeneration. Racial mixture, the dissipation of the pure racial blood, brought mediocrity and decline. Gobineau's basic scheme was to serve as a framework for the refinements of Chamberlain and other epigoni who saw the rise and fall of civilization as dependent on the preservation of the racial purity of the Germanic or Aryan race.
Richard Wagner (1813_1883), in his specifically Teutonic racialism and ferocious hatred of Jews, surpassed earlier Volkist anti_Semites. "Emancipation from the yoke of Judaism appears to us the foremost necessity," he wrote. He was to develop, in his music and journalism, the idea of a de_Judaized, hence de_Christianized, Germanic religion, in which the pagan Teutonic elements merged with, or displaced, the Christian ones.