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Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: anti-Semitism
Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious group or "race." Although the term anti-Semitism has wide currency, it is regarded by some as a misnomer, implying discrimination against all Semites, including Arabs and other peoples who are not the targets of anti-Semitism as it is usually understood. In antiquity, hostility to the Jews emerged because of religious differences, a situation worsened as a result of the competition with Christianity. By the 4th century, Christians tended to see Jews as an alien people whose repudiation of Christ had condemned them to perpetual migration. Jews were denied citizenship and its rights in much of Europe in the Middle Ages (though some societies were more tolerant) or were forced to wear distinctive clothing, and there were forced expulsions of Jews from several regions in that period. Developed during the Middle Ages were many of the stereotypes of Jews (e.g., the blood libel, alleged greed, conspiracy against humankind) that have persisted into the modern era. The Enlightenment and the French Revolution brought a new religious freedom to Europe in the 18th century but did not reduce anti-Semitism, because Jews continued to be regarded as outsiders. In the 19th century violent discrimination intensified (see pogrom), and so-called "scientific racism" emerged, which based hostility to the Jews on their supposed biological characteristics and replaced religion as the primary basis for anti-Semitism. In the 20th century the economic and political dislocations caused by World War I intensified anti-Semitism, and racist anti-Semitism flourished in Nazi Germany. Nazi persecution of the Jews led to the Holocaust, in which an estimated six million Jews were exterminated. Despite the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, anti-Semitism remained a problem in many parts of the world into the 21st century.
Literally, persecution of or discrimination against the Jews. The first use of the term, which came into being in the 1870s, is variously attributed to the German Wilhelm Marr and the Frenchman Ernest Renan. In one respect it was a misnomer from the beginning since, in the jargon of the racial theory of the period, ′Semites′ were a broad group of non-European ethnic groups including Arabs, whereas anti-Semitism was taken to mean, and has continued to mean, an anti-Jewish racism. Anti-Semitism differs from the anti-Jewish ideas and theories which pre-dated the rise of racial theory in the 1850s in that it identifies Jewish characteristics as congenital rather than as specifically religious or broadly cultural (and, therefore, capable of rejection by individual Jews). The persecution of Jews is as old as the ′Diaspora′ which spread Jewish population throughout Europe and the Mediterranean after the Romans expelled the Jews from Palestine in ad 79; Jews were expelled from several countries in the later Middle Ages. Anti-Semitism differs from most other forms of racism which emphasize merely the inferiority of certain races (especially those of African origin). Doctrines of racial inferiority usually recognize the possibility of racial harmony provided that the inferior race is kept in its proper, inferior, social place. But anti-Semitism emphasizes the innate hostility of Jews to the interests of non-Jews rather than their inferiority as such.
Oxford Companion to German Literature: Anti-Semitism
Discrimination against Jews on religious grounds was a recurrent phenomenon in the German-speaking countries, as in the rest of Europe, from the late Middle Ages, when they were reviled and massacred on the approach of the Black Death in the mid-14th c. Anti-Semitic thinking was reinforced by the Reformation: Luther addressed the Jewish faith with the intolerance of conviction, calling for the destruction of the synagogues (Von den Juden und ihren Lugen, 1543). The Roman Catholic states remained more moderate, and a general change of attitude was inaugurated by the slow spread of Humanism (see Humanismus) with its message of religious tolerance. According to the articles of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (see Westfalischer Friede), attitudes towards the Jews were determined by the sovereign princes of the newly instituted particularist Empire.
In the Aufklarung of the late 18th c. a debate about the civil rights of Jews was stimulated by a treatise Uber die burgerliche Verbesserung der Juden published in 1781 by Christian Wilhelm Dohm, a Prussian civil servant. Enlightened support of religious tolerance, expressed in Lessing's Nathan der Weise (1778) with its exemplary portrayal of the civilized Jew Nathan, was given political substance in Austria in 1782 in the ′Toleranzpatent′ of Joseph II. So began a process of assimilation culminating in the granting of equal civil rights in the constitution of 1867; in Prussia the equivalent step was taken in 1869 and was enshrined in the German constitution of 1871.
From the 1840s, however, anti-Semitism had begun to take root as a political idea; in the Austro-Hungarian empire especially, political anti-Semitism began to grow during and just after the 1848 Revolution (see Revolutionen 1848-9). It developed in parallel with the growth of German nationalism, as is reflected in Gustav Freytag's novel Soll und Haben (1855), and gathered strength as a result of the financial crisis of the early 1870s (see Grunderzeit). A landmark in the development of a systematic racialist ideology was the publication in 1881 of Die Judenfrage als Racen-, Sitten- und Kulturfrage by Eugen Duhring, a professor at Berlin University. Other notable exponents include the historian H. von Treitschke and Wilhelm Marr: Der Sieg des Judenthums uber das Germanenthum. Vom nicht confessionellen Standpunkt aus betrachtet (1879); the term ′anti-Semitism′ is generally thought to derive from his study on Semitismus (1879). From the 1890s, anti-Semitism was increasingly linked with German expansionist ambitions, propagated by the Right, notably by the Alldeutscher Verband (founded in 1891), by H. Class, and by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who from 1889 lived in Vienna, published Die Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts in 1899, and on his marriage to the daughter of R. Wagner in 1908 settled in Bayreuth. His work was particularly exploited by the National Socialists, who in 1939-40 published the 5th edition of the German version of J. A. Gobineau's Essai sur l'inegalite des races humaines (4 vols., 1853-5) which influenced Chamberlain and others. By 1893 the members of the Reichstag included 16 anti-Semites, whose views were strongly rejected by the SPD. There were parallel developments in Austria, especially in Vienna, where the increase in the Jewish population (mainly a result of immigration from the east of the Dual Monarchy), coupled with resentment arising from the stock exchange crash of 1873, fuelled anti-Semitic feeling. The growth of political anti-Semitism is associated especially with two figures, both originally Liberals. One was Georg von Schonerer, who was indirectly influenced by Duhring. He became leader in 1879 of the Austrian pan-Germans (Deutschnationale), whose nationalist ′Linz programme′ of 1882 was augmented by an anti-Semitic clause (′Arierparagraph′) in 1885, advocating the elimination of ′Jewish influence′ in every sphere of public life (′die Beseitigung des judischen Einflusses auf allen Gebieten des offentlichen Lebens′). The second was Karl Lueger, the Christian Social mayor of Vienna at the turn of the century, whose party was behind the foundation in 1898 of the Kaiserjubilaums-Stadttheater, which functioned for five seasons as an ′Aryan′ theatre featuring exclusively ′Christian′ (that is, non-Jewish) authors and actors.
Anti-Semitism, the role of which in the currency of Viennese political and intellectual life is captured in Schnitzler's Professor Bernhardi (1912), developed against a background in which Jewish influence in Vienna was especially strong in finance, the legal profession, the theatre, and the press-a concentration of influence recognized as a problem by Wassermann in his account Mein Weg als Deutscher und Jude. It was partly in reaction to the virulence of anti-Semitism in Austria that in 1896 Herzl, who had been in Paris during the Dreyfus case as correspondent for the Liberal Viennese daily Die Neue Freie Presse, published Der Judenstaat, rejecting assimilation and advancing the idea of a separate Jewish state; and it was in Vienna that Hitler, who spent most of the years 1908-13 there, absorbed the political legacy of Schonerer and Lueger and learnt the strident jargon of anti-Semitism from the right-wing press, from which a dramatist such as Schnitzler was constantly subjected to scurrilous abuse. In Germany an anti-Semitic view of literary history was propagated by Adolf Bartels, who expressed his concern that Berlin had become a Jewish theatre city, dependent on Jewish writers, actors, producers, and managers. What he was referring to was in fact one of the most creative periods in the theatre history of the city, dominated by Otto Brahm and Max Reinhardt, both men of Jewish descent.
After Germany's defeat in the 1914-18 War, when former officers, headed by General Ludendorff, joined forces with nationalists of the extreme right, there was another upsurge of anti-Semitism in Germany. The murder of Walther Rathenau in 1922 took place just when Hitler was drafting his programme for his new party, the NSDAP. Various other nationalistic associations and the German Christlichsoziale Partei also propagated anti-Semitism; but Hitler's ideology, expounded in Mein Kampf (1925-6), was unique in its virulent combination of racism with expansionist nationalism. His political argument proceeded from what was one of the standing cliches in anti-Semitic journalism in Vienna, the myth of an international Jewish conspiracy aiming at world-wide domination. In the Austria of the early 1920s one of the targets of anti-Semitic criticism was the Salzburg Festival (see Salzburger Festspiele), whose presiding genius was Reinhardt, and which in National Socialist eyes represented an alien rival to the celebration of Wagner in the Bayreuth Festival.
In 1934 Hitler entrusted the education of party members and officials to the party ideologist, Alfred Rosenberg, whose programmatic work Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts had appeared in 1930. Condemned to death at the Nuremberg Trials, he was executed in 1946. Others responsible for the implementation of Hitler's policy, all early supporters who shared his fanatical racism, included H. Goring, H. Himmler, and J. Goebbels. As propaganda minister Goebbels assumed wide-ranging authority over the press, education, and all cultural institutions, including the theatre. He authorized the public burning of books in Berlin and elsewhere from March 1933; this was directed against all opponents of National Socialism, but mainly against Jewish writers. The legal framework for his control over cultural and literary life was provided by the Reichskulturkammergesetz (22.9.1933), which brought everyone working in the field of culture under a single authority headed by Goebbels. The Reichskulturkammer was subsequently organized into sections for literature (Schriftstellergesetz, 4.10.1933), theatre, the press, film, visual arts, etc., and imposed a systematic ′Aryanization′ of cultural life. In May 1937 Goebbels opened an exhibition of so-called degenerate art in Munich, which included works by non-Jews known for their sympathies with Jewish artists (see Entartete Kunst). He also took an active interest in the film industry. New productions included tendentious pseudo-historical films, the most odious being Jud Su� (1940, on Su�-Oppenheimer, unconnected with Feuchtwanger's novel of the same title). The compulsory distribution of this film throughout Germany and the occupied territories coincided with the beginnings of the darkest chapter in the history of German anti-Semitism, the planned mass murder of the Jewish population, referred to by the regime as the ′Final Solution′ (Endlosung).
Some authors had already emigrated by the time the NSDAP came to power; many followed them into exile (see Exilliteratur), though emigration became increasingly difficult, especially after 1938. The exclusion of everyone of Jewish descent from cultural and intellectual life affected all professional classes, universities, research institutions, hospitals, and the judiciary. Whole areas of cultural and artistic life, first in Germany, and after the Anschlu� in March 1938 (see osterreich) in Austria also, were deprived of most of their leading talents (e.g. satirical cabaret, which had been dominated by Jewish artists). Within German-speaking Europe one institution that functioned as a refuge for Jewish and left-wing exiles and continued as an independent centre of theatrical culture throughout the 1939-45 War was the Schauspielhaus in Zurich.
In Germany discrimination against the rights of Jews, in accordance with NSDAP policy since 1920, was sealed by the Nuremberg Laws (15.9.1935) and extended to Austria following the Anschlu� in 1938. Intimidation, hooliganism, and damage to Jewish property became the norm, ignored by the police, and culminating in the pogrom during the night of 9-10 November 1938 (see Kristallnacht). A relentless series of further laws deprived the Jews of their remaining rights, property, and livelihood; many had to endure forced labour. Systematic deportation followed, including the Jewish population of the occupied countries, as well as of Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, whose regimes collaborated with Hitler. At the mercy of the brutality of the SS, the victimized Jews had to live in overcrowded ghettoes (Ł�dź, Warsaw) and concentration camps, where countless men, women, and children perished, the vast majority of whom were Jewish. Horrific mass murder was institutionalized in death camps, among them Auschwitz, the symbol of the Holocaust. Survivors, liberated by Allied troops, have related unimaginable suffering as well as individual acts of courage. Organized resistance in Warsaw and in Germany was countered by terror and reprisals (see Resistance Movements). A combination of exile and death reduced the Jewish population of Austria from 300, 000 to 11, 000; in Berlin, where in 1933 there had been 160, 000 practising Jews (55, 000 of whom were killed in concentration camps), there were only some 8, 000 after the war.
′Nach Auschwitz kann man nicht dichten′ (Adorno). But the atrocities of the Hitler era have haunted German literature since 1945, outstanding treatments ranging from Max Frisch's challenging play Andorra (1961) to the most celebrated of all post-war poems in the language, ′Todesfuge′ (1948) by Paul Celan. Jurek Becker is among those representing the perceptions of a new generation. From about the 1980s a number of writers who identify themselves as Jewish have emerged in Germany, as well as a number of magazines of specifically Jewish interest. The small Jewish community in Germany is being reinforced by immigrants from Russia, so that Jewish-German dialogue looks set to continue. (See also Yiddish.)